Taking the next step – cornerstones of a strategy for National Financial Literacy and Inclusion
Since 2014, Egypt has been working on developing its first national financial literacy strategy. Within the last years, many countries within the region and worldwide have been developing similar strategies on financial literacy, or more broadly, on financial inclusion. One might thus come to the conclusion that writing such a strategy is a simple exercise. Indeed, there are sufficient good examples and materials available which one can base oneself on to write a good strategy document.
However, writing a national financial inclusion or literacy strategy is the smaller part of developing a strategy. What really counts in the development of a strategy, and will eventually determine its success or failure, is the process. What do I mean with this? The mistake many people make in developing strategies is to see the launch of the strategy document as their final objective. However, the real work starts after the launch: implementing the strategy. In other words, the development process needs to be designed in a way that it facilitates implementation, the launching of the strategy being just one step along the path.
How can the development of a strategy be designed in a way that facilitates implementation? The principles are easy and most people know them. However, one may forget about them as one gets busy and caught up in other details around the strategy:
- Involve stakeholders:this is a point which cannot be highlighted enough. A national financial literacy or financial inclusion strategy cannot be implemented by one single organisation. A big number of stakeholders is required to contribute in order to reach a wide range of people. If stakeholders are not involved in the development process – and feel they partially own it, they are less likely to contribute to the implementation of the strategy. Also, different organisations have different experiences and expertise which are all useful in designing a high impact strategy.
- Transmit enthusiasm:People do not only need to participate, they need to feel the relevance and urgency of the topic. Most organisations and their staff have full agendas and many topics to deal with. There needs to be a good reason for them to dedicate their time to financial literacy. The more dedicated and passionate the strategy leaders are about the topic, the more they will be able to transmit their enthusiasm to the other stakeholders.
- Develop realistic and impactful initiatives:A strategy may include a huge number of fascinating initiatives but if they are unlikely to be actually implemented or to have a considerable impact, there is no sense in including them. Usually, only a limited number of initiatives can realistically be implemented as resources (human, financial and time) are limited. Thus, it is important to focus on those initiatives which have the greatest impact. The process needs to be designed in a way that it allows to filter out initiatives which are not likely to have a lot of impact – even if they may be someone’s pet project.
- Assign clear responsibilities:Building on the point above, initiatives will not be implemented if no one feels responsible for them. If the strategy leader feels responsible for developing the strategy but not for implementing it and fails to assign clear responsibilities during the development phase, it is unlikely for any initiative to see the daylight.
- Start implementation in the final stage of the development phase:In order to ensure that the strategy is not being forgotten once it has been launched, implementation should start right after – or even slightly before – the launch of the Strategy. Most initiatives require a preparation phase before implementation can begin. Ideally, at least for one or two major initiatives, this phase should overlap with the finalization stage of the strategy document so that the first activities can take off as soon as it has been launched. This way, the momentum can be kept and credibility won.
In Egypt, the German Development Cooperation through its technical agency GIZ has been supporting the Egyptian Banking Institute and the Steering Committee mandated to develop the national financial literacy strategy in order to ensure that the above mentioned points are being considered so that Egyptian’s strategy will positively impact the life of Egyptians.
By Lisa Peterlechner