Explaining the Origins and Diffusion of the Global Financial Inclusion Agenda

Committee: Dr. Adam Harmes (Chair), Dr. Erin Hannah, Dr. Bruce Morrison

What explains the origins and diffusion of the global financial inclusion agenda? Since the 2008 global financial crisis, the idea of “financial inclusion” is increasingly recognized and promoted by a range of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), states, and private firms. The core claim of financial inclusion is that all individuals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) need access to and use of financial services, specifically bank accounts, payments services, credit, and insurance. Several existing explanations attribute the emergence and widespread adoption of this agenda to the power of business and transnational capital more generally, as financial actors and the logics of neoliberalism are situated at the forefront of this phenomenon. Synthesizing research on international norms, historical institutionalism, and political marketing, I instead provide an alternative conceptual framework centered around ambiguity. By focusing on the co-production of ambiguity by coalition members with heterogenous interests, I identify the specific mechanisms underpinning the global agenda.


Empirically, the project relies on elite interviews, archival documents, and quantitative text analysis within a process-tracing research design. To this end, I have completed more than 70 interviews, consulted document collections at three national archives and the archives of the World Bank, collected an original data set of 51 National Financial Inclusion Strategies, and conducted field research in the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, and Ghana.

My dissertation provides a novel conceptual framework for understanding the role of ambiguity in coalitional politics and global governance. It also directly contributes to debates on recent challenges to Western authority, ideas, and power in global economic governance.

Peer-Reviewed Articles


Girard, Tyler. “Participatory Ambiguity and the Emergence of the Global Financial Inclusion Agenda." Review of International Political Economy. (Accepted)

     Winner of the ISA-Canada Best Graduate Student Paper Award, International Studies Association (ISA)             Annual Conference 2019

Girard, Tyler. 2021. "Reconciling the Theoretical and Empirical Study of International Norms: A New Approach to Measurement." American Political Science Review 115(1): 331-338. DOI:

Girard, Tyler. 2021. "When Bribery is Considered an Economic Necessity: Facilitation Payments, Norm Translation, and the Role of Cognitive Beliefs." International Studies Perspectives 22(1): 65-83. DOI:

Girard, Tyler. 2020. "Bank Accounts for All: How Does Financial Regulation Matter?" Journal of International Development 32(5): 793-818. DOI:

Works in Progress


David Armstrong and Tyler Girard. "The Consequences of Conditioning on Covariates in Measurement Models."

Girard, Tyler and Marin Macleod. “Facilitating Financial Inclusion Through Transnational Private-Public Partnerships: Evidence from Refugee Cash Transfers in Jordan.”

Girard, Tyler, Lorena Kettle, and Natalie Playford. “‘What’s the Sitch?’ Explaining Variation in the Adoption of the Gender Equality Norm.”