Webinar recap: Is it too late for microfinance to be pro poor?

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


On April 21st, the Microcredit Summit Campaign co-hosted with Uplift a webinar discussion focusing on the promise that graduation holds for sustainably reaching the ultra-poor. Our featured speakers were Debasish Ray Chaudhuri, CEO of Bandhan Konnagar in India, Rachel Proefke, a research associate with BRAC Uganda, Mark Daniels, the Philippines director for Opportunity International, and Allison Duncan, CEO of Amplifier Strategies and founder of Uplift. Anne Hastings, a global advocate with Uplift, moderated the webinar.

The conversation looked closely at the experiences that each of the three practitioners on the panel have had in implementing the program as well as the global advocacy message supporting the graduation approach being delivered by Uplift and its allies.

We hope you will get engaged with this promising avenue for reaching those living in ultra-poverty and be inspired by the potential it holds for helping microfinance institutions to reconnect to their original purpose. Some final thoughts from speakers on the webinar follow.

Anne Hastings noted,

We weren’t really able to address in depth how a pro-poor MFI, struggling for sustainability in a competitive, regulated environment can attain sustainability while operating the graduation program. In the models we saw, the institution was either an NGO or a regulated MFI that had formed a non-profit foundation for the graduation program and perhaps the delivery of other non-financial services. We shouldn’t be surprised or embarrassed that donor funding may still be needed, but partnerships with government safety net programs and other NGOs can also be very helpful in paying for the program. As the 6 RCTs funded by the Ford Foundation concluded, “Although more can be learned about how to optimize the design and implementation of the program, we establish that a multifaceted approach to increasing income and well-being for the ultra-poor is sustainable and cost-effective.” (Science Magazine, 15 May 2015, Vol 348 Issue 6236, p. 772.)

Rachel Profke added,

I think the point that I would stress, which we begun to address in the discussion, is the importance of finding the right partner for the implementation of components that an MFI does not have the core capacity to implement. While BRAC is able to leverage both microfinance and additional programming in the areas that we operate all programs, this is not always the case for us or other MFIs that will be interested in implementing graduation programming. Often, MFIs can provide the scale in identifying communities and in providing financial services, but linkages with implementing partners providing similar programming is fundamental to ensuring best practices in programming — as Mark highlighted. However, aside from NGO implementers, governments are often running existing programming that can be leveraged not only in identifying beneficiaries through such channels as social protection programming but also in providing some components through existing service provision, in terms of health or extension services. We find it helpful to look at what is already at place — and at scale — through government programs is useful, as we have done in Tanzania. This is also useful as we think about scaling because, apart from donor buy-in, governments offer larger potential through larger budgets and capacity.

Thank you to all panelists for contributing to this important conversation about the importance of the graduation approach. We also wish to thank all participants who submitted thought-provoking questions and comments to help make the session a very lively and interactive discussion!

Couldn’t join us? Watch the session recording!

#tbt: 2011 workshop paper on microfinance for remote, hard-to-reach areas

#Tbt_18

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


In 2011, we commissioned more than 40 papers to accompany the workshops and plenaries organized at our Global Microcredit Summit 2011. This week’s #ThrowbackThursday is a great opportunity to review the wealth of knowledge generated by the Summit. Listen to the audio recording from the workshop here.


What is the Cutting Edge for Microfinance in Remote, Hard to Reach Areas?

Authors: Anne Hastings and Steven Werlin

Introduction

Maximizing access to financial services in remote rural areas requires us to face a range of challenges that demand, in turn, a range of solutions. The problem is no more uniform than the regions that the services need to get to or the nature of the services required.

Access is not an end in itself but merely an important means towards progress for rural families and the communities they inhabit. That means that there are two sides to the question of access. On one hand, we must ask: what are the most effective ways to deliver financial services to especially hard-to-reach areas. Getting standard financial services to some areas presents significant challenges. On the other, there are distinct products and services that can help families living in remote rural areas in important ways. In other words, there is both a question of delivery of services and a separate question of the design of those services. In this paper, we have chosen to focus almost exclusively on the delivery of services.

Even if we limit our analysis to the question of delivery, the answers we present must vary for the various standard financial services we consider. If the issue is access to credit, we believe that one cutting edge approach to delivery continues to be a well-tried model: opening branches in underserved areas that spread their reach through traditional solidarity-group credit centers. The key to this approach remains ensuring attention to what we call the three pillars of standard solidarity-group microcredit: center attendance, 100% repayment, and proper investment of loans. We will discuss our own experience re-establishing these pillars at one rural branch as well as our new effort to shift center leadership from MFI staff to local credit center members.

Read the full paper.

Listen to the audio recording of the workshop.

Review Dr. Pant’s presentation.


Related reading

The importance of measuring client outcomes

Outcomes process

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


The World Bank is hosting a day-long event today (as I write this, actually) presenting lessons and implications of the latest research on microcredit. Based on the swiftness of my Twitter feed, the event, “Financial Services for the Poor: Lessons and Implications of the Latest Research on Credit,” is very popular and timely. (You can follow it using the hashtags #WBlive and #Microcredit2015.) Much of the evidence shared this morning (when they had a live video feed of the event), confirmed our understanding that microcredit alone is not enough.[1]

Indeed, the speakers in the 10 AM session (agenda), in response to an audience question, “If you had $1 million, how much of it would you put toward microfinance?”, recommended that we should invest our money in human capitol, namely early childhood education and conditional cash transfers (CCTs).

We would add health-related products and services: from health education for positive behavior change to healthcare delivery, and everything in between. We also believe that it is essential to measure and track the client outcomes of our interventions over time — be they microcredit, savings, insurance, or non-financial products and services.

On February 4th, the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) Outcomes Working Group hosted a virtual meeting on the “Selection of Outcomes Indicators.” The purpose of this working group is to develop practical guidelines for credible measurement of and reporting on outcomes, drawing on experience with different approaches and tools.

Frances Sinha of EDA Rural Systems introduced the session and explain how theory of change connects to indicators. Bobbi Gray of Freedom from Hunger explained the criteria applied to developing outcomes indicators — including a new set of Health Outcome Performance Indicators (HOPI) in partnership with the Microcredit Summit Campaign — and lessons learned. Anne Hastings of the Microfinance CEO Working Group discussed their plans for laying the groundwork for a common measurement and monitoring system.

Feb 5th meeting resources

If you would like to learn more about the pros and cons of the Health Outcomes Performance Indicators, join us on March 4th with the SEEP Network’s HAMED Working Group for the webinar, “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: How MFIs Can Track the Health of Clients.”


SPTF’s Outcomes Working Group will host a repeat of their December 14th virtual meeting on Tuesday, March 3rd at 4 AM (EST) // 9 AM (GMT) // 12 PM (East Africa) // 2:30 PM (India). Panelists will discuss the Theory of Change and how it helps us think about what to measure and when.

Recordings and materials from the original meeting (December 14th) are available online.

Speakers:

  • Frances Sinha, EDA Rural Systems
  • Anton Simanowitz, Independent consultant

The idea of a Theory of Change is now increasingly applied to strategic planning. It is beginning to be applied to measurement of change. This webinar will review the framework of a Theory of Change and to discuss how it can help an institution think through the ways in which it aims to achieve change, what inputs lead to what outcomes, and the time frame for expected change to take place. These are questions that are fundamental to appropriate research design and help in identifying relevant outcome indicators (short-term and long-term) and in analyzing the data to reflect a relevant sequence of inputs, outputs and outcomes.

About the Outcomes Working Group

  • Facilitator: Frances Sinha, director of EDA Rural Systems (India) and SPTF Board member.
  • Purpose: Develop practical guidelines for credible measurement of and reporting on outcomes, drawing on experience with different approaches and tools.
  • Introductory presentation

[1] Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) “Repeat session of the Outcomes Work Group: Theory of Change” WebEx meeting.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 4:00 am | Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)

Click to join WebEx meeting
Meeting number: 315 311 993
Meeting password: sptf

Join by phone
1-877-668-4493 Call-in toll-free number (US/Canada)
1-650-479-3208 Call-in toll number (US/Canada)
Access code: 315 311 993

Global call-in numbers
Toll-free calling restrictions
Add this meeting to your calendar.