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Seeing institutions in different ways
Seeing institutions in different ways

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4.3 Levels of action

In the BancoSol story, you can see institutional development taking place at a number of levels. It is useful to distinguish between these levels, though it must be recognised that what is happening at one level is never in real life separate from what is happening at the others.

One conventional way of describing these different levels is to identify ‘macro’, ‘meso’ and ‘micro’ levels. I must immediately say that these terms can mean different things in different contexts. But I can suggest what might be a helpful way of understanding them by looking through the two lenses I identified for looking at institutional development: institutional development as history; and institutional development as intervention. Through these lenses:

Macro level:

  • institutional development as history: broad structural change involving, for example, the way the international financial system works
  • institutional development as intervention: activities that involve a broad range of ‘big players’ and are aimed at changing the wider social and economic structure; policy change at national and global level.

Meso level:

  • institutional development as history: changing patterns of interaction between organisations and institutions
  • institutional development as intervention: agencies involved in development action building relationships with each other in order to achieve common goals.

Micro level:

  • institutional development as history: local change necessitated by broad structural change
  • institutional development as intervention: change undertaken by local organisations that is designed to promote new norms governing their relationships.

Table 1 shows what this might look like in the BancoSol story:

Table 1 Macro, meso and micro level institutional development in the BancoSol story
LevelInstitutional development as historyInstitutional development as intervention
MacroBancoSol as part of broader structural change, as illustrated in quote from RutherfordThe creation of BancoSol contributes to the institutionalisation of micro-finance for commerce in Bolivia and more widely in Latin America
MesoNGOs and other civil society agencies become more significant, stronger network emergesBancoSol builds – or attempts to build – relationships with other agencies and organisations
MicroImpact of recession and structural adjustment in towns: the unemployed and small traders seeking micro-capitalBancoSol deliberately builds its operations around the value of treating poor people with respect