One of the things that make blogs particularly interesting are series. The “series” series recommends series at related blogs. This time, Phil takes up the initiative and introduces a series he has particularly enjoyed: the book chapter releases on David Roodman’s Microfinance Open Book Blog.
Okay, maybe technically this isn’t really a series. But since February 2009, when David Roodman (who is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development CGDEV and also the father of the fascinating “Committment to Development Index”, CDI) began sharing the progress he was making on his new book, his blog has become one of the most prolific and insightful blogs about microfinance. And on that blog, the central recurring theme has been the book chapters which David has incrementally released.
David’s book (which, it seems, is now finished to a draft level) was presented via occasional single-chapter releases. These frequently produced interesting discussions among the blog’s growing readership, which notably includes an array of high-profile development intelligentsia members like Harvard Professor Lant Pritchett, senior cooperative banking expert Hans-Dieter Seibel, and development über-academic Bill Easterly.
Perhaps it is less the book and more the wide range of controversial issues covered – from double-borrowing and microfinance bubbles to the heavy-hitting disappointing RCT impact studies (and the industry’s disappointing reaction to them) – processed through Roodman’s brilliant analysis, which have led his readership to read his take again and again.
Most laudably, this blog also gives outspoken microfinance critics like Milford Bateman an open forum to engage in cultured discussion with microfinance’s supporter community away from the less tolerant industry-operated “discussion” forums. I too don’t see eye-to-eye with David on many issues concerning microfinance, and would often consider a more critical tone to be justified. But his blog and the upcoming book definitely provide some of the sharpest and most thoughtful discussions of those questions which currently shake and shape the microfinance industry (against its will), and make microfinance the controversial subject which it is. Big props.