Changes ahead for the Microcredit Summit Campaign

Dignitaries who attended the 1997 Microcredit Summit.

Dignitaries who attended the 1997 Microcredit Summit.

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>>Authored by Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Twenty years ago Sam Daley-Harris came to our offices at Opportunity International — where I then worked — and told us of his plans to hold a Microcredit Summit. Working with Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and John Hatch, founder of FINCA, he would gather leaders from around the world to inform them of the important role microcredit and other financial services could play in helping people living in poverty. At the time, neither the UN nor the World Bank nor any national governments had any policies related to microfinance. Sam wanted to change that.

We were intrigued by his idea, so we started asking more about his organization. He represented a grassroots lobbying group called RESULTS, which mobilized citizen volunteers to advocate for issues related to poverty and hunger to their representatives in Congress. He told us about how, in 1990, RESULTS volunteers had held 500 candlelight vigils around the country to support the World Summit for Children.

We left the meeting excited by the prospect but not sure whether Sam was going to be able to pull off such a big event. We went back to our own agendas and didn’t give much thought to the Summit until a month or two before the event when we began to notice that all our conversations with colleagues in microfinance included discussions about the upcoming Summit. Everyone we knew was planning to go, and when we looked at the line-up of speakers, we saw why.

Sam and the RESULTS team had somehow convinced five heads of state, even more spouses of heads of state, the President of the World Bank, the Treasury Secretary, and many heads of UN agencies to speak at the first Summit in Washington. We started scrambling to figure out how we could get noticed at what was becoming the largest international event ever organized for microcredit.

The participants in the first Summit endorsed the goal of reaching 100 million of the world’s poorest families with microcredit by 2005. This became the focus of the first phase of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, expanding the use of microcredit as a development tool as widely as possible. When the Campaign first started tracking microfinance outreach in 1997, our industry was reaching 13 million borrowers, of whom 7.6 million lived in extreme poverty.

During the next nine years, according to David Roodman, the Microcredit Summit Campaign served as “a major force behind the global microfinance movement, combining savvy publicity with behind-the-scenes lobbying for funding.” After coordinated lobbying by RESULTS and their allies around the world, the UN declared 2005 to be the “International Year of Microcredit,” and the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its 2006 Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank. By 2007, the Campaign had reached its goal, reporting 155 million total microfinance borrowers, of whom 107 million were among the poorest in their countries.

Anticipating reaching the goal, the Campaign entered its second phase by setting two new goals at its 2006 Global Summit in Halifax:

  1. Reaching 175 million poorest families with microfinance
  2. Helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty

With these new goals, the Campaign began focusing not just on the number of clients, but also on how access to microfinance affects the lives of families who borrow. We stressed the importance of measuring poverty levels of clients and recording progress over time, framing micro financial services as tools to help achieve the larger goal of ending extreme poverty.

In many ways, this message has become more widely accepted. The World Bank has made ending extreme poverty by 2030 and promoting shared prosperity its two guiding goals. As a key step to achieving these goals, the Bank has also adopted a target of reaching universal financial access by 2020. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ratified by 193 nations this past January, have adopted the target of eradicating poverty, in all its forms, everywhere. Making a broad range of financial services available to all is one of the key targets for achieving the SDGs.

On the other hand, we have not had as much success in getting financial providers to expand service to the world’s poorest. As microfinance has grown more commercial, it has served proportionally fewer clients in extreme poverty. In fact, our numbers show that the number of borrowers living in extreme poverty has declined for each of the last three years. These trends, combined with a funding environment that has much less appetite for organizations providing public goods for microfinance, has caused us to rethink our role and structure.

In our last State of the Campaign Report, we identified Six Pathways for microfinance to reach those in extreme poverty and support their movement out of poverty. These Pathways all involve integrating financial services with other important development services, and many of them have significant connections with the work of governments.

At our most recent Summit in Abu Dhabi, our Leadership Council identified four priorities to help drive the future of our work on financial and social inclusion. These include transformative social protection and graduation programs, risk management by the poor, community-led finance, and rural development strategies. What they all share in common is the aim to help people move out and stay out of extreme poverty, addressing their unique vulnerabilities and combining public and private action to make essential services available to and affordable for those living in poverty.

We saw that our future work as the Microcredit Summit Campaign would have significant overlap with the work of our parent organization, RESULTS Educational Fund. As we called for governments and multilateral organizations to tear down the silos in their organizations to combine financial services with other developmental services like social protection, health, housing, and education, we saw that we needed to do the same thing in our own organization. Therefore, in order to strengthen our message and reduce annual recurring costs, we have decided to merge our work with that of RESULTS.

In this new structure, the Microcredit Summit Campaign will no longer operate as a standalone organization. Much of our team will be moving into positions with RESULTS, and we will continue to highlight the work carried out by innovators and leaders who design financial services that reach those in extreme poverty and that can show progress in helping families move out of poverty.

We will continue to advance the priorities of our Leadership Council, integrating them into the work RESULTS does to advocate for policies and resources to eliminate poverty through its three pillars of health, education, and economic opportunity.

Through RESULTS, we will continue to play our unique convening role. We will bring together the ever expanding community of institutions, companies, government agencies, and individuals that can provide the financial and other goods and services that address the unique needs of those living in poverty.

We now embark on the third phase of the Campaign. It will involve an advocacy agenda to link financial services to other key development services so that those living in poverty will have the resources and cash flows needed to provide for themselves, sustain the health of their families, and educate their children. We do so with the same audaciousness that Sam had when he started both RESULTS and the Microcredit Summit Campaign. We do so knowing that we will not succeed until extreme poverty no longer exists on our planet.

Read the official announcement: An Update from Joanne Carter, executive director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, and Larry Reed, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign

See answers to common questions (French and Spanish) that we anticipate you may have. If you have other question we didn’t think of, send an email to info@microcreditsummit.org.

11 thoughts on “Changes ahead for the Microcredit Summit Campaign

  1. Pingback: The Microcredit Summit Campaign: A Legacy of Impact, On a Shoestring | Center for Financial Inclusion blog

  2. I have met Sam he is a great man and worked with him,a mentor to me.when micro credit summit came to Africa-Kenya in Nairobi.2010, Africa/Middle East Regional Microcredit Summit, Nairobi, Kenya, April 4–7.I I had an opportunity even to interview Mohammad Yunis when myself as Head of Information and snr.Information officer and media liaison at the summit and my team at Jamii Bora Trust hosted him and other delegates to see our our programs.Am a product of microfinace born and raised in one of the biggest slum is sub sahara Africa in Kenya called Kibera and I believe we all can fight poverty I being the product of the same.I have worked with microfinace for last 16 years! and I still believe I can share more as an advocate of change for a better world.I have mobilized many youths and groups for a better change in different communities.My dream has been to be an advocate of change in the world I would like if possible if I can be of any use to work/volunteer together in this advocacy I will really appreciate it in any other way to brings the change and share experience that its possible to come out of poverty.Let’s make this world a better place for all of us.let’s be at peace with all and at all times.@Larry Reed

  3. Congratulations to all during this transition.

    “We will continue to advance the priorities of our Leadership Council, integrating them into the work RESULTS does to advocate for policies and resources to eliminate poverty through its three pillars of health, education, and economic opportunity.”

    “The missing link”, as GreenMicrofinance has addressed over the years, continues to be environmental sustainability as we look to end extreme poverty. I hope that the Leadership Council will consider this as a fourth pillar.

    Sam, now that you are involved with the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, climate change is brought to the forefront. We can not afford to ignore in our work.

    Elizabeth Israel

  4. The future of microfinance is already with us: we do not need to invent anything or worse review and revise what belong to the history. We have to stay away from Legends and Myths https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/financial-inclusion-legends-myths-ascanio-graziosi?trk=mp-reader-card.

    The future of microfinance work has been written down: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-evolve-my-industry-state-future-micro-finance-work-graziosi?trk=prof-post.

    Microfinance as umbrella for whatsoever service didn’t and doesn’t work, unless source of funds and decision-making process are different for either humanitarian aid or income generating activities or enterprise development, which should have appropriate management criteria.
    The road ahead has been mapped out by the financial establishment: between the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 three basic documents have been released by CGAP, BIS and UN.
    In September 2015 CGAP “has “re-examined their (funders) role as promoters of inclusive economic growth in the countries we serve”; A market systems approach to financial inclusion; we quote “ Understanding the potential impact of financial services for households and economies, policy makers, practitioners, and funders have shifted their focus from classic microfinance, the provision of financial services to the poor by specialized service providers, to FINANCIAL INCLUSION, a state where both individuals and businesses have opportunities to access, and the ability to use a diverse range of appropriate financial services that are responsibly and sustainably provided by formal financial institutions”. In other words, microfinance has been phased out.

    In March 2016 Basel III Committee on Banking Supervision adjourned a document released in 2010 “Guidance on the application of the Core principles for effective banking supervision to the regulation and supervision of the institutions relevant to financial inclusion”( http://www.bis.org). The Committee provided guidelines to regulate the market and in so doing put under control the uncontrolled growth of microcredit/microfinance market.
    According to above, Financial inclusion’s definition is as simple as open to any integration: “provision of financial services to unserved and underserved customers”, but it talks about customers and not people in general; this does mean that a link with a formal institution is a pre-condition of whatsoever intervention.

    In September 2015 the Head of State in the meeting held at United Nations decided that over the next 15 years sustainability should guide all interventions to achieve 17 Goals with 169 associated targets and reiterated the message to fight poverty having sustainability as a key factor to consider. This is a new vision because till now sustainability has not been assumed as a primary statement to eradicate poverty, at least not all the time and everywhere, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E .

    Sustainable development – a concept well known but rarely applied – has to be assumed as a guide: it may disclose that there has been a fundamental move in the way to foresee and practice social and economic development.

    We do think that financial inclusion should go together with economic inclusion to avoid disillusion for the finance provider, illusion for the client and a likely for both provider and community.
    Moreover, much too emphases has put on the supply of the financial services to detriment of the community based economy.
    Taking from the 2030 AGENDA and our extensive field experience over the last three decades (https://ascaniograziosi.com) we have noticed a move from the financial way to community-based economy way to development. Figuring it out for field activities purpose the move does mean, in our interpretation, a SHIFT FROM CREDIT-BASED ECONOMY TO EMPLOYMENT BASED ECONOMY. The financial leverage to the business is important, of course, but the interventions have to be economic and social sustainable.
    Summing up, industry’s insiders, academics, commentators should take into account the new variables of the poverty equation, as they emerged from above mentioned documents. We did it and elaborated in our work FINANCIAL INCLUSION – Give people a job not a loan –
    For the time being, it may be downloaded from Amazon http://www.amazon.it/Financial-Inclusion-Give-people-English-ebook/dp/B01ENJP37S?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0
    Shortly it will be available with Kindle.

    Dr. Ascanio Graziosi

  5. When I checked my e-mail this morning the last thing I imagined was that I would hear from Larry Reed that the MicroCredit Campaign was being absorbed into Results. I remember when I first heard about the Campaign and its audacious objective of increasing the number of borrowers to 100,000,000 I thought Sam-Daley Harris must be out of his mind. I remember when Acción International first microcredit program reached 1,000 borrowers in 1981. In 1997 80% of the 13,000,000 borrowers were in Bangladesh, namely Grameen and BRAC and the Self-Help Group Bank linkage program in India. How could 13 million be translated into 100 million, yet this goal was reached a few years later. The Summit/Results new plan recognizes that micro-finance, especially commercial microfinance, is drifting away from the poor and especially the poorest, but that new strategies have greater potential. These include graduation programs (expensive yet effective), agricultural development including value chain and credit, community led finance, both informal ROSCAS and semi-formal Savings Groups and financial and non-financial services to mitigate risks. This is quite a different focus from those heady days when we believed that a loan would catapult a poor person out of poverty, predictably and in vast numbers. This is an exciting time for our field. It was NGOs that invented micro-credit and by showing that lending to the poor could be profitable paved the way for micro-lending it to be taken over by commercial interests. Now our understanding of poverty is much more nuanced and, as before, it is up to us NGOs to pave the way forward, recognizing (belatedly in my case) that the poor have come up with their own solutions that we can nudge along in what is (hopefully) a positive direction. My sincerest congratulations to Sam who saw the potential in our fledgling efforts and to Larry who has lead to transition to this more nuanced and realistic approach to lessening if not eradicating poverty.

    • Thanks, Jeff. I started my work in microfinance following you, and it looks like I’ll finish in the same position. Savings groups form a key piece of our strategy going forward, making sure that financial services reach those who most need them.

      • Thanks Larry …had the privilege of being a part of the Summit on number of occasions since it was held at New Delhi , India in 2000. Still vividly remember how Sam was very conformist with time and lavish at the 7-8 minute bell.
        The Summit, certainly was a great gathering of minds. The world would not have known much of SHG-Bank Linkage model…the summit did good to spread the messages of good practices across the globe. We at NABARD also remember your visit to NABARD, Mumbai about 3-4 years back. It has been great journey…..Many thanks !!!

  6. Pingback: Changes Ahead for the Microcredit Summit Campaign | Center for Financial Inclusion blog

  7. Congratulations, Larry! I think this is a well thought-out strategic move that can only increase our power to end extreme poverty by 2030. Uplift — which is dedicated to accelerating the global adoption of the graduation model — is behind you 100%. Thank you for reminding us of our history and leading us into a new era!

    • Thanks, Anne. We look forward to working with you to accomplish the dreams we all had when we started in this work.

  8. I do think that the basic documents recently released by BIS ( Basel III on microfinance9 and CGAP ( Markets systems approach ..) could be a good background information to move from microfinance to financial inclusion.

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