Call for Expressions of Interest

Financial Services for the Poor Initiative

Competitive Fund current round closed.

Application Form                 Application Guidelines


The Financial Inclusion Program at Innovations for Poverty Action invites Expressions of Interest from teams of researchers and financial service providers to conduct rigorous research on financial product innovations for low-income households in developing countries.

Across developing and advanced economies alike, low-income households need effective and affordable tools to save and borrow money, make and receive payments, and manage risk. Digital finance and agent banking are rapidly lowering costs and expanding the reach of financial services to the unbanked and underbanked, while at the same time creating new opportunities for the development of improved products and services for the underserved. The Financial Inclusion Program at IPA partners with service providers, governments, and researchers to design and test financial services and programs, especially those using digital channels, which help households better manage their finances.

The Financial Inclusion Program’s Financial Services for the Poor Initiative focuses on the development of rigorous evidence on innovations to enable the poor to access, use, and benefit from access to digital financial services. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Initiative has developed or supported a growing portfolio of ongoing and completed randomized evaluations since 2011.

This call for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) marks the third competitive funding round of a four-year, $4.1 million investment in project funding to support randomized evaluations in the following areas with a specific emphasis on digital financial services for the poor. Areas of interest include:

  • Usage of innovative digital financial services, including:
    • payments for health and education services
    • products or services that address the specific needs and cash-flow challenges of farmers and micro-entrepreneurs
  • Incorporation of behavioral insights into product design, regulation, or other policy levers to improve take-up and usage of formal financial services by the poor
  • The usage of digital financial services, especially payment mechanisms for public sector reform and/or service delivery
  • Consumer protection issues as they relate to digital financial services and products.
  • Women’s empowerment through digital financial services

Women’s Empowerment. In the current round, we will give priority to projects that focus on the area of women’s empowerment through digital financial services.  We encourage research teams to look beyond heterogeneous effects of financial products on women and actively propose innovative solutions which can help close the gender gap that still exists in financial inclusion.

Download the application guidelines for more details on eligibility criteria for this Call for Expressions of Interest and for instructions on how to apply. For more information on the review process, please click here.

Learn more about the Financial Services for the Poor Initiative and its research agenda, as well as the research projects supported under the previous funding rounds (2011-2015).


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation