Creating a Community of Partnerships to End Poverty

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In the lead up to the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit, Carmen Velasco shares her perspectives on the critical role of partnerships in advancing financial inclusion and improving people’s lives.

Photo by Srinivasa Rao Allamsetty, 2008 CGAP Photo Contest

In partnership with the Microfinance Gateway, we will be bringing you a series of interviews with speakers and key stakeholders participating in the upcoming 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit.

This week’s interview features Carmen Velasco, co-founder of Pro Mujer and co-chair of Truelift.

The overarching theme of the agenda for the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit is financial inclusion that leads to movement out of poverty. What do you think of that?

Carmen Velasco

Carmen Velasco, co-founder of Pro Mujer and co-chair of Truelift
Photo courtesy of Pro Mujer

From the very first that I heard that the Microcredit Summit would be focusing on financial inclusion and partnerships, I thought that was a fantastic idea. It’s so important and so different because we have to recognize that poverty is a consequence of multiple causes. The poor suffer multiple exclusions—health, housing, access to opportunities, gender inequality, etc.—and in order to have a sustainable, permanent way out of poverty, we need to take into account these multiple factors that perpetuate poverty.

Financial inclusion is one of the alternatives for this fight, of course, and I think that these past 20 years we have been seeing the positive and negative results of financial inclusion. But if they only have access to financial services, we can’t assure that it’s going to benefit the other areas or factors in which they are lacking inclusion: education, housing, and health. To make sure that this is happening, partnerships seem to be the way to go because the big argument many microfinance institutions make is that it’s not our field. But if your vision is to create a better world in terms of less poverty, less crime, less war, or more people actively included in the economy of the country, you have to see poverty as a social problem, not only as lack of financial resources.

So when we talk about financial inclusion, it’s not about having more clients to serve. I think that financial inclusion is a means for people that did not have access to them. And now, with the products and services and methodologies that have been carefully tailored with a lot of struggle to attend their needs and realities, they can use them as an opportunity to change their life conditions. It’s not only about having access to more money; it’s having the opportunity to change their life conditions, to be more active in the way they face life. It’s a change in the person, not only a change in the system. That’s one of the things we’ve failed.

Moreover, microfinance institutions have a wonderful opportunity, especially those who’ve gone to scale, to have huge numbers of clients coming on a regular basis for loans or savings. You have this loyal audience that believes in you, and any activity that you develop together with the process of giving loans, repayments, savings will have a huge impact on their lives because it is going to be permanent, on a regular basis, and for a long time.

We have to be held accountable for what happens to these clients and these families. We’re giving them a service with the commitment to improve their lives, and we have the chance to do it better. That should be our commitment. We can do it, but we’re so worried with collecting and disbursing money that we have lost track of our main objective to improve the quality of peoples’ lives. And that’s in our hands.

What do you see as some of the priorities for the sector going forward?

I would like to see an alignment of all stakeholders with initiatives like the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management of the SPTF, the Truelift principals, and the Cerise project. I’d like to see everybody reporting to the MIX, everybody complying with transparency—and not creating new things.

The main thing for us to leave the conference with is a commitment to being accountable for the results that we’re having in the lives of the people we serve, that we’re tracking the changes in the lives of the clients and their families, and that we are serving the population for which microfinance has been created—the poor and the very poor. That’s exactly what Truelift is trying to do:  to motivate more players to engage in this agenda, reach the poor, make sure they are providing the services they need, and, foremost, being accountable for results in the lives of clients, families, and children. And that those results are sustainable and they’re getting out of poverty in a permanent way.

You will be speaking at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit. What do you hope to take from the Summit?

Something that I’d really want to see are partnerships created and consolidated with a working plan. With indicators that can show us how the partnership will work: who’s doing what, how can I help you, how can you help me? How can we both help each other to move forward in this fight against poverty and exclusion? I think the main thing for me would be a commitment that everybody has to win, and the one who should win the most is the population living in poverty conditions.

So, I would say that my takeaway would be making sure there is a real community of partnerships because we talk a lot about a community of practice or of learning—and that is very loose. I would talk about a community of partnerships with clear information on how we can do our work better if all stakeholders work with a clear vision and mission. So, whatever I’m doing in relation to the clients, to the people, I keep an eye on what others are doing so that what I’m doing can benefit others, and vice versa.

If you think of all the money thrown into development in isolated efforts, once that funding is over, it is all forgotten and we start from scratch again. I think that it’s time to be accountable for the money that has been invested in development. We have to harvest the results of the things we’ve done—in partnerships.

The Microfinance Gateway is a media partner for the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit. Learn more.

– Interview conducted by Sabina Rogers, communications and relationship manager at the Microcredit Summit Campaign

2 thoughts on “Creating a Community of Partnerships to End Poverty

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