Tricia Olsen, 'Rethinking Collective Action: The Case of Microfinance in Brazil and Mexico.'
May 20, 2013 | Denver, Colorado
On May 17, 2013, Tricia Olsen, Assistant Professor in the Department of Business Ethics and Legal Studies at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business presented her research titled 'Rethinking Collective Action: The Case of Microfinance in Brazil and Mexico.' Speaking to students and faculty as part of the Sié Research Seminar Series, Olsen noted that although the basic premise of microfinance is widely accepted, there is no consensus on microfinance regulation, which has important implications for not only who has access to microfinance services but also for the sustainability of microfinance institutions.
In previous research, Professor Olsen shows that a focus on power and political contestation around microfinance points to the importance of domestic interests and organized groups in explaining microfinance regulatory outcomes. This study builds on that work and provides important steps in furthering our understanding about the variation in microfinance regulation. In particular, it asks: Why do domestic actors organize to shape regulation in some countries but not in others? Once organized, what determines their effectiveness? Contributing to the collective action literature, this study asserts that the formation of microfinance associations is a function of actors' ability to access the state and is not determined by its size or homogeneity, as traditional explanations would suggest. Parsing out collective action from what she terms "collective influence," this research demonstrates that, contingent upon organizing, microfinance associations' strength emerges from the innovative tactics they employ.
Olsen trained as a comparative political scientist. She studies and teaches about the political economy of development, with a focus on business ethics, human rights, and sustainability in emerging and developing countries. Her current research focuses on the differences in microfinance across countries. Olsen is also involved in a collaborative project that explores the determinants, and effect, of transitional justice mechanisms.