How can financial services be effectively integrated into economic opportunities programming for youth?

The SEEP Network’s Youth and Financial Services Working Group, facilitated by MEDA, recently completed a series of learning documents which highlight promising practices in youth financial services, illustrated by examples from multiple projects and stakeholders. In a series of member consultations, four topics were identified as areas of particular interest:

A learning document was created to explore each topic, with full publications available here: http://www.meda.org/publications/seep-youth-and-financial-services-working-group

We will profile each in a blog entry over the coming weeks, starting with today’s topic: integrating financial services for youth into economic opportunities programming.

An evolution in youth financial services programming

Thinking around youth financial inclusion has evolved in the past decade. Until recently, numerous large-scale programs focused specifically on improving youth access to financial services, using a variety of strategies.

Formal financial inclusion was promoted by projects that engaged with banks, cooperatives, and microfinance institutions, such as:

Wide-scale participation in youth-oriented savings groups was supported by:

A specific focus on youth financial inclusion was seen as necessary to raise awareness of the importance and utility of appropriate financial services among financial institutions, young people, and their families.

What has changed in Y&FS?

Though significant gaps still remain in financial inclusion, donors and implementers are moving toward a more inclusive approach, incorporating financial services for youth into programs as part of broader objectives, such as economic development or even youth development. Financial services are increasingly being considered within an ecosystem of interventions contributing to youth economic opportunities.

effective integration diagramDriving Financial Inclusion through Integrated Programming

Increased financial inclusion for youth may be one of many goals in an integrated program promoting youth economic opportunities. Implementers have successfully used a range of strategies to drive financial inclusion, including increased youth engagement and participation, comprehensive capacity building for both youth clients and financial service providers (FSPs), and provision of safe spaces, particularly for adolescent girls.

Leveraging Financial Inclusion to Achieve Broader Youth Development Goals

Increased financial inclusion for youth can be a powerful tool to achieve broader development goals. Implementers have successfully leveraged financial services as platforms for creating and expanding young people’s social capital, driving increased civic engagement, providing opportunities for learning about enterprise development, and increasing resilience of vulnerable groups.

What next for youth financial services?

Youth financial services have matured significantly in the past two decades. Once largely the domain of NGOs, such services are now widely provided by commercial FSPs. Community-based organizations reach significant numbers of young people with savings groups and other informal financial services.

There are many questions that require further exploration as financial services continue to reach more young people:

For an in-depth discussion of effective integration of youth financial services into broader programming, please see our publication here.

A version of this blog can be found on the Seep Network Youth and Financial Service Working Group site.