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General Information
How is research helping us to understand and address key problems in rural finance? Over the last several years governments and donors, concerned with the lack of progress in expanding access to rural financial services, invested millions of dollars in research to examine why financial markets remain so thin in most rural areas.

What have been the main outcomes from all of this investment? How can we harness and build upon the knowledge gained so as to drive innovation and development in the field of rural finance? It is time to step back and analyze where we are, identify the challenges in bridging research to policy and practice, and discuss strategies for moving forward.

To begin this debate and reflection we are pleased to announce that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the Ford Foundation and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) have teamed up to host an International Conference on Rural Finance Research: Moving Results into Policy and Practice at the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, from 19 to 21 March 2007.

Aim and objectives

The ultimate aim of this conference is a wider use of research results in the rural finance policy and decision making processes. Steps on the way include a better understanding of the need to guarantee research quality, of how to identify research topics and of the ways to bring research results to those concerned.

During the conference we will:
  • review and take stock of research on key rural finance innovations in order to enumerate what has worked and why, highlighting opportunities and challenges for scaling up well-proven approaches;
  • identify important empirical issues in rural finance for future exploration and study;
  • discuss ways to improve research quality as well as the communication, dissemination, and use of research findings;
  • define strategies to strengthen ties between research and policy and decision-making processes in the field of rural finance; and,
  • explore ways to foster dialogue and partnership among researchers at an international level.
Expected outcomes

By the end of the conference we will strive to have the following key policy recommendations on bridging gaps between research, policy and practice:
  • one set will be directed towards the donor community (e.g., what are the research and action priorities it should be suggesting and supporting);
  • one set directed towards governments and implementing agencies, including central banks and financial institutions (e.g., what are the promising best practices or regulatory changes to consider, how they can communicate their concerns with the research community); and,
  • one set directed towards the research community (e.g., what are the pressing research questions in rural finance to consider, how can they work with implementing agencies and policy makers to design and conduct research and communicate lessons learnt more effectively).

In addition to individual researchers, the conference organisers encourage the participation of representatives from:
  • Research Institutes and Universities
  • Ministries
  • Central Banks
  • Financial Institutions including cooperative and micro finance models
  • Farmer Associations
  • Donors Agencies
  • International Cooperation Organisations
Conference format

We are organizing a conference format that will allow for dialogue and discussion from the majority of the participants rather than having a select number of experts provide their views on the key themes of the conference. The conference therefore will consist of multiple interactive modalities, such as interviews, panel debates, and "researchers meet policy makers and practitioners" roundtable discussions.

The roundtable discussions will be organized around the following five core thematic areas of the conference:
  1. Understanding demand for financial products and services among rural people.
  2. Different types of institutions for expanding outreach of financial products and services in rural areas.
  3. Improvements in operational management of rural financial institutions.
  4. Advances in financial products to fit the needs of rural clients.
  5. Creating an environment and supportive policies that foster sound rural finance market development.
Through a call for papers, as explained below, 30-35 researchers will be invited to share their work with the conference participants, either at the roundtable discussions or at the two poster sessions during the conference.

A post e-conference will be held to communicate the findings and recommendations of the conference to the larger, global rural finance community.

Call for Papers/Posters

Please consult the attached file for a description and instructions on submitting a research paper for this conference.

Related links
FAO web site
IFAD web site
Ford Foundation web site
Related Info
The Rural Finance Learning Centre (RFLC)

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