Why "my money is always moving around": Moral narratives of relational wellbeing and the search for financial inclusion in Kenya

  • Silvia Storchi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Evaluations of financial inclusion policy focus on access, use, and impact on poverty reduction. This research starts by proposing Sen’s Capability Approach as a means to go further and evaluate it for how it expands people’s valued financial opportunities through which to live a good life. Using semi-structured interviews with 34 respondents in two counties in Kenya, this thesis investigates how people understand wellbeing and how the financial practices valued by them also contribute to their living well.
By adopting a relational wellbeing approach, the findings show that although respondents place material dimensions of wellbeing at the core of their narratives, these are intrinsically relational and subjective. It is through the material that relationships are fostered and social identities constructed according to gender norms and life stages. Identities have a distinctly moral dimension. This fits within a higher moral order in which doing good and being God-fearing inform conceptions of the “good life” and, further, the way in which money is managed in that life.
Valued financial practices are those that are based on relationships of mutual support and honesty, and contribute to the moral dimension of wellbeing. Moving money between people – whether between individuals or groups – is found to be an intrinsic feature of relationships which in turn consolidate social and moral dimensions of wellbeing, and nurture a sense of belonging. These relational and moral aspects of the “good life” are notably missing when money is simply put away in a bank account.
The research shows how relational wellbeing complements Sen’s Capability Approach to reveal a value framework for an evaluation of financial systems. It suggests that financial inclusion policy requires a perspective on the ways in which financial practices support conceptions of the “good life” if it is to build systems that expand the financial opportunities people have reason to value.
Date of Award15 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSeverine Deneulin (Supervisor) & Susan Johnson (Supervisor)


  • Financial Inclusion
  • Relational Wellbeing
  • Kenya

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