The power of story in our work

RESULTS IC

Join us at the 2015 RESULTS International Conference in Washington, D.C., this July 18-21. Leading poverty experts, activists, policymakers, and YOU will convene for a unique conference that mixes an educational experience and advocacy opportunities around increased access to education, health, and economic opportunity. Together, we can change the world!

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This article was originally posted by RESULTS on June 09, 2015. Re-posted with permission.

>>Authored by Kristy Martino, U.S. Poverty Organizer, RESULTS

Last week, the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) and TalkPoverty.org presented a fantastic webinar on the importance of telling your story. As advocates, we may understand the value of statistics, lobby meeting “leave behinds”, and fact sheets, but we sometimes forget the need for powerful stories.

As RESULTS gears up for our annual International Conference, we are looking for ways to elevate the voices of the real experts in poverty, and support them to tell their story – a key element in creating change.

The Community Voices: Why Nutrition Assistance Matters webinar is a resource for those new to, or nervous about, sharing their experiences. It’s also a great reminder that legislators and those in power learn from stories, both good and bad. In a climate where misinformation is rampant, it is critical we not only bring facts to the table, but also humanize our issues, putting a face (or rather, many diverse faces) to the problems and the solutions, as many of the programs we fight for (e.g. the Earned Income Tax CreditChild Tax Credit, and SNAP) are successful programs that lift millions out of poverty.

As Greg Kaufman, editor of TalkPoverty.org said during the webinar, “In DC, we have plenty of numbers, plenty of data. What’s lacking is experts with a seat at the table; stories of real people.”

Tammy Santiago, from Witnesses to Hunger, shared her story and how she found the confidence to tell it. She drew from her own personal experience growing up in Boston. She saw so many around her with the same struggles who didn’t have the strength or ability to speak up, so she felt obligated to do it for them. “I hope that others listening to what I share will feel empowered and obligated to share their voices too-it’s needed,” Tammy said. “I’m not just a number, I’m an individual.”

To learn more about this new project from CHN and other coalition allies, download the presentation slides or listen to the recording of the webinar. RESULTS is also working to lift the voices of these “experts” who have witnessed the impacts of poverty first-hand. Some of them will share their stories at the RESULTS International Conference, July 18-21 in Washington, DC.  We hope to have more exciting news about our work with our “Experts on Poverty” in the coming weeks.

Why go to an advocacy conference?

Join us at the 2015 RESULTS International Conference to learn new skills, hear from experts, and raise your voice on Capitol Hill this July 18th to 21st.

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This blog post was cross-posted from Cynthia Changyit Levin’s blog (@ccylevin), Anti-Poverty Mom: Raising my voice & my kids on May 13, 2015. Re-posted with permission.

To all my readers raising tiny children and learning to advocate, I’m going to say something to you that may sound a little crazy. I think it’s time you go to an advocacy conference in Washington D.C. Many advocacy organizations with a national presence that have been around for a good number of years have conferences in D.C. where you can learn from experts about your issue, hear inspirational speakers, and lobby your members of Congress. If you can rustle up the child care, I think you should find one you like and go to it!

“What? Take three days away from my baby? You’ve got to be kidding me! I don’t have that kind of time for myself!” That was exactly my reaction when someone suggested that I learn more about hunger and advocacy by going to the Bread for the World Gathering. I was a new activist, full of excitement about my very first letter to the editor recently published in the local paper. The Bread organizer at my church recognized potential in me to be a powerful activist and thought the best way for me to get involved would be to jump right in and go to a conference and lobby day event. It was so flattering to me that she thought so, but…what about the baby?

At the 2008 RESULTS International Conference with fellow RESULTS champions for education at the White House

It turns out I did go. The baby was just fine for a whole weekend with my husband and it was a life-changing experience for me. I heard inspirational, international speakers who convinced me that I — as an American citizen — had a powerful voice to influence the course of poverty throughout my country and the world. I started relationships with like-minded people who would become critical in helping me not feel alone in my desire to make the world a better place. I learned advocacy skills that I took home and would eventually teach to others in my community. It was a thrilling leap into the pool of activism when I’d been just sitting on the edge dangling my toes. Not only did I go to the Bread gathering that year, but I met RESULTS activists there who encouraged me to go to their conference the following year. Much later, my participation at those conferences led to invitations to the Shot@Life Summit and the ONE #AYASummit. Each conference has brought me new connections, new skills, and new confidence in myself.

You might be thinking, “Great for her, but not for me. I’m too busy to add a work conference in the middle of my life.” Fair point. That’s what I thought, too. Yet I want to share six things a conference can allow you to do that are much harder at home in your regular routine…

“You wouldn’t leave a cutie like me just to go learn how to save the world, would you? You would!?!”

  1. Take a break.
    Step away from the children, Ma’am. Your absence will be felt, but joyful side benefits to taking a few days away may include increased child-bonding with daddy, grandparents, or friends who watch them in your absence.
  2. Get a full night of sleep.
    One of my favorite things about a conference is getting real, deep sleep. A fellow activist once asked me what my plans for the evening were. I gave him a huge smile when I said “I’m going back to my room!” He joked that I was so happy about it that he wondered if there was a romantic plan up there for me. No, sirree! That’s just how much I like sleep with nobody needing a diaper change!
  3. Get out of your everyday routine.
    When you are away from the mundane, it’s somehow easier to see yourself as the exceptional, powerful individual you are. Shake it up and make some memories to think about when your back to making lunches.
  4. Be appreciated by someone over two feet tall.
    Toddlers are cute, but sometimes they aren’t the best at conveying that you are smart, capable, and valued. Sometimes they do it when they wrap those pudgy fingers around you and say, “I wuv ooo,” but it can feel like they take it all back when they dump applesauce on your lap immediately afterward.
  5. Dive deep into the facts.
    I don’t know about you, but I have immense trouble holding facts in my head when I’m trying to multitask with yelling infants. Not having to double and triple check the contents of your diaper bag really opens up a lot of space in your brain that you can fill with all sorts of information about your issue!
  6. Make some new friends.
    Not since college had I had such rich opportunities to come together to meet new and interesting people with a common goal. Some of my closest friends now are people I look forward to seeing at conferences each year.
  7. Lobby!
    Nothing convinces a member of Congress that you are serious more than the statement that you are a volunteer traveling on your own time to talk to them.
2013 Shot@Life Summit with my BFF's Jen DeFranco and Myrdin Thompson

2013 Shot@Life Summit with my BFF’s Jen DeFranco and Myrdin Thompson

Can’t afford a plane ticket to Washington D.C.? Scholarship or financial assistance is often available for first-time or low-income attendees. If I didn’t have one for my first conference, I wouldn’t have gone. Some organizations are willing to bet that if they invest in you by assisting you to attend once, you’ll have a great experience and want to come back again. If you are a low-income parent and want to talk to your members of Congress about poverty, then you are a valuable voice that needs to be added to the chorus.

If you’re still not sure it’s the right thing to leave your child for three days to go to a conference, just remind yourself why you are doing it. Is it to create a better world for your child? Is it to improve the lives of parents and children who are facing much more difficult situations than the travel dilemma you are facing now? Will this be a step in making you a more empowered, more satisfied mommy? These are very good reasons.

It’s true that if you go, there will be times you miss your children. There will likely be tears when you leave and when you get home. But I encourage you to take the leap for yourself and all the people in the world you want to help. You won’t be sorry!

#tbt: Lobbying the World Bank, Part I

#Tbt_6

Elizabeth Littlefield, CEO of CGAP in 2004, said at the 2004 Microcredit Summit in Bangladesh, “There is no evidence of a necessary trade-off between poverty and sustainability.”
Read her full quote on page 12 of the 2004 State of the Campaign Report.

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2004. The RESULTS International Conference is only three weeks away (July 18-21), and grassroots activists from the U.S. and around the world will be in D.C. to lobby the USAID Administrator and World Bank Directors. Therefore, we’re reviewing advocacy successes and struggles in the early 2000s. This week, we look at a breakthrough we achieved in getting the World Bank to recognize microfinance as an important strategic element in reducing poverty and announcing that they were committed to increasing their funding for microfinance.


In this introduction to the State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, rather than presenting a neat, uncontested picture of the field of microcredit seen solely from the Campaign’s perspective, we think it useful to listen to the challenges and opposition to what the Campaign and these parliamentarians have championed, coming as it does from some of the most influential institutions in development. In the pages that follow, we invite you to listen in on debates that contrast the views of the World Bank and CGAP with those of industry leaders like BRAC founder Fazle Abed, Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, and the Microcredit Summit Campaign. What follows are excerpts from the World Bank and CGAP’s responses to the 700 parliamentarians, along with reactions from the Microcredit Summit Campaign.

Download the full 2011 State of the Campaign Report in our Resource Library

Download the full 2011 State of the Campaign Report in our Resource Library

In his response to 188 British Parliamentarians, World Bank President James Wolfensohn wrote, “I very much agree with your observation that microfinance has a demonstrated, powerful impact in improving the livelihood of the poor, and a crucial role in reducing poverty. Access to financial services for the poor is a critical condition for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.”

This is a tremendous vote of confidence from Mr. Wolfensohn, but if, as Wolfensohn says, “access to financial services for the poor is a critical condition for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” then reaching those below $1 a day is also critical. Mr. Wolfensohn acknowledges the poverty goal, which seeks to cut absolute poverty in half by 2015, as the lead MDG. Absolute poverty is measured by those living below $1 a day, adjusted for purchasing power parity. This show of support is important, but the words must be followed by more effective action.

Wolfensohn asked officials from the World Bank and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), to jointly address the detailed issues raised in the parliamentarians’ letter.

World Bank and CGAP officials begin their own response to the parliamentarians on a hopeful note when they write that microfinance forms “…an important strategic element in any broad based effort to reduce poverty,” and assert that the World Bank and CGAP “are committed to massively scaling up this access to financial services.”

While it is good for the Bank to declare microfinance as an important strategic element in reducing poverty, there is still a disconnect between this assertion and the fact that microfinance constitutes less than one percent of annual Bank spending. Assigning such a low priority to microfinance is neither strategic nor a sign it is viewed as important. There is also a disconnect between the Bank’s enviable commitment “to massively scaling up…access to financial services,” and the fact that the Bank offers nothing measurable in response to the parliamentarians’ request to double spending. It would seem that a massive scale-up would at least equal a doubling from less than one percent to less than two percent.

World Bank and Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (WB/CGAP) officials continue by saying, “While the World Bank Group already provides more microfinance funding than any other agency, we remain committed to doing much more. The fundamental constraint to an exponential increase in the numbers of poor people receiving financial access is, however, a real absence of retail institutional capacity. Building this capacity is an integral part of the financial systems of our client countries and is, therefore, a critical task for the World Bank Group and other agencies.”

MCS: The World Bank should provide more microfinance funds than any other agency given that its overall portfolio dwarfs that of all other bilateral and multilateral donor institutions. However, the World Bank does not provide more funding than any agency. USAID surpasses the Bank’s total spending in microfinance. In addition, more than one percent of USAID’s funds and more than three percent of UNDP funds[5] go to microfinance.

Retail institutional capacity does exist. Some of the global and domestic partners of a number of institutions and networks are either already reaching very poor clients or gearing up to do so as a result of the new U.S. law. These include institutions and networks such as ASA, BRAC, PKSF[6] and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, NABARD and SIDBI in India, Pro Mujer, Freedom from Hunger, Opportunity International, FINCA, CARE, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Katalysis, Grameen Foundation U.S.A., ACCION and World Relief in the U.S., Développement international Desjardins in Canada, members of The Africa Microfinance Network (AFMIN), Sanabel members in the Middle East and North Africa, and members of REDCAMIF and Foro Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Finanzas Rurales in Latin America.

PKSF alone estimates that for the six years beginning July 2004 and ending in June 2010, $562 million could be absorbed by its 192 Bangladeshi partner organizations and those to come. This is in just one country.

There are scores of institutions around the world that have demonstrated the vision and systems to reach the very poor sustainably. To say there is “a real absence of retail institutional capacity” is to imply that whatever capacity exists has been fully exploited. This is clearly not the case. The greater problem is the low priority donor agencies place on finding institutions with the vision and systems necessary for expansion to the very poor, not the “absence of retail institutional capacity.”

WB/CGAP: We agree with the spirit of your recommendation that at least 50% of World Bank funds should be reaching those living on less than a dollar a day. However, we do not think that earmarking funds would be the best strategic choice for moving the microfinance industry towards sustainably serving much larger numbers of those in absolute poverty. In fact, such directed lending could have an adverse effect on scaling up, through distorting markets. Many MFIs achieve sustainability through increasing outreach to a larger diversified client group. They end up serving much larger absolute numbers of the very poor, even though they may have a smaller percentage of very poor clients in comparison with poverty-focused institutions that are not sustainable. Such MFIs would be penalized through the suggested mandate.

MCS: Institutions that do not exclusively, or even predominantly, target the poorest need not be penalized. The parliamentarians are not asking that all MFIs reach the very poor or that half of an MFI’s clients fall below $1 a day when they entered the program. They are asking that, on balance, half of World Bank spending in microfinance go to people who were very poor when they started with the program. Within the World Bank’s portfolio there might be a group of institutions that primarily serves better-off clients, another group with a more mixed clientele, and a third group largely serving those starting below $1 a day. Yet institutions such as the World Bank have not provided incentives to reach those below $1 a day. If anything, the Bank and others have discouraged depth of outreach. This is why the parliamentarians believe earmarking is required. The World Bank/CGAP response leaves the impression, however unintended, that programs reaching very poor clients may be less sustainable, but this is far from current reality. CGAP CEO, Elizabeth Littlefield, backed that up with remarks made at the Asia/Pacific Microcredit Summit held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in February 2004.

“There is no evidence of a necessary trade-off between poverty and sustainability,” Littlefield said in Dhaka. “…Very recent data from our MicroBanking Bulletin (MBB) and from The Microfinance Information eXchange (The MIX) show us that the best poverty-focused microfinance institutions are breaking right through conventional wisdom. Of the 124 microfinance institutions reporting to the MBB, 66 were fully selfsufficient. Of those, 18 were institutions that work with very poor populations, the poorest. These 18 institutions had higher average sustainability, higher return on assets, and higher return on equity than the overall averages. Sustainable microfinance institutions that serve lower end markets, the poorest, reach, on average, one and a half times as many borrowers as other microfinance [institutions] and they do it with fewer resources. Hence, these institutions do a much better job of stretching their resources to reach more clients. In terms of clients served, they are far more efficient with their human resources, serving each borrower at half the cost, on average, of a sustainable institution serving higher market segments.”

Footnotes

[5] Approximately two percent of USAID funds and three percent of UNDP funds go to microfinance.

[6] Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) is a Banlgadesh-based autonomous microcredit fund.

Relevant resources

#tbt: Microfinance Revolution at the Very Bottom

#Tbt_6

Keynote speakers of the 2004 Microcredit Summit in Bangladesh. Begum Khaleda Zia, then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, was the “chief guest.”

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2007. We hope this will encourage you to reflect on both how long we have been fighting to convince the policy makers (and other doubters) that microfinance can reach the extreme poor as well as be inspired by our early revolutionaries.


Microfinance Revolution at the Very Bottom: A Radical Departure

The following is an excerpt from an interview Campaign Director Sam Daley-Harris conducted with Jamii Bora founder Ingrid Munro in October 2007.

April is the Month of MicrofinanceLearn more

April is the Month of Microfinance
Learn more

Microcredit Summit Campaign: RESULTS volunteers in the United States and in other countries have been working for four years to get half of World Bank microfinance funds to those living on less than a dollar a day. The arguments that come from the World Bank and others is that you cannot reach the very poor with microfinance, they need safety nets first. The president of the World Bank said this in an October 2007 meeting with 29 members of the U.S. Congress. Do you agree with this position?

Ingrid Munro: I don’t agree with that at all, because in Jamii Bora we know that you can reach the very poor. Not just reach them, not just feel sorry for them, pat them on the head and say, we are going to help you to come above the poverty line…

Our experience is, first of all, the most desperate are the ones that need microfinance the most, and they can handle it, we have proven that. It’s not something that is a theory, it is a proven fact…The poorer they are, the more they need the microfinance. And, they don’t need charity because charity is a way to keep people down. If we keep saying, “I feel very sorry for you because you can’t manage this yourself,” you start thinking [to yourself], “I should feel sorry for [myself] because I can’t manage [on my own].”

But, if we say to you, “You can make it. You have talents. God has given you talents like He has given everybody talents, and He wants you to use them.” And [if] you see some of your friends who were begging beside you on the same street now walk around in nice dresses, their children are in school, they eat three meals a day, they live in a better house — then you also dare to dream that that is possible for [you too].

Microcredit Summit Campaign: You say that some groups have tried to do what you do in reaching the very poor, but they get their fingers burned. What are some of the principles that can allow microfinance to succeed when you work with beggars, landless laborers, and prostitutes?

Ingrid Munro: …You have to be very close. You see, the beggar is a professional, it is a profession in itself. So, if you come and give a beggar $100, and say, “You go and start a business,” they will run away with that money. You have to prepare everybody for what it is, and we think you have to start by getting them to save, because then they are in that habit of setting aside a bit of money every day. That makes it easy for them to pay back the loan.

You also have to be there and encourage them when the problems come. The city authorities chase you away from where you are doing your business. A police officer might even take your goods, or thieves break in to your little kiosk, or you have a fire that [burns] down everything. You can’t be like a normal bank and say, “Okay, we will still hunt you. You have to bring the money back.” [Instead] you come together and say, “Now how do we solve this situation?” And you help them get on their feet so they are helped to pay back the old loan, but also a new loan. It’s a matter of being there all the time and understanding.

If you are naïve and you just go up to somebody who you haven’t spoken to about a loan, who doesn’t know [your] group, who doesn’t trust you…and you say, “Here’s $100, go start a business,” then you will lose that money. And there are naïve people who do that, and I think those are the ones who are spreading this dangerous message that you can’t reach the very poor, because they’ve done it the wrong way themselves, not because you can’t reach the very poor. I invite anyone who doubts to come visit us…

In that sense I think we are a movement, a people’s own movement, more than we are an institution, a normal financial institution. But we’re still microfinance.

Microcredit Summit Campaign: There are so many different things that Jamii Bora does from housing to the “get sober” program. Please talk about another of your innovative offerings, health insurance. How did it come about, what does it costs, and what are the benefits?

Ingrid Munro: In early 2001 we were one year and a few months old. We realized we had some people who were…falling behind in their repayments. So we decided to make a hundred percent research. We would visit every single one of them with our staff and try to note down what are [their] problems. Why can you not pay?

It was such a shocking result. We found that 93 percent had the same problem, they had a patient in hospital…It means my son, my daughter, my baby, my grandchild, or my spouse, or my sister — somebody very close to [them] had to be admitted in hospital, otherwise they would die. Now, of course, you can’t expect that anyone will let their child die because they have to pay their loan to Jamii Bora. So, it was clear to us, this was something we could not compete with. This was something that we had to solve.

So we went to all the insurance companies and asked, “Could you develop an insurance product for us?” They said, “Oh yes, yes.”

We had 6,000 members in those days, and they thought that was a lot. But the cheapest they could come up with was 6,000 shillings, and 6,000 shillings is about US$80 per year. And, US$80 per year, if you are a single mother with five children, you see, you have to [multiply that] times six. That is a lot of money. That is way above what anyone could dream of.

We then decided we’ll start our own in-house product. Everyone told me, “Now Ingrid, you are killing this beautiful organization. This will pull you down. It will not work.” But we never did any research. We sat in a group of staff with a lot of knowledge about our members. We decided we could charge 1,000 shillings a year, which was US$12 at the time, on condition that the members could pay every week, a small amount (about 30 cents US), and they didn’t have to pay everything up front. And, we decided it would cover an adult member and a maximum of four dependent kids. If they had more than four kids, they would add an extra US$2 per child per year. We would cover in-patient, that is, treatment in hospital. If they came into hospital, we would cover everything.

We started by linking up with one of the big mission hospitals in Nairobi. We said, “We’ll give you a deposit of what we think it could cost per month,” because mission hospitals cannot afford to give you services on credit. So we paid them up front. Then our members would come with a letter from us saying, “This patient has health insurance from us and please treat her. If she has to be admitted, we will pay everything.”

There was not more research than that. The background was, “This is what our members can afford to pay and we have to get it to work.” Over time, this has become a most incredible part of our organization. We also decided weren’t going to ask for any donor funding, because then they would send a lot of consultants and they’d tell us it’s not possible to do what we had decided to do, and they would also say, “So and so should qualify and those clients should not qualify.”

We wanted it to be for everybody. We decided it would cover maternity, it would cover any kind of operations, it would cover any kind of in-patient treatment, and we would not exclude people with HIV and AIDS, because then it was a useless insurance for us. And today, [October 2007] it is soon going to be seven years that we have run this.

We have always covered all our costs. We have never had any donor subsidy, not even US$1, and we have never asked for it either. I am sure we would have got it if we had asked. It has saved so many lives. Right now 120,000 people [are covered by the health insurance], because [every member of Jamii Bora] doesn’t take out health insurance…

Relevant resources

Oikocredit Commits to Better Measure Progress out of Poverty

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Register for the 17th Microcredit Summit today!

Join us in Mexico for the 17th Microcredit Summit this September 3-5 where savings will take an important place in the agenda.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes Oikocredit as the newest Campaign Commitment member, joining a global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Read the full Press Release


Oikocredit has been increasingly focused on measuring social impact to ensure that the organizations it funds are properly targeting their outreach and have launched their Campaign Commitment to actions fulfilling this aim.

Image courtesy of Oikocredit.

Image courtesy of Oikocredit.

Oikocredit managing director, David Woods, said committing to the Microcredit Summit was in line with Oikocredit’s social mission. “Measuring and monitoring change in microfinance partners and their clients is an important part of Oikocredit’s social and financial activities,” said Mr. Woods.

Key excerpts of Oikocredit’s Campaign Commitment:

  • Supporting at least four MFI partners in developing capacity in using Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) data over time.
  • Providing MFI staff with training in data analysis and management.
  • Providing MFI management with training on how analysis and usage of PPI data can help to improve products and services, be accountable to stakeholders and profile their organization.
  • Encouraging its microfinance partners to use the PPI tool for targeting purposes and increase the number of MFIs reporting PPI data by the end of 2014 to 100.
  • Where possible, provide or facilitate access to needed support in the use of the PPI tool and the installation of needed systems to capture and process data within the MFIs.

 

Join Oikocredit in stating YOUR Campaign Commitment

Graduating Families out of Ultra-Poverty (E-Workshop Recap)

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Due to technical difficulties, the webinar recording function started late. We apologize for this inconvenience and have made a summary and the presenter’s slides available to you.

BRAC client

Image courtesy of BRAC


Webinar resources


Larry Reed, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, moderated an engaging discussion about the Graduation Model pioneered by BRAC, an international development organization based in Bangladesh, that included Sadna Samaranayake (Program Manager of the Ultra-Poor Graduation Program at BRAC USA), Carine Roenen (Executive Director of Fonkoze in Haiti) and Raymond Serios (Special Projects Manager at Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation).

Sadna Samaranayake, BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Program

Sadna opened by describing BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Approach which targets ultra-poor households and follows a process of focused interventions carefully sequenced to “graduate” households out of ultra-poverty. While the World Bank uses the $1.25 per day income threshold to define extreme poverty, BRAC understands the ultra-poor as those in the bottom half of earnings among those below the $1.25 a day line.

Sadna explained that the first step in the process to graduating households from ultra-poverty is to carefully target and select families for program participation. This requires community mapping and wealth ranking exercises to determine which community members are in the most need.

Once chosen to participate in the program, clients receive a transfer of productive assets and a cash stipend. Sadna explained that productive assets can be livestock, seeds for planting, or small goods for enterprise. The cash stipend allows clients flexibility to start improving their livelihood while beginning to generate an income from the productive assets.

Next the clients receive training and they start to generate an income for themselves. As time progresses, clients are encouraged to save money and are given access to appropriate health care. Ultimately, the objective of the graduation approach is to ensure that all families are better integrated into the social fabric of the community and are generating enough sustainable income to conquer ultra-poverty.

Graduation occurs over a period of 24 months when households achieve set economic and social goals including not having a reported food deficit in the past year, having multiple sources of income, owning livestock/poultry, having a sanitary latrine and clean drinking water, having cash savings and school age children attending school. Over the past 12 years, BRAC has graduated 1.4 million people, mainly in Bangladesh and has committed to graduating 250,000 more families by the end of 2016.

Carine Roenen, Fonkoze

Carine followed by illustrating the challenges of implementing a graduation model in Haiti. The Fokonze approach is an adaptation of the BRAC model with slight changes for the context for working in Haiti. Fonkoze has reached 62,735 clients with loans, and graduated 2,900 clients from ultra-poverty. Currently, Fokonze is hoping to expand its outreach in Haiti to graduate more households out of ultra-poverty.

Raymond Serios, Negros Women for Tomorrow

Raymond used his opportunity to interview both Sadna and Carine about the process of implementing a graduation model in his context in the Philippines. Raymond inquired about how BRAC and Fonkoze choose productive assets with the households. Carine responded that it depends on the skills of the client and should be something that she is already familiar with or willing to learn.

Larry then moderated a discussion among the panelists based on questions submitted by webinar participants. Some of the questions focused on monitoring and evaluation processes to track progress toward graduation. Others touched similarly on impact in the long term. It was a lively discussion that included an optional time extension after the official schedule ended to continue discussions. (See all the questions and comments in the webinar chat.)


We would like to thank all of the panelists and all of the participants who attended the webinar and participated via the chat and Q&A functions. We invite you to comment on this post to continue the discussion about the graduation model and further share ideas.

We also invite you to explore the links below to the recording of the webinar, presentations from BRAC and Fokonze, as well as the Robin Burgess report about the impact of the graduation model program on employment choices.

We hope you will join us for our next e-workshop “Instilling Confidence in Poverty Measurement: The New PPI Certification” on Tuesday, June 24th at 10:00 AM (EDT/GMT-4) and featuring panelists Frank Ballard (Grameen Foundation), Analí Oda Salcedo (Planet Rating), and Chiara Pescatori (MicroFinanza Rating).

Webinar Resources:


E-Workshops are hosted by the 100 Million Project of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and strive to feature the work of organizations who have announced Campaign Commitments to take specific, measurable and time-bound actions that demonstrate their commitment to the end of extreme poverty. Are you Committed?  Find out how to share your Commitment to the end of extreme poverty.

BRAC declares Campaign Commitment to graduate 250,000 households from ultra-poverty

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Summary: The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes BRAC as the newest Campaign Commitment member, joining a global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Read the full Press Release.
BRAC group meeting

Image courtesy of BRAC

BRAC is a development organization founded in Bangladesh in 1972 and has since become one of the largest NGOs in the world in terms of employees and number of clients served, spreading successful poverty alleviating solutions born in the developing world to other countries. In 2002, BRAC launched the Ultra-Poor Graduation Program, which aimed at lifting the ultra poor out of their situation of poverty so that they can access mainstream development services such as microfinance. The program targets extremely deprived women and their households, and maintains BRAC’s holistic approach to development by providing targeted asset grants, skill training and healthcare support. Since 2002, 1.4 million households have already graduated from BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Program. With this tremendous success, BRAC plans to continue the spread of this model to reach even more households around the globe.

When asked about the origins of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Program, Program Manager Sadna Samaranayake responded,“The extreme poor, living on less than $1.25 a day, are far from homogenous. Among them are households trapped in the direst forms of destitution, who are chronically hungry, lack assets, income, or support from their communities. It was to address the needs of these populations, the ultra-poor at the margins and beyond the reach of microfinance and other development programs, that BRAC pioneered what is now known as the Graduation approach. Even the poorest can “graduate” from ultra-poverty with a set of carefully tailored interventions designed to help achieve increased incomes, food security and better resilience overall. A complement to MFI, NGO and government strategies to reach the ultra-poor, BRAC is committed to advancing knowledge and implementation of the Graduation approach.”

Some key excerpts of BRAC’s Campaign Commitment:

  • In Bangladesh alone, BRAC commits to graduating 250,000 households out of ultra-poverty by the end of 2016.
  • BRAC commits to publishing an in-depth implementation guide in September 2014 to help governments, microfinance institutions and NGOs execute their own ultra-poor graduation programs. Additionally, BRAC commits to providing technical assistance and consultation where requested to governments, NGOs and MFIs looking to implement the graduation approach.
  • BRAC commits to hosting a national conference on the graduation approach in a country where BRAC operates in 2014.
  • BRAC commits to hosting annual Immersion and Training Visits in Bangladesh for interested parties including policy makers, microfinance institutions, multilateral funders, and donors to witness the graduation program in action. During these visits, participants will get an in-depth look at the program, from field staff training ultra-poor women on how to realize a return on their new assets, to the healthcare, savings and social integration elements of the approach.

The next round of these Immersion Training Visits are on the weeks of August 18th and August 25th. Contact Sadna Samaranayake at sadna@bracusa.org to register.

Read the BRAC Commitment Letter.


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Join us in the global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of poverty – state your Campaign Commitment at mycommitment@microcreditsummit.org

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A Comprehensive Approach to Helping the Poor Lift Themselves out of Poverty

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Partnerships against Poverty Summit Banner with logos

Going the Extra Mile: From Safety Nets to Pathways out of Poverty
Track: Partnerships Targeting the Vulnerable
Date: Thursday, October 10th
Time: 9:00 – 10:30 AM

Going the Extra Mile_Picture _Roshaneh Zafar_288x360

Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director, Kashf Foundation

Partnerships between financial institutions, governments, and social welfare programs are essential for empowering the extreme poor reduce vulnerability and gain self-sufficiency. Moderating the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit plenary session “Going the Extra Mile: From Safety Nets to Pathways out of Poverty,” Roshaneh Zafar of the Kashf Foundation (Pakistan) noted that “poverty is a complex matter. We need multiple solutions, we need synergy, we need leverageability, we need scalability; and we all need to work together and do much more.”

The discussion opened with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) of the Philippines Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Juliano-Soliman, who told of their “convergence strategy,” a means to help beneficiaries graduate and stay out poverty through conditional cash transfer (CCT) community-driven development and sustainable livelihoods converging. Through this program, they also partner with microfinance institutions to provide credit to clients that need larger loans than DSWD provides (10,000 pesos, or approximately $230).

Juan Borga (Inter-American Development Bank) and Secretary Soliman

Juan Borga (Inter-American Development Bank) and Secretary Soliman

Juan Borga of the Inter-American Development Bank shared their efforts toward poverty reduction. Working mostly with conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs, they are trying to create a system that creates a relationship between the recipients of the CCTs to the financial institutions so that they will have “the right instruments [to save] and the right incentives to do it.” Commonly, “the financial institutions are not really providing them with the right products they’d like to have.”

Nelly Otieno of CARE International in Kenya and Yves Moury of Fundación Capital (Colombia) highlighted the necessity of building assets through methods such as savings groups and CCTs in order to create pathways out of poverty and to prevent long term dependence on financial programs.

Moury, in particular, stressed the importance of asset building and capacity building as a catalyst to spur sustainability and self-sufficiency–and thus an exit strategy for the implementers. According to Moury, “Linking savings and CCTs has been just like putting wheels on suitcases—a powerful combination.”

The speakers agreed that health insurance, mobile phones, identification cards, social protection, and bank accounts, working in tandem, greatly help to supplement financial inclusion initiatives and create pathways out of poverty.

Syed Hashemi,  CS Ghosh, and Nelly Otieno

Syed Hashemi, CS Ghosh, and Nelly Otieno

Syed Hashemi of BRAC Development Institute (Bangladesh) spoke about incorporating governments into exit strategies that allow clients to protect their assets and take advantage of new opportunities. He emphasized that, “through national governments, we can come up with an integrated, holistic, national social protection system that combines CCTs with graduation programs so we can collectively achieve this commitment of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.”

Hashemi also touched on the cost-effectiveness of social protection policies that include safety nets and offer self-employment because, although graduation programs that include extremely intense monitoring and coaching have been seen to have an initially higher cost, they require a shorter timeline.

Innovative methods of providing health services to the poor are equally crucial to comprehensively reducing the amount of individuals living in extreme poverty. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh of Bandhan (India) stated, “Poverty is a complex syndrome. It is not only possible to eliminate poverty through credit support to the poor.”

23_plenary_audience(4)_MarciaMetcalfe+CarmenVelasco+JohnHatch_400x300_photo credit - Vikash Kumar

(Photo credit: Vikash Kumar Photography)

Organizations and government institutions working toward eliminating poverty must implement additional services beyond credit, including social, health, and educational programs that target the underlying causes of poverty beyond financial inclusion.

Overall, the plenary constructively critiqued the current successes, challenges, and future opportunities in the effort to create the pathways the extreme poor can take advantage of to lift themselves out of poverty.

However, the speakers recognized that the road ahead is difficult. As Secretary Soliman stated, “We hesitate to say graduation or exit because poverty is very complex. The notion of graduation gives the impression that we are done. But with poverty you can never be done, and that’s why we call it transition.

Watch the full video of this plenary

Pour la nouvelle année, prenez de bonnes résolutions pour contribuer à l’éradication de la pauvreté

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Institutional Action Plan Raffle Winner: RIFIDEC

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Institutional Action Plan Raffle Winner: Albanian Savings & Credit Union

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Institutional Action Plan Raffle Winner: Banco do Planalto Norte (Brazil)

Congratulations to this week’s winner of the Raffle for Institutional Action Plan Submitters: Banco do Planalto Norte!

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Banco do Planalto Norte, the colloquial name for Brazil’s “Society of Credit for Microentrepreneurs of Planalto Norte” (Sociedade de Crédito ao Microempreendedor do Planalto Norte), is an NGO working towards four main objectives: 1) the provision of microcredit with the aim of creating, growing, and consolidating formal and informal micro and small enterprises headed by individuals of society’s lower classes; 2) the promotion of economic growth, social development and the fight against poverty; 3) the advancement of educational initiatives through the provision of technical assistance and capacity building exercises for micro- and small entrepreneurs and their employees, in hopes of bettering the management and competing power of their businesses; and 4) the fostering of peace, ethics, human rights, democracy and other universal values.

Banco do Planalto Norte’s Executive Director, Nivaldo Brey Junior

The concept of productive microcredit appeared in the state of Santa Catarina (located in the south of Brazil) in the late 1990s. Through a government-sponsored initiative, 19 microcredit operations were launched and placed in strategic regions throughout the state.  This initial push for the introduction of microcredit was the result of several organizations working together under the leadership of the Agency for the Advancement of the State of Santa Catarina (Agência de Fomento do Estado de Santa Catarina – BADESC), which to this day remains one of the organization’s most important partners. Banco do Planalto Norte opened its headquarters in April of 2000, and shortly afterwards, in 2001, inaugurated two additional branches in the cities of Mafra and Porto União.  Today it serves clients from twelve municipalities in Santa Catarina, as well as three municipalities in the neighboring state of Paraná.

Twelve years later, Banco do Planalto Norte still functions as a non-profit NGO, which since 2002 has been labeled a “Civil Society Organization of Public Interest” by Brazil’s Ministry of Justice.  It currently serves 1,713 borrowers with outstanding loans totaling R$ 3,478,883.17 (about USD$ 1,725,094.45). Approximately 67.63% of the activities it finances are informal, and nearly 50% of them have been around for more than six years. Interestingly, the second largest demand for credit comes from borrowers with brand new businesses (six months or less), which make up 32.23% of all clients. A total of 1,998 jobs have been created, and another 16,676 have been maintained through the organization’s provision of microcredit – quite significant numbers for a still budding project. The average client borrows around USD$ 1,119.21, which may seem a large amount for a microenterprise, but makes sense when we consider that Brazil has an average GNI that is larger than many other countries where microfinance has become prevalent in the last few years.  Additionally, nearly half of all borrowers (43.31%) completed high school and are thus more educated than the country’s poorest.

The institution works under the premise that microcredit is one of the most important tools for sustainable and solidary development. It works to distribute the expansion of economic activities in order to reduce the inequality gap and indicators of poverty in the region.  Through microcredit, the bank believes people can redeem their dignity: “when a person who has never been able to borrow money pays back their first installment, she is filled with immense happiness, because she is proving herself to be capable of making enough to cover her debts. She realizes she is worth more than what others had deemed.”

Providing a Safety Net for the Poor

Back in 2002, I found myself in rural Zambia sitting with a group of borrowers trying desperately to understand their lives; as it was my first encounter with microcredit, the ladies were getting increasingly frustrated with my ignorance. One of them took pity and shuffled off to her hut coming back with a “Chutes and Ladders” board (also known as “Snakes and Ladders”). She explained to me that she was trying to work her way out of poverty, which she likened to moving up the board. The loans she got were like the ladders, accelerating her progress.

As we went around the group, the ladies told me of the risks they faced and how disasters, medical bills, and funerals caused them to sell assets or spend hard won savings, returning them back into poverty much as the chutes (or snakes) cause you to slip down the board. They asked me if it was possible to put in place a safety net that would move up underneath them as they worked their way out of poverty so that when disaster strikes, they would not fall all the way back to the bottom.

That meeting changed the course of my life and led to the creation that year of what is now MicroEnsure, a leading provider of insurance to over 4 million low income people.

The first task in 2002 was simply to understand the supply and demand dynamics: which insurable risks did the poor face (and want to cover) and what products would insurers provide. The easiest way to do this was from within a microfinance network, and we were delighted to be housed within Opportunity International. After several years of developing products for Opportunity’s borrowers, it became clear that we were limiting our potential scale and the range of products that we could offer; we needed a way to pay for an organisation that would tackle the challenges of providing a wide range of products to a wide range of clients. The four challenges we set out to tackle were as follows:

  • Simple products with efficient processes.
  • An educated sales force and clients who understood the products.
  • Efficient back office capability and IT to collect, store, and report on key client data.
  • The ability to pay claims quickly as this has the biggest impact on demand.

MicroEnsure was established as an insurance broker because it was the fastest and cheapest regulated structure available and provided a revenue stream via commissions, but we soon realised that the local insurers we represented were not always able to offer the products we wanted or the claims turnaround times our clients demanded. Our response was to establish a reinsurance vehicle so that we could simplify the products and pay claims within days.

As we branched out into health insurance, we realised that many countries lacked the infrastructure to form networks of hospitals or to adjudicate complex health claims, so we created in-house capability called a “Third Party Administrator” (TPA) to do health claims. Finally, we realised that some products such as weather index require significant R&D pre-launch, and the only way to do this sustainably is as a consultant pre-launch and as a broker post-launch. So, today MicroEnsure is a broker, reinsurer, TPA, and consultant serving 4 million and growing in excess of 200,000 new clients every month.

Microinsurance is all about partnership, and perhaps the most important partnership is with the distributor of the products. Like most microinsurance providers, we initially only worked with microfinance lenders, packaging our basic life insurance products alongside the loans, but we soon started to work with a wider range of distributors including VSLAs, SACCOs, church groups, and other retailers. We discovered that in order to be a successful distributor you need a strong brand that is trusted by the poor, accessible points of sale, and the ability to transact cash to cover premiums and claims. So far, the most widespread distributors remain microfinance companies—although it’s great to see a wider range of products be embedded into not only the loan but also increasingly being used as an incentive to get savers to open accounts and increase balances. Mobile phone companies such as Tigo and MTN are also starting to be used to distribute insurance to the mass market.

In our experience, the most successful model is to introduce insurance as a loyalty program. The telephone company (“telco”) is willing to pay the premiums on behalf of its subscribers so long as doing so increases loyalty and the average amount of airtime that the subscribers purchase. It’s a true win-win. The subscriber gets free insurance and the telco increases its revenue. During 2011, more than 1 million people gained access to insurance for the first time through Tigo using this model. Having created a new market, the telco is then able to sell additional products to this market, and the take-up rate from consumers that have experienced the benefits of insurance are much higher than from a “cold sell”.

In 2011, Swiss Re estimated that perhaps as many as 4 billion people had no access to any insurance products. Over the last few months, however, it has started to emerge that, according to the ILO, perhaps as many as 500 million people now have access to insurance. Many of these have access only to basic credit life products—but it’s a great start. Providing the remaining 3.5 billion people with a safety net will be the work for many hands, but I feel confident it will happen in our lifetimes!

Over the last decade, I have often wondered how many emergencies that Zambian lady has had to face and overcome and whether the safety nets that we put in place meet with her approval. One day I hope to return to ask her and to share with her that the challenge she set me has been taken seriously and resulted in millions of people having access to protection from life’s storms.

—Richard Leftley, President and CEO, MicroEnsure, UK, http://www.microensure.com/

Additional resources:
• MicroEnsure blog: http://www.microensure.com/resources-blog.asp
• ILO, Protecting the poor: A microinsurance compendium, Volume II (April 10, 2012)
• “An interview with ILO’s Craig Churchill on the expansion of Microinsurance coverage