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 Action Group on Research (AG on Research) will bring the latest research findings, best practices and new technologies to practitioners in a language easily understood by all will considerably increase the usefulness of research and contribute to improve the lives of the populations in developing countries served by the financial sector.

The AG on Research has completed in 2021 a comprehensive analysis of the impact of COVID-19 crisis on the financial inclusion sector. 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 European Microfinance Week 2021 in two lively panel debate sessions involving multiple stakeholders, from FSPs to regulators (see resources below).

During 2021, the AG 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. The survey was open throughout the month of August and was replied by 95 respondents from 68 different organisations, with its results being discussed during an online meeting on 13th October.


Covid-19 and the Financial Inclusion Value Chain (Full report), March 2022

Identifying the Research needs of Financial Inclusion actors (Survey results), January 2022

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

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

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

The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the Financial Inclusion Value Chain (video), November 2020

EMW 2020 Panel Session: Covid-19 and the Financial Inclusion Value Chain, 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