The 2015 Listening Tour: Mapping pathways for ending extreme poverty

Photo credit: by Geoff (originally posted to Flickr as Pilgrim’s path) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.”
— Muhammad Ali

After the success of Generation Next: Innovation in Microfinance, our 17th Microcredit Summit (Mexico in 2014), the Microcredit Summit Campaign conducted a Listening Tour to identify how this next generation could contribute to ending extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 a day) by 2030. The theme that emerges from this consultation will be reflected across the Campaign: in the 2015 State of the Campaign Report, the 18th Microcredit Summit, and Campaign Commitments.

With the post-2015 development agenda under negotiation, the financial inclusion and microfinance sectors have an opportunity to assess our role in shaping the international development framework and reflect on the impact we can have on the lives of millions of the world´s extreme poor. Our Listening Tour was the first step in surveying our coalition of partners to see what our role in this endeavor should be.

The Listening Tour was our time to listen — and your time to speak — on the issues that the microfinance and financial inclusion sector face and served two purposes. First, it was our hope to find out how our audience (you) felt about the World Bank’s goal of eradicating poverty by 2030, and equally important, we wished to consult you in identifying the topics that were most pressing and urgent.

We collected your feedback through an online survey where we received 151 responses from participants from around the world representing practitioners, advocates and support organizations, funders, investors, policymakers, and regulators. We also conducted phone interviews with 27 leaders in the microfinance and financial inclusion sectors. Below are some key findings from our Listening Tour calls and survey.

A client of Fundacíon Capital wiht her daughter Photo credit: Fundacíon Capital

A client of Fundacíon Capital wiht her daughter

Photo credit: Fundacíon Capital

1. Ending extreme poverty.

Our members believe that our main objective should be to end extreme poverty, but they acknowledge that microfinance and financial inclusion actors need to be mobilized around this objective. We need to take a leadership role in re-focusing the microfinance sector on a pro-poor mission and helping the microfinance community build confidence in a system that protects and benefits those who we serve. In order to accomplish this, we need to galvanize new visionaries and champions for the movement.

2. Universal financial access, financial inclusion, and ending extreme poverty.

The strategy for achieving both universal financial access by 2020 and the 2030 goal must be clear, and clear linkages should be created between these two goals. In addition, we need to clarify the definition of financial inclusion, especially in how it relates to ending extreme poverty. We cannot get to full financial inclusion unless inclusive financial systems are created that serve the extreme poor.

3. Defining roles.

It’s unclear what role each stakeholder plays in achieving these goals. Our challenge is to create a unified voice in support of this agenda among a diverse group of microfinance stakeholders, who sometimes have divergent priorities. How do we design a strategy and create a sense of responsibility to provide the appropriate products and services that help people move out of poverty?

4. Pushing innovation while maintaining client protection.

Innovation is key, and technology will need play an important role in reaching full financial inclusion. The microfinance community tends to copy successful ideas but hesitates when it comes to new methodologies. While we need to do away with this risk-averse culture when it comes to innovation, we need to make sure there is adequate regulation and client protection practices in place where our clients could be vulnerable.

Organizations that made a Campaign Commitment are recognized on stage at the 17th Microcredit Summit in Mexico.

Organizations that made a Campaign Commitment are recognized on stage at the 17th Microcredit Summit in Mexico.

5. Financial inclusion to end extreme poverty: six pathways.

Finally, we saw an emphasis on six topics that we have framed as our “pathways out of poverty;” these are financial inclusion strategies that reach people living in extreme poverty and facilitates their movement out of poverty:

  • Mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities (for example)
  • Agricultural value chains that reach to small scale producers (for example)
  • Savings groups (aka village savings and loans associations) (for example)
  • Conditional cash transfers linked with mobile delivery and asset building (for example)
  • Ultra-poor graduation programs (for example)
  • Microfinance savings and/or borrowing groups linked with health education, health financing, and health product delivery (for example)
Dignitaries who attended the 1997 Microcredit Summit.

Dignitaries who attended the 1997 Microcredit Summit. From L-R: Tsutomu Hata, Former Prime Minister, Japan; H.E. Pascoal M. Mocumbi, Prime Minister, Mozambique; H.E. Alberto Fujimori, President, Peru; H.M. Queen Sofia, Spain; H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister, Bangladesh; Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady, United States; Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank, Bangladesh; Elizabeth de Calderón Sol, First lady, El Salvador; Ana Paula dos Santos, First Lady, Angola; H.E. Dr. Siti Hasmah, First Lady, Malaysia; H.M. Queen Fabiola, Belgium.

Let’s take a quick ride down memory lane. In February 1997, we convened the first Microcredit Summit in Washington, D.C., bringing together more than 2,900 delegates from 137 countries. This event resulted in the Declaration and Plan of Action in which Summit delegates promised to work towards making the Campaign a “global effort to restore control to people over their own lives and destinies” [1]. Since 1997, the Microcredit Summit Campaign has been leading, supporting, and guiding the microfinance field to address failures in reaching the extreme poor.

Jump forward to 2015. We still have a lot of work to do, but the will of our community to map out a better future together is evident. This is a time for change and transformation in the global development sector, and we must be bold in setting our goals.

We have taken it upon ourselves to make sure that the microfinance and financial inclusion movement is included as a tool in ending extreme poverty by 2030. Financial inclusion needs to serve the bigger purpose of helping people in poverty mitigate vulnerability, build resilience, and take advantage of opportunity. But, to reach the ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, we need to draw a map of how to get there. We need to show how digital payments, savings groups, conditional cash transfers, agricultural value chains, and graduation programs intersect with other sectors like health, education, housing, and nutrition to build pathways out of poverty. We must map out pathways for how these different interventions, stakeholders, and initiatives can work together to achieve our shared goal.

We share responsibility for promoting microfinance and financial inclusion practices that put clients at the center and show progress toward poverty eradication. At the World Bank’s 2015 Spring Meetings, the Campaign made a commitment to support the World Bank Group’s goal to reach universal financial access by 2020 (UFA2020). Through our commitment, we have joined a global coalition of partners that includes Visa, Mandiri, the State Bank of India, the World Council of Credit Unions, WSBI, the Microfinance CEO Working Group (a group of 10 international microfinance networks), Telenor, Ooredoo, Equity Bank, and Bandhan.

We know that the hardest part of reaching UFA2020 will be to ensure that financial services reach those living in extreme poverty, and the Microcredit Summit Campaign will work with its reporting institutions to help them expand their outreach by at least 53 million of the world’s poorest families, bringing the overall total of the world’s poorest families reached by microfinance to 175 million by 2020.

UFA2020 will be a stepping stone to achieving the post-2015 development agenda, and the Campaign will document what is being done well and disseminate those lessons far and wide through the State of the Campaign Report and our Microcredit Summits. The 18th Microcredit Summit will be an opportunity to learn about these six pathways and engage in a thoughtful discussion around the role each of us plays.

We invite you to join us and take part in leading this movement; start by organizing a breakout session for the 18th Microcredit Summit and making a Campaign Commitment. Submit your breakout session proposal for the 18th Microcredit Summit, and use our platform to inform our community about what you are doing to contribute to our common mission. You can also join our own coalition of Campaign Commitment makers by announcing specific, measurable, and time-bound actions that you will take to support our goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. This is a key step in reaching the end of extreme poverty by 2030, and by focusing on our six pathways, we can design a better future and create a map of opportunity.

Financial inclusion to end extreme poverty

Related resources

Sources

Declaration and Plan of Action. Microcredit Summit Campaign. February 1997, Washington, D.C. http://www.microcreditsummit.org/resource/58/the-microcredit-summit-declaration-plan.html

#tbt: The Need for Pricing Transparency in Microfinance

Muhammad Yunus signs onto the MicroFinance Transparency. With Chuck Waterfield

Muhammad Yunus endorsese the MicroFinance Transparency (MFT). With Chuck Waterfield, MFT founder, at the 2008 Microcredit Summit in Bali.

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2009. This particular Box is especially relevant given the news about MFT closing down and the stakeholder meeting hosted by the Microfinance CEOs Working Group on April 21st.


>> Authored by Chuck Waterfield, the developer of Microfin, a business planning tool used by microfinance institutions worldwide, and MicroFinance Transparency (MFTransparency), which was launched at our 2008 Microcredit Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Microfinance has long been a highly transparent industry, and rightly proud of it. Unfortunately however, the true price of microfinance loan products has never been accurately measured nor reported. For an industry born to displace the moneylenders by providing low-cost credit to the working poor, this is hard to imagine and even harder to explain.

Many countries require commercial lenders to state true product pricing using standards such as the APR (Annual Percentage Rate) formula mandated forty years ago in the US Truth-in-Lending Act. Such laws were enacted to help consumers make informed decisions regarding choosing loan products with different pricing. Currently, the same disparity that existed prior to Truth-in-Lending laws can be found in the microfinance industry. For example, a quoted interest rate of 3% per month can, depending on how this rate is applied, result in an APR between 36% and 96%, and beyond. Unfortunately, such misleading claims are commonplace in microfinance today. Why should the same principles of transparent pricing applied within the commercial finance industry not be applied to the microfinance industry?

The widely practiced non-transparent pricing in microfinance has evolved and perpetuated for two reasons. Firstly, there is no single market interest rate for micro-loans. The industry recognizes that interest rates on micro-loans must be higher than interest rates on larger commercial loans, but it is seldom recognized that there is no single “market rate” for micro-loans. In a market where all MFIs deal with the same cost structures, the smaller the micro-loan, the higher the interest rate necessary for that MFI to cover the costs of that loan and achieve sustainability. Due to the challenges of explaining why MFIs need to charge higher interest rates than the commercial sector, and to charge the highest interest rates to the poorest clients, the easiest alternative has been to use non-transparent pricing, where a quoted price is generally significantly lower than the actual price.

Secondly, once the industry began widely employing confusing product pricing, it became very difficult for MFIs to convert to transparent pricing. To do so, the MFI would advertise what appeared to be the highest price in the market, even though their true price could actually be the lowest. As a result, the vast majority of MFIs practice non-transparent pricing even though many would prefer to do otherwise.

In recent years the industry is shifting from the goal of “sustainable microfinance” to the goal of “high-profit microfinance.” When MFIs are operating in a very opaque pricing environment – where nobody knows how the price of one product compares to the price of another product – there exists the opportunity for MFIs to charge a price that results in very high profit levels. High profits generated off of the poor by charging non-transparent prices can create a bad public image for the microfinance industry and result in a strong backlash.

Given this reality, the industry has been in intensive dialogue and several initiatives are underway to address non-transparent pricing. One initiative is the “Campaign for Client Protection” that began after an April 2008 conference that produced the “Pocantico Declaration.” Transparent and fair pricing is one of the six core principles advocated in the campaign.

The second initiative is MicroFinance Transparency, a non-profit agency that will address pricing transparency through two joint activities. First, MFTransparency will collect product prices on all micro-loan products around the world and report those prices by a common, objective measurement system. Second, MFTransparency will undertake the equally important role of developing and disseminating straightforward educational material to enable microfinance stakeholders to better understand the concept and function of interest rates and product pricing.

It can be argued that an industry-wide effort towards transparent pricing is essential to the long-term survival of the microfinance industry. The mainstream public media is already reporting the interest rates typically charged in microfinance, but there is little explanation or understanding of why microfinance interest rates are higher than previously believed, nor why there is significant variation in interest rates among different institutions. What non-transparent pricing has kept hidden for years is no longer hidden. A forum for the industry must be built in order to report – in a clear, consistent and fair fashion – what actual interest rates are and why interest rates in competitive microfinance markets need to be higher than in commercial finance.

By practicing pricing transparency, a healthy and vibrant market for microcredit products can be built, providing a valuable component necessary in free markets and currently absent in microfinance – transparent, open communication about the true cost of products.

Over 100 microfinance industry stakeholders have endorsed MFTransparency. You may view the list and choose to sign up and endorse at the website.
Chuck Waterfield, Founder, MFTransparency, http://www.mftransparency.org/endorsements.

Social Performance Reporting – A Bandwagon You Should Be On

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Micol Pistelli, Director of Social Performance at the MIX writes about social performance reporting & some of MIX’s future plans. Español Français Continue reading

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

Gallery

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Español Français Continue reading