I reached out recently to Carolyn McMahon (Class of 2012 graduate and current Fletcher staff member), who is the program officer for the Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion run by the Institute for Business in the Global Context. I was unfamiliar with the details of the program, one of many that takes place around the usual degree programs, so let’s let Carolyn tell us about it.
Central Bankers. Financial regulators. Quick, what comes to mind? Navy blue suits? Entrenched bureaucracies?
How about: Inventive Thinkers. Creative collaborators. Alternative Pedagogy. Peer-learning. Challenging Assumptions.
When we tell people about The Fletcher Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion (FLPFI), it’s tough to counter these initial impressions. Still, what we’re doing with this nine-month fellowship couldn’t be farther from a stodgy executive training.
FLPFI recruits and trains promising mid-career financial regulators from emerging and frontier market economies to bring fresh innovative thinking to financial policies and regulation. Recruits are not only stewards of their countries’ financial stability but have professional mandates to create and promote safe and useful services for citizens at every income level, particularly the poor.
True to Fletcher’s ethos, the FLPFI experience is participatory and peer-based, with a commitment to honing practical skills and ensuring real world impact.
An innovative nine-month fellowship:
Since welcoming our first Fellow cohort in 2011, we’ve hosted 55 Fellows from 32 countries. Their financial inclusion agendas are as diverse as their origins. Fellows tackle challenges like SME (small- and medium-sized enterprise) financing, mobile services and payments, insurance, and agent banking. On campus, Fellows meet Fletcher students and faculty, forging connections that have led to collaborations like summer internships and research opportunities.
Fellows of FLPFI spend nine months with a team of Fletcher faculty and industry experts. They bring national expertise in regulation and new ideas for addressing financial inequities in their home countries. Through online video modules, discussions, and in-person residencies, Fellows hone their policy ideas. They learn best practices in financial inclusion policymaking from lecturers, Fletcher faculty, and each other, through highly participatory, charette-style sessions. They learn methods of problem analysis and solution generation. They test old assumptions and develop new theories. They learn how to deploy media and public speaking to spread their ideas. They inform and challenge each other.
Small program, big impact
Fellows return home to implement their policies, armed with sharpened professional skills and fresh analytical perspectives. They galvanize the support of high-level bureaucrats, and often partners such as CGAP, GSMA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. FLPFI Fellows join a special part of the Fletcher community, creating a network of support, friendship and change makers within financial regulation. Alumni What’sApp groups are aflutter even after graduation: on Monday, a Central Banker is posting a photo of his newborn; Tuesday, another is challenging conventional wisdom of small dollar accounts; and that afternoon a group is planning a rendezvous at the next international conference in Brazil. The friendships built at FLPFI, like so many at Fletcher, transcend time zones and geographies.
Despite the program’s youth (the fourth cohort will graduate in September), several successful national policy victories have already been achieved by the Fellows. Beyond regulatory change, program alumni benefit from continued support and elevated professional opportunities. Many are invited to speak in international fora, take on leadership roles in regional organizations, and contribute to the global financial inclusion policy agenda.
Still, the program’s ability to forge lasting relationships across continents is a testament to its success and great potential. FLPFI has succeeded in creating a microcosm of the Fletcher master’s experience for a group of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of their countrymen through more inclusive financial regulation. Many great things lay ahead as the program enters its fifth year.