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The full version of this article was published on NextBillion on August 11th and written by Jessica Massie, senior technical advisor for Reach Global in Rwanda and a former Microcredit Summit Campaign team member.
Below are excerpts from Ms. Massie’s review of the 2014 State of the Campaign Report. Read the full article here.
A Changing Narrative
When the Microcredit Summit Campaign began in 1997, it was, as the name implies, focused on microcredit. Since then, the world of financial services for the poor has undergone a shift from microcredit to microfinance—a broader range of formal and informal products and services.
Resilience: The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2014 keeps up with the times by providing an interesting discussion of a number of innovations in the field of microfinance. The report focuses on resilience, and how financial services can promote it among the world’s poorest families. But it also covers a broad range of services that have the potential to help people grow—to lead the prosperous life that Birdsall mentions—much more than credit alone can.
Taking Steps to Target the Poorest
[T]his year’s report signals a shift in focus from microcredit to microfinance in the Campaign itself…reflect[ing] the trends shown in the Campaign’s data. The 2013 report (which compiled data from 2011) showed a decline in borrowers for the first time; this year’s report continues to show a decline in borrowers among the poorest.
Which Financial Services Promote Resilience?
[T]he Microcredit Summit Campaign’s broader focus is a welcome adjustment. Last year’s focus on vulnerability—and this year’s on resilience—remind us of the core reasons that we do this work: to provide a useful and beneficial service to people who have historically been excluded. We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but we do need to take a critical look at our work and revise our objectives accordingly. As the report’s author, Larry R. Reed, points out, we need to ask, “How often—and how well—do MFIs reach those living in extreme poverty and supply them the type of financial services that help build resilience to withstand economic, medical, and weather-related shocks?”
The future of financial services that promote resilience and reduce vulnerability depends on institutions that not only innovate, but also practice self-reflection to ensure that they meet their social missions in a cost-effective way. While microfinance has seen its share of well-deserved controversy, the report offers a measured and realistic view of microfinance as an industry. No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum of ideology surrounding microfinance, Resilience is an interesting and informative read.
NextBillion Financial Innovation is a media partner of the 17th Microcredit Summit, which will be held in Merida, Mexico, from September 3-5, 2014. Many of the issues addressed and the innovations presented in the 2014 State of the Campaign Report will also be featured at the Summit. Please take a look at the program to see what there is to learn from participating in teh 17th Microcredit Summit.