Helping Pro-Poor Organizations Keep True to their Missions: SPTF’s Campaign Commitment Update

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Laura Foose, Director of the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) and Amelia Greenberg, Deputy Director share with us some of the work they are pursuing related to the SPTF Campaign Commitment announced last fall. Their achievement is inspiring and we look forward to seeing the future developments of their work that help the microfinance sector keep a focus on the poor.

SPTF logoIn October 2013, Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) submitted a letter to the Microcredit Summit Campaign expressing our Campaign Commitment to take specific, measureable, and timely action to support organizations that are dedicated to poverty alleviation. SPTF is inspired by the global effort to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty and believes that we can collectively achieve this ambitious goal. We invite you to read our Campaign Commitment here.

SPTF gathers and shares knowledge and tools that our partner organizations with a focus on poverty alleviation can use to improve their effectiveness in reaching their pro-poor goals. A first step was our management of the industry’s collaborative development of the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management (“Universal Standards”), a comprehensive manual of best practices in social performance management (SPM). Dimension 1 of the Universal Standards, Define and Monitor Social Goals, is particularly critical to the poverty reduction goal, as it identifies the management practices required to articulate, institutionalize, and put into practice the mission of the institution. Dimension 1 also specifically states that if an institution has a pro-poor mission, it must use a poverty assessment tool. Collecting credible data on the poverty level of the clients actually being reached is fundamental to keeping the institution true to its pro-poor mission.

Now that the Universal Standards have been developed, the primary focus of SPTF’s work is to support their implementation. We see three main stages in the implementation process: learn, improve, and report. In the learning phase, organizations identify and assess current practice. Since we wrote our Commitment letter last fall, a fantastic new assessment tool has become available: the SPI 4. CERISE created the SPI 4 with input from SPTF and experts from several other organizations, and launched it in February 2014. The SPI 4 is fully aligned to the Universal Standards, which themselves fully integrate the Smart Campaign client protection principles, and is free to the public. With the SPI 4, financial institutions are now able to self-assess performance in all areas of SPM, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and use that analysis to create action plans for improvement. It is now supporting a group of MFIs that are pilot testing the tool, and SPTF will host a workshop of lessons learned from this pilot testing at its annual meeting in Dakar this June.

Once organizations identify areas for improvement, they can use any number of resources available to them to improve practice, many of which can now be found on the SPTF website in our Social Performance Resource Center. Launched two months ago, the Resource Center is organized around the six dimensions of the Universal Standards, provides free resources for download, and has materials in English, French, and Spanish. All materials uploaded to the Resource Center were first vetted by SPTF, to ensure that the Resource Center contains only materials that present relevant and clear information. Many of these materials are directly related to achieving pro-poor outreach and outcomes. For example, Integrating Poverty Assessment into Client Assessment: SEEP Progress Note No. 1, sample analysis of PPI data (ASASAH, Pakistan), and participatory wealth ranking video: Small Enterprise Foundation, all of which are available on the page of resources related to standard 1b.

Since we wrote our Commitment letter, SPTF has also created Universal Standards Technical Guide. This is an in-depth, free, 100+ page resource with step-by-step guidance and many different case study examples of how to implement each of the essential practices in the Universal Standards. The guide is currently being formatted for publication and translated into French and Spanish, and will be available to all on the SPTF website in the coming months.

SPTF has also been offering numerous online trainings. We run three parallel Universal Standards Implementation webinar series: one in French, one in English, and one in Spanish. Each series features different institutions but follows the same format: seven modules – one introductory session, and the remaining six on each of the six dimensions of the Universal Standards – with a different practitioner as guest speaker for each module. Additionally, we held two webinars this spring on collection, analysis, and reporting of social performance data, both of which included details of how certain pro-poor institutions are using the PPI. We invite you to participate in future SPTF webinars and to download the presentations and listen to the recordings from ones that have already happened.

The last stage in improving is reporting good data. We can no longer rely on anecdotes, but must have real data that shows who financial institutions are reaching and what outcomes these clients are experiencing. If pro-poor organizations improve their implementation of the practices in Dimension 1 of the Universal Standards, they will not only improve their ability to deliver on their mission but also have more reliable and detailed information to report publicly on their outcomes. Communicating outcomes has the potential to inspire key stakeholders such as investors, donors, and regulators, to engage, or deepen their engagement, with microfinance.

SPTF announced their Campaign Commitment at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit as:

  • Create and publish a technical guide to accompany the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management.
  • Collaborate with CERISE on the (SPI)-4, and help at least 10 MFIs from each region of the world to use this tool in calendar year 2014.
  • Work with the Responsible Inclusive Finance Working Group in 2014 to
    • Produce a common data collection tool and data exchange platform and to
    • Conduct industry mapping of technical assistance providers.

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