The primary aim of this study is to gain a better understanding of the impact of microfinance by systematically reviewing the existing systematic reviews (in the broader field of meta-studies) on the topic. This is an urgent task given the focus on expanding access to financial services in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 1 on eradicating poverty and SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. The study has three sub-objectives:
• to better inform the decisions of donors and development policymakers by establishing what is known and not known about the impact of microfinance;
• to facilitate better research by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of existing systematic reviews, and suggesting pathways toward common standards and methods, and particularly a better use of qualitative studies;
• to understand the political economy of knowledge which may explain which questions are asked and why, how results are arrived at and interpreted, and which results are used how and by whom.