Colombia, a “Pathways” poster child

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>>Authored by Paul Gostomski, Microcredit Summit Campaign Program Intern

The 100 Million Project, an initiative of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, aims galvanize and support work that helps advance industry toward the goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out extreme poverty. To do so, the Microcredit Summit Campaign advocates adoption of “Six Pathways,” which are financial inclusion strategies that can reach the extreme poor and facilitate their movement out of extreme poverty.

The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a global partnership of 34 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion, recently published a paper that does an excellent job highlighting two pathways that are currently being implemented in Colombia: conditional cash transfers and an initiative to link mobile banking services with agent networks.

Conditional Cash Transfers

The Más Familias en Acción program began in 2001 and aims to supplement the income of families who live below the poverty line and have children under 18. Mothers receive the cash transfer conditioned on their child’s regular attendance at school. This condition also qualifies the family for a health subsidy if their child receives regular health check-ups. In 2012, Más Familias en Acción was reaching 2.7 million families throughout the country. Between 2001 and 2012, malnutrition among children in Colombia aged two and under in rural areas decreased by 10 percent. Also in this time, school attendance for children between 12 and 17 increased by 12 percent.

The Campaign advocates for the use of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) within our six-pathways framework due to evidence such as is seen from programs like Más Familias en Acción. An array of positive externalities are also associated with CCTs, including income smoothing. Stabilizing income through CCTs help families better plan for the future as the immediate risks of today are somewhat mitigated.

Conditioned cash transfers are also incentivizing beneficiaries to make investments in themselves, often through participation in programs to increase health or education for the family. During last year’s Innovations in Social Protection program led by the Campaign, participants in PROGRESA (then called Oportunidades) indicated that while they appreciated and valued the security the transfer brought, they found that the greatest positive change was understanding the significance of the education and health investments they were making in their families.

Another positive externality of conditional cash transfer, and one we find significant, is its effect on women in poor communities. Almost all conditional cash transfers are administered to the mother of the household and this in turn increases women’s bargaining power, something that’s all too often neglected in poor communities.

 Mobile Money with Agent Networks

The second of the two pathways currently being implemented in Colombia is mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities through the mobile banking service DaviPlata. DaviPlata, launched as a private mobile service in 2011, was able to garner 500,000 customers in its first year of operation. Taking notice of this success, the government of Colombia contracted DaviPlata in 2012 to deliver the conditional cash transfers of Más Familias en Acción to its 937,000 beneficiaries.

After being contracted, the paper noted, DaviPlata as an organization began a new focus on how to serve the poorest in the country. DaviPlata, working solely through mobile phones, makes financial inclusion easier by making transferring, receiving, and withdrawing money less costly to the recipient of the conditional cash transfer. The recipient now spends less time traveling to the bank or post office and takes less risk as he or she has less cash on their person.

The World Bank reports that of the poorest two quintiles of those living in developing countries, only 30 percent have access to a savings account, whether formal or informal. The Campaign is looking at mobile money within its six-pathways framework because of how digital financial tools are decreasing the cost of transacting and, when linked with savings, increasing the ease with which the poor can access accounts, begin to develop savings, and more easily transfer money when needed.

Although many of the poor do not have savings accounts, many do have mobile devices. Mobile money linked with agent networks like DaviPlata helps link those living in more rural and remote areas to the mobile platforms where traditional financial institutions are less easy to find.

However, DaviPlata has room for improvement as a payments facility. The CGAP paper reports that DaviPlata faces an illiterate customer base and also issues with customers that do not understand the technology. DaviPlata must also deal with dormant accounts, where customers signed up for the service but their accounts have not been used in more than 30 days. Overcoming these challenges will be critical to moving forward.

Colombia’s Next Step

Colombia’s Más Familias en Acción, is a global leader in the use of CCTs to support increased health standards and school attendance among the poor. Now, work needs to be focused on decreasing the inefficiencies around the mobile banking service DaviPlata. In the CGAP paper on Colombia, it was made clear that Colombia’s greatest development challenge was in regard to DaviPlata and increasing its financial stability. This includes taking fuller advantage of the product while making the processes and channels more efficient. With a more effective method on distributing funds, the intended effects of Más Familias en Acción can then be multiplied.


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Yunus Centre fulfills Campaign Commitment by cultivating ‘job-givers’

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The Yunus Centre has worked tirelessly to promote the philosophy of Professor Mohammad Yunus and to alleviate poverty through social entrepreneurship and turning ‘job-seekers’ into ‘job-givers’. The Yunus Centre declared its support for the goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty by announcing a Campaign Commitment at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit held last October 2013 in Manila, Philippines. The Microcredit Summit Campaign recently caught up with the Yunus Centre to learn about the progress they’ve made on their Commitment and the ways they are working towards the end of extreme poverty.


“The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them.” – Professor Mohammad Yunus

Yunus

Professor Mohammad Yunus, winner of Nobel Peace Prize for his work with microfinance and founding of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Image courtesy of Yunus Centre.

Founded in 2006, the Yunus Centre actively promotes and disseminates the philosophy of world-renowned microfinance leader Professor Mohammad Yunus. Professor Yunus believes we can achieve the end of poverty through microfinance and social entrepreneurship.

In October of 2013, the Yunus Centre made the Commitment to support the 100 Million Project through the following actions:

By the end of 2018:

  • Create a global social business sector serving at least 100 million poor, and providing jobs and for at least 10 million households.

In just over one year, by the end of 2014:

  • Help create, finance and expand more than 50 social businesses in at least 20 countries world-wide.
  • Create Social Business Incubator Funds, and other structures, in at least 8 countries: Albania, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, India, Tunisia and Uganda
  • Social businesses in Bangladesh will serve at least 2 million households, and employ at least 20,000 households.
  • Collect and publish relevant social-impact data for all social businesses.

Yunus Centre Campaign Commitment Outlook: Achieving the 2014 Benchmarks   

The Yunus Centre has achieved outstanding progress since announcing its Campaign Commitment in 2013.

The Yunus Centre has met its 2013 benchmark of creating, financing and expanding more than 50 social businesses.

As of May 2014, the Yunus Centre has helped launch more than 100 new social businesses in Bangladesh. Recently the Yunus Centre introduced a new initiative called nobin udyoktas(‘new entrepreneurs’ in Bangladeshi) which is aimed primarily at the children of Grameen Bank borrowers and intends to turn them from ‘job seekers’ into ‘job creators’. Every month the Yunus Centre hosts a social business design lab which is a platform for entrepreneurs to present their social business designs in front of experienced business executives and social activists. Initial successes have helped the Yunus Centre to gain momentum in encouraging youth to make their own destiny through social business ventures. The Centre projects that it will reach 200 new social businesses by the end of 2014.

However work remains to be done. The Yunus Centre committed to create, finance, and expand more than 50 social businesses in 20 countries worldwide. They have achieved remarkable success in Bangladesh, but what about the rest of the world? So far Yunus Social Business (YSB) has launched social businesses in Colombia, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Haiti and Albania.As an example, in Colombia, the Yunus Centre partnered with McCain Foods to launch Campo Vivo, a social business that will benefit farmers living in poverty by aiding them in the production and commercialization of potatoes, carrots and peas. The Yunus Centre has made great progress towards achieving the first goal of its Commitment; nonetheless, expanding social businesses into other countries will remain a priority as they seek to reach their target of 20.

Yunus Centre has achieved its goal of creating Social Business Incubator Funds in eight countries.

Yunus Centre launched Social Business Incubator Funds in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, Albania, Tunisia, Uganda and India since 2013. The goal of these incubator funds is to provide start-up investment for social businesses when traditional banks may not be willing to invest. The funds are designed to be financially sustainable at $13.5 to $20.5 million and can be expected to invest in approximately 6 new social businesses each year. Some of the incubator funds are already providing services to entrepreneurs.

Although the Yunus Centre has made considerable progress towards achieving its Commitment, it has not yet been able to quantify its impact.

In October of 2013, the Yunus Centre boldly committed to helping social businesses serve 2 million households and employ 20,000 households. Because most of the social businesses are start-up enterprises, they are in the process of developing their market and scaling up their operations. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many households the social businesses are currently serving. The number is undoubtedly increasing as new social businesses are generated across Bangladesh. Once the Yunus Centre better determines how many households are being served and employed by social businesses in Bangladesh, it will publish the information on socialbusinesspedia.com. After a social business has been operational for a few years and it becomes feasible to measure its impact, the Yunus Centre publishes all relevant social impact data on Social Business Pedia.

Grameen Veolia

Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd. Image courtesy of Yunus Centre.


Join us in Mexico for the 17th Microcredit Summit this September 3-5. Professor Yunus will be a keynote speaker in addition to moderating workshops on social business and youth employment. http://17microcreditsummit.org/


Turning Social Businesses into a Poverty Elimination Tool 

One example of a social business pioneered by the Yunus Foundation is Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd. Although water supply is abundant in Bangladesh, much of the groundwater is contaminated with arsenic for geological reasons. Grameen Healthcare Services partnered with Veolia Water to provide clean water and distribute it to a vast network of rural villages. The joint venture has been established according to the social business principals advocated by the Yunus Centre.

One example of a social business pioneered by the Yunus Foundation is Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd. Although water supply is abundant in Bangladesh, much of the groundwater is contaminated with arsenic for geological reasons. Grameen Healthcare Services partnered with Veolia Water to provide clean water and distribute it to a vast network of rural villages. The joint venture has been established according to the social business principals advocated by the Yunus Centre.

The Yunus Centre views its Campaign Commitment as an integral part of the achieving its mission and helping lift 100 million families out of extreme poverty. The Commitment contributes in two ways to the goal: 1) new services are being introduced to the next generation of microfinance stakeholders, and 2) the ‘nobin udyokta’ initiative is providing equity financing for social businesses to create a generation of ‘job givers’ instead of ‘job seekers’. Professor Yunus shared his enthusiasm for the progress the Yunus Centre has made towards achieving its Commitment stating, “We are excited about new possible openings, especially social business gaining momentum in many countries. It’s a starting point for a global movement.”

Through these efforts the Yunus Centre is making large contributions to the 100 Million Goal. Standing alongside the Campaign’s coalition of actors who have stated their Campaign Commitment, the Yunus Centre is helping make the end of extreme poverty possible and achievable.


Join Yunus Centre and State your Campaign Commitment

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

Need additional guidance in formulating your own Campaign Commitment? Refer to our Commitment Development Toolkit.

Be social with us on Facebook and Twitter (@MicroCredSummit) using the hashtags #Commit100M and #100MGoal

Learn more about the Microcredit Summit Campaign: http://www.microcreditsummit.org/

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