Towards Excellence in SPM: Opportunity International’s Strategy & Commitment

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Lately, we’ve been highlighting some of the great social performance activities being undertaken by those who have made a Campaign Commitment. Commitments have ranged from expanding the use of the PPI, showcasing the new SPI 4 tool from SPTF and CERISE, to promoting the work of Truelift. These are only a few of the many social performance management (SPM) tools and initiatives available to the microfinance industry. With the number of tools available and the wide array of valuable insights they provide, it can sometimes be difficult to integrate them into day-to-day operations in a manageable way. Opportunity International has developed a comprehensive SPM strategy that achieves just that, all in an effort to help their partners put their social mission into practice: helping empower people living in poverty to transform their lives.

opportunity-international-logoHelping transform the lives of the poor can be a tall order, but Opportunity believes (and we agree) that this can be accomplished as long as clients are always at the center of microfinance services, processes and operations. To facilitate client-centered decision making and appropriate services Opportunity International developed the Social Performance Dashboard – a partner reporting tool that captures a short-list of key social indicators that are standard across the network. This tool allows Opportunity partners to track their progress over time, adjust their products or operations when needed, as well as provide a lens to report on how they are achieving their social mission. By short-listing indicators, Opportunity can strike the right balance between collecting robust data, and ensuring that the difficulty and cost of collection is low.

SMP Dashboard

Accompanying the Dashboard, Opportunity International has adopted the “Triple Crown Initiatives” as part of their SPM Strategy: Endorsing the SMART Campaign, endorsing MicroFinance Transparency (MFT), and committing to implement the Universal Standards for Social Performance developed by the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF).

Partner’s Journey to SPM Excellence

Implementing Opportunity’s SPM strategy with its partners is a journey. As social performance is meant to be at the core of all partner activities, it requires a significant investment in changing institutional cultures, operating models and management relations.

The typical SPM journey for partners:

  1. Introduction to SPM strategy to management (CEO and SPM champion) by Opportunity International through a workshop or technical assistance consultant
  2. Endorsement of the Triple Crown Initiatives (endorse SMART Campaign and MFTransparency, become a member of SPTF)
  3. Assess the current status of implementation of SPM in operations (using an Opportunity developed Universal Standards Social Performance Management (USSPM) Self-Assessment tool or third party consultant) to identify gaps
  4. Develop potential solutions and a detailed action plan to work towards best SPM practice – with assistance from OI or third party consultant
  5. Receive an introduction to the Opportunity Social Performance Dashboard and explanation of its core set of indicators
  6. Build capacity of in data collection, storage, analysis and reporting – from third party consultants where possible
  7. Pilot data collection and survey tools (including the PPI), make adjustments to the Management Information System (MIS) to incorporate social data and integrate with the Core Banking System
  8. Upon completion or near-completion of the action plan, consider undergoing SMART Campaign Certification

SPM diagram horizontal

By following this journey and leveraging social data at both the strategy and operations levels, Opportunity partners become better equipped to reach target clients, meet clients’ needs and ultimately transform their lives.

Where are they Now? 

Naturally, such a holistic integration of SPM into all functions of partner operations takes some time, technical assistance, capacity building, and funding to facilitate full adoption of the strategy. After launching their SPM Strategy in 2012, Opportunity has already made significant progress:

  • 10 of 13 partners in India are already reporting on the PPI (which makes up nearly ½ of the dashboard), as well as 4 additional indicators
  • 2 partners in the Philippines are already fully or nearly fully reporting on the Social Performance Dashboard
  • 2 African partners are currently piloting the data collection process and will be fully implemented by the end of 2014
  • 5 more African partners will begin piloting the data collection process and will be in the process of rolling out the plan by the end of 2014
  • Cashpor, a partner in India, was one of the first of six MFIs globally to receive the SMART Campaign client protection certification. Opportunity Bank of Serbia also achieved Certification early in 2014.

By the end of 2014, OI plans to have over 10 partners with the ability to fully report on the Dashboard, and many others will be partially reporting.

Today, the Dashboard data is reported to Opportunity International and is accessible internally within partner organizations. OI has plans for the future to develop a business intelligence data warehouse, which will allow partners to access their own and other MFIs data for comparisons across countries, region and the network.

Innovation on the Horizon: Digital Data Collection

To facilitate robust reporting and make collecting SPM data easier Opportunity is currently piloting the Mobile Enterprise Open Sky (MEOS) application. MEOS is a mobile application built on an Android platform that is suitable for smart phones and tables. It enables loan officers to capture client data and upload directly onto the client’s official record in the partner’s core banking system – and contributed to the client level indicators of the dashboard. The pilot has since expanded to 2 other members and Opportunity continues to monitor its success and test other electronic data capture solutions, with the end-goal to have as many partners collecting data electronically.

Opportunity International’s Campaign Commitment Progress Update

At the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit, Opportunity International announced a Campaign Commitment to:

  • Understanding and reporting clients’ poverty status and changes in clients’ poverty status over time.  We will do this Network-wide by the end of 2014 through use of robust client survey tools – including the Progress out of Poverty Index where available.
  • Improving the provision of education to 275,000 children through SME lending to schools by the end of 2014.
  • Delivering over 100,000 rural loans to smallholder farmers in Africa expanding our outreach to from five to eight African countries while simultaneously expanding Opportunity’s rural savings programs to $25M by the end of 2014.

Through their SPM Strategy, Opportunity is working to achieve the first area of understanding and reporting clients’ poverty status and by the end of 2014, they will have rolled out the strategy in multiple countries. We invite you to read the first annual Social Performance Report launched in March of 2014. Thus far, the Opportunity has seen a considerable amount of traction across the entire Network as they align business plans to achieve social outcomes. Throughout the 2013 implementation cycle, Opportunity has learned some key lessons including: the importance of local leadership to drive success, ensuring the PPI and other data is being used as a management tool (not just a report on paper), and securing funding in a more rapid fashion for the roll out of the SPM work.

SPM image 1 - cover

Image courtesy of Opportunity International

In the second area of their Commitment, Opportunity has increased its total “child impact” goal for 2014 to 750,000 children. At the end of February, Opportunity had reached 595,000 children who were being served with a mix of school loans, student loans, edusave accounts (life insurance linked to savings accounts) youth financial education and youth savings accounts. To share the lessons learned from these services and to broaden the field of education finance, Opportunity is planning an “EduFinance Conference” in Africa for the 3rd quarter of 2014.

Finally, Opportunity is focused on serving the agricultural sector and smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia. In Africa, they are on track to deliver 105,000 agricultural loans and in the Philippines another 50,000. Opportunity is also expanding their rural lending scheme beyond the original five countries, which served to validate their model,  to the rest of their African network. Meanwhile, in the first quarter of 2014 rural savings reached $22.9M and is on target to reach the $25M objective listed in the Commitment by the end of 2014.

Join Opportunity International and State your Campaign Commitment

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One thought on “Towards Excellence in SPM: Opportunity International’s Strategy & Commitment

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