Bridging the gap between research and practice on financial inclusion and microfinance is essential to strengthen the effectiveness of the sector, assess its impact and further new frontiers of development. The 'From Research to Practice’ Action Group (AG on Research) was created in April 2020 to bring the latest research findings, best practices and new technologies to practitioners in a language easily understood by all increasing the usefulness of research and ultimately contributing to improve the lives of the populations in developing countries served by the financial sector.

Between April 2020 and March 2022, the AG on Research has completed a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the financial inclusion sector value chain. The study conducted by Davide Castellani, Max Niño-Zarazua, Valeria Pujia and Valentina Garofalo included an in-depth literature and secondary information review as well as interviews with key players in the sector. The results of this research are summarised in the first Research Digest, a new Action Group publication, and were discussed during European Microfinance Week 2020 and 2021 in two lively panel debate sessions involving multiple stakeholders, from FSPs to regulators. In the resources below, the full research report is also available.

During 2021, the AG on Research has also worked in better understanding the existing resources and research needs of the sector through two activities supported by consultant Lucia Zanardi – mapping organisations and individuals working on, or interested in, engaging in teaching/research, educational resources, and data sources on financial inclusion; and a survey to e-MFP members and non-members aiming to identify research topics of interest for practitioners.

From the results of the survey, a new research topic was defined – financial education and financial health. The AG started working on the topic during the second half of 2022,with the support of consultants Patricia López and Waruguru Ituu, and in November, organised a webinar and a plenary session during the European Microfinance Week 2022 with the participation of key actors in the topic, including OECD, UNCDF, Opportunity International, FSD Kenya and MSC.


Financial Education and Financial Health (2022-ongoing)

Publication: Research Digest #2 - Building a Bridge Between Financial Education and Financial Health, May 2023

EMW 2022 Plenary Session: Understanding Financial Education and Financial Health (presentation), November 2022

EMW 2022 Plenary Session: Understanding Financial Education and Financial Health (recording), November 2022

Webinar: Building a bridge between Financial Health and Financial Education (recording), November 2022

Research Needs Survey and AG webinar (2021)

Report: Identifying the Research needs of Financial Inclusion actors (survey results), January 2022

Webinar: How FinTech regulation drives Financial Inclusion? (recording), July 2021

Covid-19 and the Financial Inclusion Value Chain (2020-2022)

Research Report: Covid-19 and the Financial Inclusion Value Chain (full report), March 2022

Publication: Research Digest #1 Covid-19 and the Financial Inclusion Value Chain, November 2021

EMW 2021 Panel Session: Rising from the ashes of Covid-19 (summary and recording), November 2021

EMW 2021 Panel Session: Rising from the ashes of Covid-19 (Valeria Pujia presentation), November 2021

Video: The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the Financial Inclusion Value Chain , November 2020

EMW 2020 Panel Session: Covid-19 and the Financial Inclusion Value Chain (summary and recording), November 2020

Action Group Heads

Davide Castellani, University of Bergamo

Davide Castellani is Associate Professor of Banking and Finance at the department of management of the University of Bergamo. He is co-head of the action group "From research to practice" of the European Microfinance Platform. Castellani has more than ten years' experience in the field of financial inclusion. Castellani obtained a degree in Economics from the University of Bergamo, a master's degree in International Relations from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (Spain) and a PhD in Economics of Financial Markets and Institutions from the Catholic Unversity of Milan. He was a visiting scholar at Rural Finance Program of the Ohio State University (USA).

Max Niño – Zarazua, Independant Consultant

Max Nino-Zarazua is a seasoned financial inclusion professional with over 19 years of experience working at senior level positions for microfinance institutions, banks, development organisations and as an independent consultant. Max offers a unique combination of academic excellence having a PhD in Economics and International Development by a British university, Mexican grass roots delivery experience and industry insight from co-founding his own FinTech start-up and currently working with DAI leading the implementation of the British Embassy’s Prosperity Fund - Financial Services Programme in Mexico. He is also a visiting fellow at the Centre of Development Studies, University of Bath, and peer referee at the Journal of Development Studies, UK.


Joana Afonso