New report calls for scale-up of financial services “pathways” to help end extreme poverty


This gallery contains 2 photos.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign released our 17th annual survey of the global microfinance industry Wednesday at the Inclusive Finance India Summit held in New Delhi, India. Larry Reed featured the publication, Mapping Pathways out of Poverty: The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2015, in his presentation on Wednesday to attendees of India’s premier financial inclusion conference.

What does the 2015 report say about the data?
According to our annual survey, the global microfinance community reached 211 million borrowers as of December 31, 2013, and 114 million of them were living in extreme poverty (households living on less than $1.90 per day, PPP).

What this means is that, while the microfinance community provided loans to the most clients since we began tracking this number in 1997, the number of poorest clients fell for the third straight year. This is concerning.

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Microcredit Summit Campaign joins World Bank’s financial inclusion efforts

Global Findex database, World Bank, Washington, DC.

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign issued a press release today announcing our commitment to Universal Financial Access by 2020. The Campaign joins the World Bank Group and a their coalition of partners — including MasterCard, Visa, Mandiri, the State Bank of India, Equity Bank, and Bandhan — in making a commitments to accelerate universal financial access. Financial access and inclusion are stepping stones to achieving the end of extreme poverty by 2030.

The 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. Read the full press release.

This commitment was announced on April 17th in Washington, D.C., at the World Bank Group’s Spring Meetings.

Related resources

Measuring what’s important: client transformation

Research Results ESAF India

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Published on the Center for Financial Inclusion’s blog April 15th.

Measuring Transformation

>> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research Director, Freedom from Hunger

While recent research indicates that access to and use of microcredit alone is not transformative for the average client served (see “Where Credit Is Due“), there has been very little discussion about the types of indicators being used to measure “transformation” in the ongoing debates. In fact, it seems that we all have accepted the general findings that microcredit has only had modest impacts on, along with other indicators of poverty and well-being, education, health, and social capital because the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have said so. There needs to be greater thought and debate about the choices of indicators used to support these conclusions.

Freedom from Hunger over the past 20-plus years has integrated health with microfinance and helped build a body of knowledge indicating that microfinance plus health services can enhance health outcomes. In an ongoing partnership with the Microcredit Summit Campaign, supported by Johnson & Johnson, we have pilot-tested a series of health indicators that financial service providers (FSPs) can use to track client health outcomes. This pilot test was built on years of experience of evaluating health outcomes with our FSP partners, as well as on similar experiences of developing common tracking indicators in the health sector. We created a list of criteria to assess the types of indicators we felt would be meaningful to track—for individuals with and without health services – which included dimensions of feasibility, usability, and reliability. Initial results have been shared in several webinars with SEEP and the Social Performance Task Force.

It’s important to note that this pilot test effort was not about “proving” impact, but rather developing common techniques for monitoring client outcomes that FSPs could use over time. However, this experience has shown how difficult it is to identify indicators that best measure certain health outcomes. What initially might appear as an intuitive indicator to use — for example, how often a person reports being ill or seeking medical treatment — is found to be more difficult than expected. Morbidity — or reports of illness — is not an easy measure for health sector actors or those who directly work to improve health outcomes because it is influenced by the seasons, by specific efforts, and other factors, so care has to be taken when interpreting results. Reports of seeking medical treatment are complicated by whether people are satisfied with the services they can seek and may not always reflect financial capability but preferences or lack of available health services.

Read the rest of the article

Relevant resources

7 years in transparency

Image credit: MicroFinance Transparency

Image credit: MicroFinance Transparency

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>>Authored by Jesse Marsden, Manager, Research and Operations

If you haven’t read what Mary Ellen Iskenderian (Women’s World Banking) and Michael Schlein (Accion) have to say about the tremendous work of MicroFinance Transparency (MFT) we think you should. “A New Chapter for Pricing Transparency” it is a powerful testament to the importance of the task Chuck Waterfield and his team undertook, enabling a clear and simple means to understand the true cost of the credit products the microfinance industry is providing.

As a direct result of MFT’s methodology, microfinance institutions in many countries now report their pricing data. Multiple institutions also reduced their prices after publishing data and determining that they were out of line with other institutions in their market. Since MFT has been operating, many governments have also started to require pricing transparency in their regulation of the microfinance industry.

MCWG logo

Read the original post by Mary Ellen Iskenderian and Michael Schlein on the Microfinance CEO WOrking Group’s blog!

Womens World Banking and Accion are two of the founding organizations of the Microfinance CEO Working Group (MCWG) who collectively launched Campaign Commitments in 2013. (Read all about it!) This is a consortium of organizations that globally reach over 61 million low income individuals — many among the extreme poor — working together to find synergies and partnerships that make possible their dedication to seeking the highest levels of client protection, social performance, and pricing transparency.

As they say, this is “work that none of us can do alone.” We agree. We are all implicated.

Pricing transparency is one aspect of work that, as they highlight in their article, is an essential part of fulfilling an organization’s mission to serve low-income clients well. This makes pricing transparency important to all actors serving the needs of the poor and extreme poor, whether service provider, market facilitator, policy maker, or investor.

WWB picture blog

Photo credit: Women’s World Banking

The Campaign would hazard to say as well that pricing transparency is a core element to achieving the kinds of pricing models that will help make financial inclusion pathways more affordable to even extremely low-income individuals — an important constituent group to achieving full financial inclusion. (For more on that, check out the Center for Financial Inclusion — another Commitment Making leader!)

We are very glad to be partnered with the MCWG and point to their very thorough Campaign Commitment as an example of the kind of multi-faceted and collaborative approach needed to make headway in using financial and social services to help end poverty. We second the call from the MCWG to combine “successful data collection…advocacy, education, training, and funding” to ensure that pricing transparency remains a central pillar to sustainable and full financial inclusion.

Institutions that do not comply are not “getting away with it”; they do not belong in this industry. Pricing transparency should never be a threat to competitive advantage, but a requirement to operate as a responsible microfinance institution.

We look forward to a continued partnership with the MCWG in finding ways to strengthen the financial inclusion pathways for all those living below the poverty line.

We also would like to acknowledge the interesting conversation that has been happening on the Microfinance Practice Yahoo! Group listserv. Chuck made the announcement about MFT closing its doors there and the outpouring of support and the testimonials of personal experience either with MFT specifically or with price transparency in general has been enlightening. We encourage you to join the listserv as it is a valuable resource for a frank conversation about relevant issues with your peers.


Health Outcome Performance Indicators will help us “understand clients”

PMD clients and health providers

Microfinance clients are linked with local healthcare providers by PMD in India.
– Check out the recording of the webinar and review the PPT presentation.
– Read the SEEP Network’s blog post recapping the webinar.

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On March 4, 2015, in collaboration with the SEEP Network‘s HAMED working group, we co-hosted a webinar called “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: How MFIs Can Track the Health of Clients,” to discuss how microfinance institutions and their partners can measure client health and well-being. Our regional director for Asia-Pacific, Dr. D.S.K. Rao moderated the webinar. Joining us in the webinar were Bobbi Gray (Freedom from Hunger), Sandhya Suresh (ESAF Microfinance and Investments Pvt Ltd in India), and John Alex (Equitas Group and Equitas Development Initiatives Trust in India).

Choosing Health Indicators. Click the image to see it enlarged.

The webinar was focused on addressing questions of application and use of tracking health outcomes and how MFIs benefit from collecting data on client health. The HOPI will help institutions to know who their clients are and understand their needs — a defining theme, according to Dean Karlan, of the World Bank’s forum on microcredit at the end of February, and one that we have written extensively on as well.

And, of course, there were many questions posed by the audience, and we have made and effort to collect and answer those questions in this blog post.

Our work with partners ESAF, Equitas, and other financial service providers in India as well as the development of the HOPI is made possible with the generous support of Johnson & Johnson.


Tom Shaw (Catholic Relief Services):

Please note that [adding health onto microfinance] is not unique to microfinance institutions (MFIs); it is also applicable and being applied through the savings group platform.

Bobbi Gray:

Agreed. While this discussion has focused on MFIs, there are a growing number of savings groups who have been adding health to their activities as well. We’ve also seen some health sector actors find that savings groups have been organically forming within their programs, so they’ve tried to formalize this process such that the savings group structure becomes a significant part of the program. John Snow International has an example of this in Nigeria.

I think it’s important to add that even within health programs, tracking health outcomes at the “patient” level is just as a significant activity as it is for financial service providers (MFIs and savings groups, alike). While there are population-based surveys that inform the work of the health sector, tracking health outcomes at a more programmatic level is not a simple task for them either because of the cost and time implications of collecting this data.

That’s why I think there is an important opportunity for finding ways to collaborate with health sector actors by using the data that MFIs are able to collect, since it could also be informative data that local health sector actors can also use. This data can be a vehicle for strengthening relationships across these two sectors.

Question 1

Vanina Gacioppo:

How is the health entrepreneur accepted by the community? (As there may be old “quacks” that may not be well prepared but the community have relied on them for years.)


Bobbi Gray:

Our experiences so far have shown that the health entrepreneurs become advocates for the members of their community. They are the link between the role that the MFI plays as well as the local health clinic. There is always the ongoing concern about developing a cadre of “quacks” but so far, we’ve seen existing midwives and community health workers take on these roles since it seems to be a natural fit.

DSK Rao:

In the particular case of ESAF’s Arogya Mithra (community health entrepreneurs) project, they are well accepted mainly because of the door step service (house-calls) a health entrepreneur provides. She comes to the villagers. In these villages, “quacks” are not common, but one finds less-qualified medical practitioners who do not provide door step services as the health entrepreneurs do.

Sandhya Suresh:

The health entrepreneurs are getting good acceptance in the community even though there are existence of other traditional practitioners, or even “quacks,” as the health entrepreneurs are community women and those who seek their services are known to them and hence they trust them.

ESAF has provided the health entrepreneurs with certificate and ID cards, which they can always produce in case people want to know about the authenticity.

Question 2

Stuart Coupe, Hand in Hand International, London:

I am very interested in the ESAF self-employed microentrepreneurs in the health sector. What services are community members willing to pay them for?

This question was posed and answered in the event, which was recorded and is available here:


Bobbi Gray:

I thought Sandhya’s answer during the webinar likely was enough, but it is important to point out that often, people are supposed to have access to many of the health products and services for free as they are provided by the local health clinic; however, the health clinics are often poorly or not consistently staffed and often poorly stocked with the items they should be getting for free.

Therefore, the market for the health entrepreneurs is to provide the products, at the market price, to their community members for the convenience of them being able to access the products when they need them. Plus, for some items, like sanitary napkins, they can purchase items in privacy.

DSK Rao:

The community may be willing to pay for multiple services, such as monitoring hemoglobin levels, cholesterol, etc., but ESAF has focused on monitoring hypertension and diabetes, the two most common and dangerous non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The two parameters which require frequent measurement and which could be easily measured in the field.

Sandhya Suresh:

At present, community members are willing to pay for checking the blood sugar and blood pressure. In addition, they are even willing to pay for cholesterol or thyroid checking; however, these are complicated processes and cannot have a quick result, so we are not doing it at present. We can train the health entrepreneurs to collect the blood samples for these tests, but they can be very risky considering their semi-literate status.

theories of change

Click the image to see it enlarged.

Question 3

Amy Petrocy, Health Program Coordinator at Friendship Bridge, Guatemala:

I’m interested in any experience you all may have with measuring changes in health beliefs/attitudes as a result of health education offered by MFIs and then the correlation with utilization rates of health services.


Bobbi Gray:

Freedom from Hunger has been designing short mini-surveys that align with our health education. However, we only look at utilization of health services, if this particular aspect is actually part of the module.

For example, the integrated management of childhood illnesses (ICMI) teaches women about the danger signs a caregiver should know that would signal the need to visit a clinic immediately and then it teaches them what they should expect when they are there for the checkup.

Part of the effort here, in the HOPI, comes as a result of the years of measuring changes from pre-tests to post-tests directly related to particular education efforts. While there may be some directly related attitude questions for certain education topics — for example, for water and sanitation, there might be an attitude about whether they agree it’s important to provide safe water to their family or whether they feel confident they can provide safe water — there is growing interest in the field to look more at attitudes as very strong indicators for tracking change.

We found, for example, in our youth financial services work that a young person’s satisfaction with their savings level or their confidence they could cover their typical daily expenses using their savings, was likely a stronger indicator of their financial capability than trying to detect this through a long series of questions to understand how much money they actually had. I think understanding whether a person feels prepared for future health expenses is likely indicative of their real ability — given they know what resources they have at hand to cover those expenses.

When it comes to utilization of health services, I also think it’s important to understand why people do not use the services — in the same way we have to understand why clients might not use a particular financial product — there may be attributes we can change in the short-term and those we can’t. For example, “I feel ashamed” of going to the doctor is a different intervention from “I can’t afford to go.”

DSK Rao:

There are numerous incidents of behavior change such as women ceasing to chew tobacco and reducing oil, salt, and sugar intake in one’s diet. Impressive changes have come in terms of distributing food equally to all family members, including adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women.

John Alex:

Equitas has a 5-day skill training program on a not-for-profit basis through the Equitas Trust, where the women skill trainer trains 10-15 women for 3 hrs a day in select skills. At the end of each day, she delivers a lesson on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) namely blood pressure (BP), diabetes, cancer, types of tests in a year, and healthy eating habits.

We measure the knowledge level on a sample basis pre- and post-training, and the results showed that the knowledge improved and that they also learned ways to detect early warning symptoms.

Furthermore, feedback showed that many started going for mammogram test and pap smear test and wanted the trainers to also check their BP, sugar levels, and body mass index (BMI); this made us launch a pilot recently to test sugar levels at random at the end of the training, and they are ready to pay the cost. We are working to make this pilot be self-sustaining. Based on the success and pending getting funding, we will roll it across India, which could be a great health indicator.

Question 4

Do you think you can you measure the impact of your health program in a 6 – 8 months period? Don’t you think the time is too short… What do you think?


Bobbi Gray:

I think it depends on the health intervention. Some are meant to spur immediate changes, and others aren’t. For example, if we can convince a mother to give a child with diarrhea more to drink, she should immediately be able to put this behavior into practice. However, facilitating a household’s ability to install a new sanitation facility might take longer, particularly if households are facing competing financial obligations.

DSK Rao:

As it pertains to the affect on knowledge and awareness as well as the behavior change in improvement in diet, yes, 6-8 months is sufficient. We have seen changes in health seeking behaviors in that period; however, it may not be possible to see an improvement in health parameters.

Sandhya Suresh:

Well, if you have given a health education session, people will try to practice it as soon as possible if they remember it and are convinced about it. We can therefore see the change in the awareness levels and behavior change in them even after 6 to 8 months. But, if you want to measure the impact of a changed health practice, you will definitely need more time.

John Alex:

Equitas has two loan products with a tenure of 18 months and 24 months and option to repay in either fortnightly or monthly installments. I think 6-8 months is too short, and it should be on a continuous basis during every loan cycle.

Question 5


Which country in Africa is model now in developing financial health products?


Bobbi Gray:

We’ve worked with RCPB in Burkina Faso to develop a health savings and loan product. This is a commitment savings device that clients can use to save an established amount of money on a regular basis. Once they hit the minimum, they can use the savings as long as they have receipts showing that the money will be used to cover a health expense.

If the health expense is greater than the amount they have in savings, they can access a health loan, if desired, to make up the difference. There are also savings groups in Benin that also save for health. They save their normal amount with their group, and they save an additional amount on top of this for health expenses, using the same savings group mechanism for collecting and accounting for their funds.

There has also been a study by Pascaline Dupas looking at various savings strategies for health in Kenya that included products where clients simply earmarked their money, put money in a lockbox that was easily accessible, lock boxes that were more secure, etc. She found that most of the mechanisms worked to improve savings for health simply because they provided a safe place to keep their money that they wanted to earmark for health purposes.

While I don’t have the data at hand, I know there have also been some significant efforts in improving access to health insurance products as well, which should not be overlooked when thinking about financial services with a health objective.

Health indicators selected

Click the image to see it enlarged.

Question 6

Tessa Joy P., Research and Evaluation Specialist at Community Economic Ventures, Inc. (CEVI), Philippines:

Are the health indicators set of questions country-specific?


Bobbi Gray:

Some of them are, and some of them aren’t. Our original aim was to see whether we could find indicators that could work across most contexts and some of them seem to do this well.

For example, the question about whether a person has forgone seeking medical treatment because of the cost works well in all the contexts. For the water and sanitation questions, these questions are often fairly standardized, particularly if you rely on how the national demographic and health surveys articulate the questions and answer options.

However, depending on the key health problems in a country, one might tailor the questions more specifically to the context. For example, while we’ve yet to pilot these questions in West Africa, you could imagine asking about the use of insecticide treated bed nets. Whereas in Latin America, malaria and other infectious diseases might not be as common, and you might look more at chronic illnesses as well as the need for annual checkups to get one’s blood sugar or blood pressure checked.

This is not to say that chronic illnesses are not equally as frequent in places like West Africa; it simply means that an organization needs to think about which of these issues seems to affect their clients the most and where an MFI’s products and services might most directly influence improvements (i.e., improving financial access to mosquito nets, preventive care medical services, etc.)

Question 7

Joy May, branch accountant, CEVI, Philippines:

Can you please differentiate between key health indicator and additional indicator?


Bobbi Gray:

After the pilot-test MFIs (ESAF, Equitas, and others) completed their first assessments, we have discussed which of the indicators they might want to keep for further implementation of the surveys. While we tested up to 11 different indicators, we recognize that not all of these will feel really compelling to the MFI.

So, we’ve discussed which few they might choose to track over time. In ESAF’s case, they’ve talked about perhaps keeping water treatment as a variable that they’ll track with their poverty measurement efforts for every new loan cycle, but they might follow a sample of clients with a broader number of indicators every five years.

At the end of the day, we want MFIs to choose the smallest number of indicators they’ll track and actually use—over a longer period of time, since larger evaluations and studies have the flexibility to track a larger number of indicators. Which indicators are useful to track at every loan cycle for monitoring purposes vs. which indicators might you track for a broader picture of client outcome for more evaluation purposes (where you’d conduct more analysis, etc.)?

Research Results Equitas India

Click the image to see it enlarged.

Question 8

Joy May, branch accountant, CEVI, Philippines:

What are the health indicators Equitas is planning to finalize for health survey both in rural and urban areas?


John Alex:

We plan to ask about different types of water filters, and we will ask both men and women. In addition, we will also compare this data with a control sample of non-clients. And, finally, we plan to expand our data collection to more areas on a pan-India scale.

Question 9

Joy May, branch accountant, CEVI, Philippines:

Why is Equitas emphasizing low cost fruits? Can you please elaborate the relationship between fruit and nutrition? What about childhood nutrition specially children below 2 years?


John Alex:

When we say “fruits,” very often, clients would mistakenly imagine it as costly fruits like apple and oranges, etc., which may be a bit costly for these low income households. We would like to also add questions on the type of locally available fruits like bananas, ber, custard apple, papaya, sapota, and guava.

We also plan to add questions to find out if they have low-cost millets, which are very healthy, and add the same questions about child nutrition and a line on breast feeding.

Question 10

Joy May, branch accountant, CEVI, Philippines:

What would be your sustainability plan on your clients’ health indicator project?


Sandhya Suresh:

We have already incorporated two health indicators, which we will track for all the clients; for other relevant indicators, we shall conduct an annual Client Change Assessment.

Question 11

Joy May, branch accountant, CEVI, Philippines:

Do you have any plan to integrate your health program with government’s health program under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)?


Sandhya Suresh:

Most of our health entrepreneurs are Asha Workers, or health workers appointed under the NRHM, so they are already known in the community. By offering the service that we have promoted, they get an extra income. They have received permission from their NRHM supervisor to charge the user fee for the services they are offering.

Research Results ESAF India

Click the image to see it enlarged.

The PPT presentation

Relevant resources

The SEEP Network | Mar 4, 2015

By Patrick Fine, Leith Greenslade | 26 February 2015

Cassie Chandler | Huffington Post Global Motherhood |

Hosted by FHI 360, Women Thrive, Johnson & Johnson
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM (EDT)
New York, NY

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: How MFIs Can Track the Health of Clients

A doctor provides free checkups as part of a health outreach program in the Philippines. Photo by: CARD MRI

A doctor provides free checkups as part of a health outreach program in the Philippines. Photo by: CARD MRI

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Join us on Wednesday, March 4th at 9:30 AM (ET / GMT – 5) for “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: How MFIs Can Track the Health of Clients,” a webinar co-hosted by the SEEP Network to discuss how you and your partners can measure client health and well-being.

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Wednesday, March 4th at 9:30 AM (ET / GMT – 5)
What time in your country?

The webinar will feature presentations from two of India’s leading microfinance institutions, ESAF Microfinance and Equitas Micro Finance Pvt Ltd. They will share the results of the “Empowering Poor Women through Integrated Health and Financial Services in India: Measuring Impact of Health and Microfinance” project led by Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign.

With funding support from Johnson & Johnson, these two organizations set out in 2014 to develop and test a standardized set of “Health Outcome Performance Indicators” (HOPI) that can be used by microfinance institutions (MFIs), self-help promotion institutions (SHPIs), and other financial service providers (FSPs) to monitor the health outcomes of clients over time. The HOPI relied on a cross-sectoral collaborative process, including the involvement of the SEEP Network’s HAMED Working Group members, health sector experts, investors, and practitioners who provided input during the indicator selection process as well as the analysis and interpretation of the data.

The webinar will focus on the following questions:

  • Do the benefits of tracking health outcomes outweigh the costs of the ongoing client data collection?
  • You may be asking yourself, why do we care? If MFIs don’t have health programs, what do they get out of collecting data on client health?
  • Why not just collect the PPI data? Did this give MFIs a better picture of their clients’ vulnerability than what the PPI alone can tell them?

Why the Health Outcome Performance Indicators are important:

  • They are practical for FSPs to measure and monitor client health over time (annually or as part of other monitoring tools such as the PPI).
  • They can be reported by clients in a monitoring survey.
  • They can be benchmarked to other regional, national, and global health goals and data.
  • They are reliable and are subject to change over time.
  • They will be relevant and useful for FSPs to measure and improve measures of program impact on client health and well-being.
  • They will provide donors, investors, government, health actors, and others with important information to guide decisions about support and social investment.


Bobbi Gray, Research & Evaluation Specialist, Freedom from Hunger, USA; and Facilitator, SEEP Network HAMED Working Group
Sandhya Suresh, Senior Manager, ESAF Microfinance and Investments Pvt Ltd, India
John Alex, Vice President and Head of Social Initiatives, Equitas Group; and Program Director, Equitas Development Initiatives Trust, India


Dr. DSK Rao, Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Microcredit Summit Campaign, USA

This webinar is hosted by SEEP’s Health and Market Development Working Group (HAMED), in partnership with the Microcredit Summit Campaign.

Bobbi Gray, Research & Evaluation Specialist, Freedom from Hunger, USA

Bobbi joined Freedom from Hunger in 2004. She leads research and evaluation efforts and works closely with the organization’s partners to determine solutions for assessing and measuring the social performance and impacts of integrated financial and non-financial services for adults and youth, including feedback of this information to stakeholders for decision-making. She has experience with both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including sampling and analysis methodologies such as Lot Quality Assurance Sampling, financial diaries, qualitative “impact stories,” and Randomized Control Trial evaluations. In the past year, Bobbi has focused on working with a cross-sectoral team of experts to design a short-list of client outcome indicators focused on client health. She is also the Facilitator of the Health and Market Development (HAMED) working group at the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion Network (SEEP). She holds a Master of Public Administration degree in International Management from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Spanish from Texas Tech University, and speaks both languages.

Sandhya Suresh, Senior Manager, ESAF Microfinance and Investments Pvt Ltd, India

Sandhya Suresh works as senior manager with ESAF Microfinance and Investments Pvt Ltd based in the southernmost part of India in the state of Kerala. Ms. Suresh is a development professional with over 16 years of experience in the social development sector. Her primary interest and work is in social research where she likes to engage with low income women who struggle both socially and economically to keep up to the expectations of her family and community. She has engaged with ESAF’s beneficiaries in various capacities as a trainer, strategy developer, project coordinator, and team leader managing social research (including impact assessments). As an SPM champion with ESAF Microfinance, she has tried to oversee and guide the operations towards adhering to responsible finance and client protection principles. Ms. Suresh possesses a Master’s in Development Communications and has actively participated in the working groups that developed the Universal Standards of Social Performance and also in the development of SPI4 the assessment tool to measure SPM.

Ms. Suresh remains fully committed to the cause of bringing positive change in the lives of poor women through the platform of microfinance where in women are in a position to reduce the vulnerability attached to insufficient finances to meet the food, education, and housing expenses that are fundamental to every human being.

John Alex, Vice President and Head of Social Initiatives at Equitas Group and Program Director, Equitas Development Initiatives Trust, India

John Alex, after graduating in agriculture and rural development, started his career as a Group II Gazetted Officer in Tamil Nadu State Government and served as an extension officer (agriculture) and block development officer in North Arcot District, Tamil Nadu from 1979 to 1983. Mr. Alex joined the Indian Overseas Bank as a probationary officer and served as agriculture field officer, branch manager, regional assistant chief officer, senior manager, and chief manager in various branches in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh from 1983 to 2008. Mr. Alex joined the Management Team of Equitas in 2008 and conceptualized and set up the team for social initiatives with a clear focus to address a larger spectrum of requirements of clients in the field of health, education, skill development, food security, and placement for unemployed youth.

Dr. DSK Rao, Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Microcredit Summit Campaign, USA

Dr. D.S.K. Rao is the regional director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and is based in Hyderabad, India. The Campaign draws heavily on his wide experience and familiarity with the microfinance sector in Asia.

Dr. Rao is a certified trainer of poverty measurement tools, including the Cashpor House Index (CHI), Participatory Wealth Ranking (PWR), and the Progress out Of Poverty Index (PPI).

He is presently implementing, in collaboration with Freedom from Hunger, a project in India funded by Johnson & Johnson in which he is providing technical assistance to local microfinance partners to integrate health and microfinance. Dr. Rao is working on health integration with some of the largest and most reputed MFIs in India. He also coordinated with Equitas and ESAF in piloting the Health Outcome Performance Indicators (HOPI) project.

How deep is your outreach?


We are still collecting the 2014 Institutional Action Plan (IAP) forms in preparation for The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2015.

Submit your IAP_193x92

Submit your Institutional Action Plan today!

By filling out an Institutional Action Plan (IAP), members of the Council of Microfinance Practitioners and Associations report on the progress they have made over the past year in providing financial and non-financial services to the most vulnerable and poorest populations.

Please complete the appropriate form below, and email it to info[at] by February 15, 2015 to be included in the 2015 State of the Campaign Report.

If your institution operates in multiple countries and you would like to fill out a single IAP form, please contact us at info[at] Note that this year we are only asking for information on borrowers.

If you have any questions, please contact the Secretariat at


Nous recueille toujours les formulaires de Plan d’Action Institutionnel (PAI) 2014 pour le Rapport de l’État de la Campagne du Sommet du Microcrédit, 2015.

Envoyer votre PAI_193x92

Envoyez votre Plan d’Action Institutionnel (PAI) dès aujourd’hui !

En remplissant un PAI, les membres du Conseil des Agents et des Associations rendrent compte du progrès qu’ils ont fait pendant la dernière année en occtroyant des services financières et non financiers aux populations les plus vulnerables et plus pauvres et le nombre de clients qui sont sortis de la pauvreté.

Veuillez remplir le formulaire approprié ci-dessous, et envoyer-le a info[à] au plus tard le 15 de février 2015 afin d’être inclus dans le Rapport de l’état de la Campagne.

Si votre institution travaille dans plusieurs pays et vous voulez remplir un seul Plan d’Action, veuillez nous contacter à info[à] Notez bien que cette année nous demandons seulement des informations à propos des emprunteurs.

Si vous avez des questions, veuillez contacter le Sécrétariat en écrivant à


La Campaña de la Cumbre de Microcrédito le complace anunciar que está recolectando los formularios del Plan de Acción Institucional para el 2014 (PAI) para el Informe del Estado de la Campaña de la Cumbre de Microcrédito, 2015.

¡Entregue su Plan de Acción Institucional hoy! FECHA LÍMITE: EL 12 DE DICIEMBRE

¡Entregue su Plan de Acción Institucional hoy!

Al completar un Plan de Acción Institucional (PAI), los miembros del Consejo de Agentes y Asociaciones de Microfinanzas están reportando los progresos realizados durante el último año en el suministro de servicios financieros y no financieros a las poblaciones más vulnerables y pobres.

Por favor llene el formulario apropiado que se encuentra a continuación y envíelo por correo electrónico a info[a] a más tardar el 15 de febrero de 2015 para poder incluir sus datos en el Informe del estado de la Campaña 2015.

Si su institución trabaja en varios países y desea llenar un solo Plan de Acción, favor de comunicarse con nosotros al enviar un correo a info[a] Por favor tome en cuenta que este año sólo estamos pidiendo información sobre sus prestatarios.

De tener cualquier pregunta, por favor comuníquese con el Secretariado enviando un correo a

Social Performance Reporting – A Bandwagon You Should Be On


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

Data quality and the Pro-Poor Principles

Lea en español (traducido por Google) *** Lisez en français (traduit par Google)


  • Data quality — Moving forward, the beta test findings have highlighted the importance of developing guidelines for quality issues with data on poor clients.
  • Data disaggregation — need for pro-poor microfinance promote activities like disaggregating data on poor clients as part of the continued improvement of pro-poor practices across the globe
  • Where did these findings lead us — one of the 4 sub-categories under each of the 3 Pro-Poor Principles is “Measurement and Data Quality”


Pro-Poor Principles series
On 15 May 2013 we announced our Pro-Poor Principles in a blog post, found here. In this continuing series of blog posts, we will elaborate on the path that brought us to these Pro-Poor Principles of microfinance. The principles will inform both the learning environment in our community of practice, as well as our methodology for determining organizations that will be recognized by the Pro-Poor Seal of Excellence. We appreciate any thoughts you have on the Pro-Poor Principles and how best to apply them to practice. If you would like more information, please contact MeasureLearnChange[at]

The Beta Tests and Data quality
In partnership with technical experts in microfinance, we recently concluded a beta testing phase for the Seal of Excellence. The 7 microfinance institutions evaluated in the beta tests represent a variety of regions, as well as organization sizes and legal forms. You can view some…

View original post 825 more words

Defining “Poverty”: Pro-Poor Principles series

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“As a simple global benchmark, [the Seal will] reference a poverty line that approximates the bottom ~40% of the population. In many countries, the national poverty line is about the same as the bottom ~40%, as can be see in the graph below. This definition intentionally reflects a level that is practical, achievable and relevant to ensuring deep financial inclusion. Broadly, it represents outreach to the bottom half of the financially excluded. At the same time, in order to recognize MFIs that have achieved deeper outreach to the very poor, the Seal of Excellence indicators identify the percentage of clients from the bottom ~20% as well.”

Read more!


Pro-Poor Principles series
On 15 May 2013 we announced our Pro-Poor Principles in a blog post, found here. In this continuing series of blog posts, we will elaborate on the path that brought us to these Pro-Poor Principles of microfinance. The principles will inform both the learning environment in our community of practice, as well as our methodology for determining organizations that will be recognized by the Pro-Poor Seal of Excellence. We appreciate any thoughts you have on the Pro-Poor Principles and how best to apply them to practice. If you would like more information, please contact MeasureLearnChange[at]

Defining “Poverty”

A simple plan
There have been many varied measures of poverty established over the past two decades in our global efforts to alleviate poverty. Hundreds of National Poverty Lines have been established by individual country governments, and institutions such as the World Bank have used figures ranging anywhere from…

View original post 439 more words

Does promoting entrepreneurial activity undermine women’s empowerment?


A study of MIX data found that countries that have more liberalized markets can also support a lot more microfinance activity. However, they also found that the same factors that would make a country attractive to MFIs also made it less likely that they would lend to women. Continue reading

World Bank Study Reveals Importance of Better Product Design and Delivery

The World Bank released a new report late last week that debuts data gathered in a new index for measuring global financial inclusion, dubbed the “Global Findex.” The report gathers interview data from 70,000 respondents in 148 economies to measure how adults “save, borrow, make payments, and manage risk.” As an organization dedicated to seeing financial services used as a tool to support people living in poverty, we took special interest in rates of financial inclusion for those at the base of the economic pyramid and the reason that may or may not choose to have formal financial accounts. What emerged from the report was great insight to the importance of creating better products and services in generating greater financial inclusion.

First, this report is a great resource for deepening understanding about client needs and the barriers they face to financial inclusion. We would encourage the authors to expand in future editions on the means of making payments and managing risk. The report does not address how clients make payments, and only three paragraphs are given to the discussion on insurance.

In addition to improving our understanding of client needs and the barriers they face, the study points to how utilizing that better understanding to inform product development and delivery can help overcome those barriers. Notable to our thinking is that we found the study to say very little about how financial education could increase financial inclusion.

The scope of the study is global, so a reader has to be careful to look for the facts relevant to the comparisons of the lowest-income quintile — or other forms of disaggregation used — with those of the highest income. The study divides the respondents into the haves and the have nots: those who have or do not have an account, a line of credit, or an insurance product with a formal financial institution.

One of the interesting charts in the study reports the results of a survey in which respondents were given seven reasons to choose from to explain why they did not have an account with a formal financial institution. Respondents were allowed to name more than one reason. The study highlights the aggregate results for the developing world, but we wanted also to present the results for the lowest income quintile. Responses for low-income populations and the developing economies are such:

Barrier Named by Respondents
 Developing economies – all respondents
Lowest-income Quintile Respondents
Not enough money
Religious reasons
Family member already has account
Too expensive
Too far away
Lack of necessary documentation
Lack of trust
None of the reasons given

Observations resulting from this particular comparison reveal that the poorest in the developing world are far more likely to respond that they do not have enough money to open an account and far less likely to give as a reason for lack of access that they have a family member who already has an account. Otherwise, all developing economy respondents cited most often (1) the prohibitive expense of an account, (2) being too far from the institution, and (3) lacking necessary documentation. Lack of trust and religious reasons each had the lowest response rates. The authors note that this data does not enable them to draw conclusions about what impact would be seen if the barriers were removed. However some speculations to that effect are then presented.

Pages 17 – 19 discuss more fully each of the reasons respondents may have chosen for not having an account. Notably, none of the response options focused on a lack of understanding about financial products, unless the option “lack of trust” implies a lack of knowledge or capacity to manage a relationship with financial institutions. Problematically, however, the data show that the incidence of “lack of trust” responses increases as the respondent’s education level increases, implying that additional schooling, at least, does not reduce mistrust of formal financial institutions. Even were a lack of trust regarded as flowing from a lack of understanding, only 13% of respondents named this barrier. On the other hand, 82% of the 70,000 respondents cited reasons that more directly correlate to product design, delivery, and cost structures.

In Larry Reed’s blog post for CFI from February, he illustrates that a client’s needs had first and foremost to do with the relevance (appropriateness) of the product to her, physical accessibility of the bank (a barrier also raised in this study), security of the funds, ease of access to the funds, ability to finance large expenses, ability to pay for emergency expenses.

This study echoes Reed’s statement in several ways.

  1. The respondents, though given a set list, overwhelmingly named barriers related to design and appropriateness of a financial product, physical accessibility, and cost structure.
  2. Specifically, the data in this study and Reed’s example client share in common physical access, use of loans for emergency needs, financing children’s education, and a desire for a product appropriate to the individual.
  3. The data do not yield much information about the role of financial education but rather focus on the importance of the industry’s need to learn more about the client’s needs in order to “provide the full range of financial services they need and deliver them in a way that makes them easy to understand and utilize.” (emphasis ours)

As Reed concludes, education should begin with ourselves in the microfinance industry. We should take advantage of studies such as this one to better understand what the client says her or his needs and aspirations actually are to then design products that the client will want to purchase. In other words, financial inclusion is dependent, at least in part, on product design, delivery, and cost. By way of illustration, let us walk through what could mitigate the barriers recognized by the survey respondents:

  • If faced with the barrier “not enough money,” a potential client needs a product that either has no minimum balance or helps generate excess (savable) income.
  • If faced with the barrier that formal accounts are “too expensive,” the cost structure needs to be designed so as not to erase her savings through high fees and transaction costs.
  • Assuming the first two points are enacted, the prerequisites for opening the account need to reduce the barriers for a person in poverty who might “lack [traditional] necessary documentation.”
  • With money in the bank that isn’t being unduly eroded by fees and costs, the client needs to be able to access and manage those funds that would otherwise be “too far away” — perhaps through mobile banking technologies.

In addressing each of the above five indicators from the study (“lack of trust” and “religious reasons” omitted), 85% of respondents would have seen one or more barriers to their financial inclusion reduced by designing products to be more useful, more easily accessed, less expensive, and more easily obtained by poor clients.

In our search for implications regarding financial education strategies, for each of the responses measured we could say that financial education has an important concurrent role. Explaining the use of a well-designed savings account, its costs, and the ways it can be accessed and managed, would be of great value to a potential new account holder. As Reed’s hypothetical illustrates, a potential client might see little value in knowing about savings accounts that will not hold amounts small enough for her or which cost too much to be useful. Knowledge about those accounts will not help her to open one. However, if the financial education is about a product specific to her and the best way she can make use of it, the knowledge becomes much more useful and relevance.

By our reading, this study highlights that from the client’s perspective, reducing barriers to financial inclusion really come down to the industry’s willingness to learn from the client and thereby create products that are designed according to the particular needs of the various segments of the population living in poverty. As those employed by the microfinance industry, we should better understand what clients themselves prioritize as their needs and aspirations in order to design products that are applicable, accessible, obtainable, and affordable.

—Jesse Marsden, Manager, Research & Operations
—Sabina Rogers, Manager, Communications & Relationships

(See also the Center for Financial Inclusion’s blog post presenting initial findings.)

Auditing MFIs

Is it possible to get genuine performance measures concerning the social performance of microfinance institutions (MFIs)? In a recent article, I was pleased to notice that CERISE provided a tool to “capture” this information.

Microfinance Knowledge Network (CERISE), based in Paris, gathers five leaders in French microfinance to provide technical assistance to MFIs around the world. One of the expertises of CERISE is to perform social auditing of MFIs with their own tool that has been created.
The Reuters article mentions: “The latest innovation in social performance measurement is to look not only at the performance of the microfinance institutions, but also to undertake a social audit of private financiers. […] Cerise is at the forefront of social performance, and serves as an exchange platform on practices in microfinance. Cerise’s Social Performance Indicator tool, a social audit instrument for microfinance institutions, is recognized by CGAP, SEEP network and donors worldwide. The tool is currently being developed to analyze financier’s internal systems and processes.”
As mentioned in the article, Oikocredit, one of the world’s largest sources of private funding to the microfinance sector, has recently released the results of it social audit results “to know that investments of some EUR 370 million lead to positive changes in the lives of the working poor.” You can have a glimpse of the audit results and read the article here. You can also visit their Website for a detailed analysis.