Beyond Livelihoods: “Financial Health” and the Humanitarian-Development Nexus

Image credit: Jan Chipchase

By Dr. Karen Jacobsen and Kim Wilson

For years, humanitarian and development scholars and practitioners have refined their approaches to understanding people’s livelihoods in contexts of displacement. Frameworks such as the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF) or Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) have helped practitioners organize their observations and shed light on complex systems related to livelihoods or markets. We propose that a refinement of these broad frameworks is needed. Simply put, displaced people are primarily concerned with the finances (income, savings and credit) that will enable them to survive and thrive. But the financial assets described in the SLF lack concrete indicators, and are subsumed under other livelihood assets.

The concept of Financial Health (already deployed in financial inclusion discourse) is a way of benchmarking a person’s financial situation. We propose that a Financial Health framework is very useful for displacement contexts and adapt the financial inclusion indicators accordingly. We provide five concrete measures that are focused indicators for assessing whether livelihood assets are good enough to enable people to attain resilience, self-reliance or integration. Financial health benchmarks in refugee and migrant settings can become the basis for decision-making and programming in both humanitarian and development circles.

For questions, please reach out to Professor Kimberley Wilson at

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