Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)



First Advisor

Dr. Lars Mathiassen

Second Advisor

Dr. Subhashish Samaddar

Third Advisor

Dr. Denish Shah


Dynamic Capabilities in Microfinance Innovation: A Case Study of The Grameen Foundation


Sarah Elizabeth Kayongo

May 2020

Chair: Lars Mathiassen

Major Academic Unit: Executive Doctorate in Business

The purpose of this research is to understand how microfinance organizations innovate their products, services, and processes to improve financial inclusion. The research approach used is a retrospective, longitudinal, qualitative case study (Yin, 2014) of how Grameen Foundation, a global non-government organization that partners with various microfinance institutions to provide micro loans, savings, and other financial and professional services innovated. Applying Dynamic Capability Theory (Teece, 1997, 2012 & 2014) highlighted the unique ways in which Grameen Foundation innovated its products, services, and processes through the three concepts of (1) sensing, (2) seizing, and (3) transforming. We conducted a total of twelve semi-structured interviews with staff and supplemented the interviews with publicly available materials, impact reports, press releases, trade journal articles, and website information. Our findings provide a detailed empirical process account of how Grameen Foundation has consistently been a leader at creating financial linkages through innovating its various programs and the activities within those programs over a ten-year period 2009 – 2019. We found the usefulness of Dynamic Capabilities Theory concepts of sensing, seizing and transforming applicable to studies of innovation in microfinance in the non-government sector; however, our analysis revealed elements of the theory’s core concepts that were not directly applicable. For instance, rather than create Valuable Rare Imperfectly Imitable and Non-substitutable resources, Grameen’s philosophy of creating open-sourced market-based solutions that they shared with industry resulted in “Valuable,” “Rare,” “Diffusible,” and “Non-substitutable” resources that were “transferrable” and “imitable”, hence we concluded that in the context of innovating in non-government microfinance organizations, this concept translated into Transferrable, Valuable, Imitable and Non-substitutable or “TVIN” resources. We offer a resource guide to microfinance institutions, non-government organizations, and governments of five insights that characterized how Grameen Foundation innovated its products services and processes to improve financial inclusion based on: 1) Sensing country-specific needs; 2) Seizing opportunities to use existing technology; 3) Funding projects that drove innovation overtime and creating financial linkages through multi-sectorial partnerships; 4) Adopting a business model that enabled innovation transfer to attain transformative scale; and 5) Strengthening the internal capabilities of how performance was measured, monitored and evaluated for program outputs in order to sustain the scaling of outcomes. Single case studies tend to suffer from limited generalizability, but details of this study will benefit microfinance practitioners in assessing the transferability of our findings to other contexts (Lincoln and Guba, 1985). We emphasize that in complex and ever-changing economic environments, it's increasingly harder to predict the effects that unforeseeable circumstances such as health pandemics would have on global financial markets. We recognize that such changes are likely to produce different outcomes for innovation in microfinance organizations and their beneficiaries. Future studies will benefit from applying experimental design methods and theories that focus on innovation with inbuilt resiliency and capabilities to withstand such extreme but unforeseeable circumstances. Still, we provided a detailed empirical analysis of how a global microfinancing organization consistently innovated its products, services, and processes through four programs and twenty activities overtime, and across countries at an in-depth level that few studies have done. Lastly, we have demonstrated that Dynamic Capabilities Theory is very adaptable to studies of innovation in microfinance.


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