January 25, 2013
Continuing CGAP’s blog series on practitioners’ takes on our Impact and Policy Conference in Bangkok, Gordon Cooper, head of Emerging Market Solutions at Visa shares his perspective. There to moderate a panel on financial inclusion, he talks about what it was like to come from the private sector into a room full of academic researchers:
You see, I’m a regular on the conference circuit.  But the gatherings I’m familiar with operate in a different world.  Dominated by private sector business types, these events are identifiable by conveniently predictable, if often vacuous, buzzwords; everyone’s got an out-of-the-box paradigm buster to share.  
Gordon Cooper and Josh BlumenstockAfter Mr. Cooper (on the right in the photo) learned he was a “practitioner” (who knew?) he quickly dove into the conference, talking to researchers like Josh Blumenstock (left in photo), whose presentation showed how mobile money flowed around Rwanda on the day of a natural disaster, research with obvious application to private sector companies in the money transfer business. (See a plain language summary by Josh, including a video visualizing the transfer patterns, here.)
Mr. Cooper points out there’s a wealth of information available without getting on a flight to a conference:
Judging from my day at the conference, there’s a ton of great material out there (not all of it RCTs, or even quant, no doubt).  It could be of real relevance to existing and would-be providers, so long as they knew about it!  So, my first thought on how this academic research might have greater impact is this: get the word out.
He points out that there are resources out there for practitioners but the links between the two worlds aren’t as strong as they could be:
IPA has a great searchable database of publications they’re involved in – but how many existing and prospective demand-side providers have the URL bookmarked?   If the task at hand is to get the people who offer financial services to step up their innovation game in end-user product design (reasons for optimism here; the nature of the challenge here), we need to share the treasure trove of existing academic research far and wide.
Mr. Cooper makes a good point, academics are producing lots of good data-based insights of use to practitioners, how can we get the word out better?  Read the full post here, and post your recommendations below on how to bridge the communication gap between evidence and practice.