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Public Policy Research Seminar on Microfinance and Poverty Alleviation

Join us for this research seminar sponsored by McCormack Graduate School's Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs.

This seminar series is designed to allow members of the public policy community within the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies to discuss current research, to facilitate professional development and networking, and to provide news on current events in the department, college,and university.


Ever since the 1990s, microfinance, which involves the extension of small-scale financial services to the poor, has been the poverty intervention of choice across Asia, Latin America and even Africa. However, recent research and events have cast doubt on its effectiveness as a tool for poverty alleviation. Despite this it has continued to grow and is fast becoming part of the permanent financial landscape of developing countries.

This study uses a case-study approach to analyze microfinance’s impact on poverty. The geographical focus is on Pakistan, a country that has received international recognition for developing one of the most enabling regulatory frameworks for microfinance in the world. Pakistan provides a unique opportunity to study the impact of commercialization on microfinance. This is because the regulatory framework in Pakistan has effectively created two dominant institutional models. The first is the original nonprofit model, while the second is the microfinance banking model – a banking institution with a social mandate. While the former has largely retained its traditional focus on poverty, the latter has to balance poverty with profit seeking – often referred to as the double bottom-line.

The study uses mixed methods research, including field research and quantitative analysis. It will contribute to our understanding of how institutional form impacts microfinance’s poverty related outcomes. Specifically, it will broaden our understanding of how organizational structure impacts institutional goals and practices, and clients’ poverty related outcomes. In addition, it will describe how the changing emphasis in public policy related to microfinance’s use as a tool for poverty alleviation is affecting actual practice in the sector.


Ghazal Zulfiqar is a research assistant at the Center for Social Policy and is currently pursuing a PhD in public policy at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.  She holds a master of science degree in development finance from the University of London and an MBA from the University of Karachi in Pakistan.

Her work experience is quite diverse - from project and corporate finance in Africa and South Asia to grassroots organizing around farm issues in rural Arkansas. 

She uses both qualitative and quantitative research techniques in her research on poverty and inequality in transitional societies.


For disability-related accommodations, including dietary accommodations, please visit two weeks prior to the event.