Microfinance and social capital: does social capital help create good practice?

The role of organising and disseminating knowledge as a global public good has become a major preoccupation of international development organisations. One area in which they are particularly active is support for microfinance programmes in developing countries. More recently, the microfinance `best practices' deposited in, and disseminated by, these international organisations have been associated with social capital. This paper examines the ways in which the notion of social capital is employed to explain the success of microfinance programmes. It argues that various types of social interactions that are generated around successful microfinance operations are randomly called social capital. This means that the presence of social capital does not tell us much about what sort of microfinance programmes, in terms of design and implementation, should be regarded as good practice.