Connecting across continents at the RESULTS International Conference

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

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

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This article was originally posted by RESULTS on April 16, 2015. Re-posted with permission. KANCO, the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium, is a member of the ACTION global health advocacy partnership with RESULTS.

>>Authored by Joyce Matogo, KANCO Grassroots Manager.

“Connecting with other human beings about issues that affect human beings, you’re able to relate to these issues more closely…. When you step outside of your own continent and see other people who have good will, other people who care, it’s very empowering.”

I never thought I’d go to the U.S., much less Capitol Hill. But on the last day of the RESULTS International Conference, that’s exactly where I found myself. Standing in front of the Capitol dome with hundreds of other advocates, all I could think was, “This is a central place of power. Decisions are made here. And here I am, giving the human face to the vaccines issue.”

When I went back home to Kenya, I used the lessons that I learned at the conference to arrange an advocacy day and implement the RESULTS organizing model. I wanted grassroots volunteers in Kenya to feel the same sense of empowerment that I felt when I advocated in Washington. When our grassroots sat down with members of Parliament, they were well prepared to inform their MPs about the TB epidemic, explain the value of vaccines, and communicate a clear call to action.

Just like at the International Conference, our grassroots were ready to discuss not only problems but also solutions. Later that day, an MP that we’d spoken with brought our legislative ask on tuberculosis to the floor of Parliament. This prompted discussion on the deteriorating status of health in the country. The event was so successful that the Kenyan government expanded funding for immunizations and tuberculosis.

The RESULTS International Conference was an eye opener for me. I realized that anyone and everyone can be an advocate for issues that matter. I encourage you to come to the conference this year to see the success of our efforts. Let’s celebrate our incredible progress and encourage each other to keep going.

Want to have your own experience lobbying on Capitol Hill? Join RESULTS and attend the International Conference.

We are all lobbyists

RESULTS is hosting its 35th annual International Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington DC from July 18th to July 21st, featuring many leading poverty experts, activists. and policy makers.

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

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This article was originally posted by RESULTS on June 23, 2015. Re-posted with permission.

>>Authored by Susan Fleurant, 2015 RESULTS U.S. Poverty Campaigns Intern

I arrived in Washington, D.C. this summer for an internship at RESULTS with only the certainty of ceaseless heat and humidity and not fully knowing what else to expect. Then on June 9, I went to Capitol Hill and lobbied for the first time with Bread for the World, an anti-hunger organization. Lobbying is a word that carries with it a heavily negative connotation, a word that evokes images of wealthy businessmen persuading legislators one way or another. As a student pursuing a career in policy, I always said that I would never be a lobbyist, because I subscribed to this professional and negative definition of the word. While much of politics in the United States these days does involve the interests of wealthy corporations and professional lobbyists, the reality is that we can all be lobbyists.

It is easy to forget that Congress works for us, the voters. Our votes put people into office, and our votes can remove people from office. Yes, that oversimplifies the process, and while I acknowledge the role of campaign finance and special interests in both the campaign and legislative processes, citizens are not doing enough to change what has become the not-so-pleasant status quo of American politics. The truth is, the United States has abysmal voter turnout, yet a high percentage of the population complains about those in office and policy decisions that are made.

So what are we doing about it? Complaining to our neighbors and coworkers about the state of the nation will not move us in a new direction. We need to channel our concerns and our visions for the future of the country into positive civic engagement. We need to teach our children the importance of voting and the significance of civic engagement in maintaining a healthy democracy. As citizens of a representative democracy we have the opportunity to speak with our representatives whether through writing a letter, making a phone call, or scheduling an in-person meeting, and we must exercise these rights. Too few people take advantage of these opportunities, leaving lobbying to the groups that give the act its negative connotation. This lack of engagement is likely the result of a cynical view towards American politics in general paired with a lack of knowledge about the avenues available for engagement and correspondence. This is where educators and parents play a key role in providing the information from a young age about the variety of ways to engage in our democracy in order to demystify the process.

As I sat in a senator’s office on Capitol Hill speaking with a legislative advisor about why child nutrition programs are important, providing factual evidence paralleled with a personal story, I realized that I was a lobbyist, and it was perhaps one of the most democratic acts in which I could take part. I felt both empowered and perturbed. Empowered because I realized that I could lobby and make my voice heard on Capitol Hill, and perturbed because I did not understand why it took me this long to realize that. I feel lucky to have had this opportunity now before I carried on with a skewed idea of lobbying.

I think that government is too often presented as a separate entity to which average citizens do not have access, and this sentiment undermines democracy by leaving people uneducated about their ability to participate in the political system. Voting is often the extent of political participation for many people, and others do not even make it that far. It is time for us to reexamine our democracy and encourage active engagement through a variety of means. Lobbying is not just wealthy corporations and special interest groups; lobbying is citizens writing letters, making phone calls, and stopping by for visits. Get out there and lobby, trust me, it is empowering. You can make a difference. Share your concerns, describe your visions for the future, tell your personal stories, and make your voice heard. In the end, we are all lobbyists.

Want to have your own experience lobbying on Capitol Hill? Join RESULTS and attend the International Conference.

E-Workshop Recap: Helping Clients to Prepare for their Old Age

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On June 9th, the Microcredit Summit Campaign co-hosted with the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) an E-Workshop focusing on financial inclusion for the elderly. This is part of their 2014 Campaign Commitment to bring greater attention to the issue of aging and financial services and to further support the inclusion of those with disabilities. HelpAge International and Micro Pension Foundation helped make it a great discussion about opportunities for organizations (specifically microfinance institutions) to help clients prepare for their old age. The conversation looked both at the supply and demand sides of financial inclusion to better understand what is happening in clients’ lives and how best to approach these issues.

Watch the session recording:

Review the panelists’ slides:

Recap of the E-Workshop

Sonja Kelly from CFI introduced the focus of the session:

“Financial services needs change throughout the lifecycle, and if a client of microfinance services reaches their old age without having developed a plan to meeting their expense needs, it will be too late. Almost all participants in our webinar reported that they knew someone who had inadequately prepared for their older age. This common issue is one that microfinance can help to address by developing longer term savings products and pensions either in-house or through partnerships.”

Eppu Mikkonen-Jeanneret, head of policy at HelpAge International, began the discussion introducing the shift in populations and subsequently labor markets, noting that there are currently about 800 million people who are over 60 around the world. In 15 years, there will be over 1.3 billion people over the age of 60, of which 60 percent will live in low- and middle-income countries.

The common perception is that the 60 percent in low- and middle-income countries either will not save for their old age or lack the capacity to do so. However, the Global Findex report, which looks at the demand side data of financial inclusion, shows otherwise. According to the report, almost 25 percent of all adults say they have saved for old age in the past year — though it is predominately happening in high-income OECD countries and in East Asia and the Pacific. “Around 40 percent of adults in these two regions reported saving for old age, a far greater share than the roughly 10 percent who reported doing so in all other regions” (The Global Findex Database 2014, page 47).

Eppu explained that 18 percent of the pyramid base reported having saved for old age and 60 percent of the top. Sonja Kelly (CFI) noted that the question now is whether they are doing so in safe and secure mechanisms.

Eppu  expanded on this issue following the session, saying,
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“The world is in the middle of demographic sea change; the global population is growing older. This is a result of hugely successful development. We are healthier and better educated, we have less children and we live longer. As a result, in just 15 years the population of 60 years and over will increase from 800m to 1.3b. Far from being a developed country trend, aging is actually fastest in the low and middle income countries. Where it took the European countries over 100 years to transit to an aging population, countries like Bangladesh will do this in just a few decades. In fact, 60 percent of the 1.3 billion people will live in the developing countries.

“We know that people in developing countries continue to work into old age even though the type of work may change. Many work in the informal sector and women especially carry on providing unpaid labour at home. Yet our thinking is locked in outdated associations with people in the 60s onwards as somehow inherently, homogeneously vulnerable. It’s time we embrace the change and take action. Financial inclusion of people across the life course, facilitating social pensions, linking pensions with other financial instruments, and working closely with older women and men will help us all to adjust to the new world.”

Parul Khanna, associate director of projects for Micro Pension Foundation, continued the conversation. She noted this:

“Globally, rapid advancements in technology, telecommunications, and banking outreach have had a powerful impact on the ability of governments to deliver targeted fiscal transfers to the poor, including pension benefits to the elderly. Simultaneously, technology and telecom are reshaping financial services access and delivery, especially among low income excluded households. Most developing countries have a large young workforce, a predominantly informal labour market with modest incomes and savings capacities, a huge pension coverage gap, low banking and formal finance penetration, and limited capacity for large scale fiscal transfers.”

Parul presented their Gift-a-Pension project, which provides micropensions to low-income domestic workers, and she called on participants and readers to take action:
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“Can we do something for informal workers around us…[those] who touch our lives every day? Our maids, drivers, security guards or our washerwomen? Or the guy who we buy our bread from every day? Or our barbers? That seems feasible, right?

“For example, it is possible for you to imagine going home today, and spending just a few minutes with your maid or driver to tell them about the importance of saving for old age. And then spending just 10 minutes on the internet to open their own pension account for them? If your answer is yes, then you have within you the power to gift 20 years of a dignified old age to your maid or driver. And if all did this, we could collectively, as a civil society, change the lives of 40 million domestic help forever. Which, incidentally, is more than the total population of Canada.

It took India 6 years to get 3 million low-income people to start a pension account. If each of us go home today and gift a pension to just 1 excluded person in our lives, we could reach from 3 million to 43 million by this weekend!  After all, just 10 minutes of your time can change 20 years of someone else’s life. You can be the change! Try now with Gift-a-Pension.


Thank you to all panelists for contributing to this important conversation about the importance of saving for old age and how organizations can simplify the process for their clients. We also wish to thank all participants who submitted thought-provoking questions and comments to help make the session interactive!

Related resources:

Film on the micro pension model

About Gift-A-Pension


CFI launched a Campaign Commitment in 2014! We invite you also to…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Ultra Poor Graduation

PRA

Photo credit: BRAC

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>> Authored by Shameran Abed, Director, BRAC Microfinance Programme

Shameran Abed, BRAC’s Director of Microfinance, joined the Microfinance CEO Working Group in January. He and BRAC are welcome to additions to this collaboration. He joins the Working Group’s efforts to support the positive development of the microfinance industry and brings tremendous insigShameran Abedht into the discussion around pathways out of poverty.

This month, the results from six randomised controlled trials (RCTs), published in Science magazine highlighted a model of development that is an adaptable and exportable solution able to raise households from the worst forms of destitution and put them on to a pathway of self-reliance. The graduation approach — financial services integrated within a broader set of wrap-around services — is gaining steady recognition for its astonishing ability to transform the lives of the poorest.

These findings can be contrasted with the results of six RCTs published in January by the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, which cited limited evidence of “microcredit” transforming the lives of the poor.

In many ways, that was not surprising. There is only so much that microcredit alone can do to address a phenomenon as complex as poverty, especially within the rather short, 18-month timeframe of a research project. This partly explains the diversification most financial service providers have made into savings, microinsurance, financial education, and other models of financial inclusion that integrate different development services.

While the transformative effects of microcredit alone — or even microfinance — remain up for debate, it is now clear that access to savings and credit provided together with other wrap-around services not only provides a viable pathway out of poverty for the poor, they do so for the very poorest!

Following 30 years of work in building livelihoods for the poor, largely through microfinance and agricultural extension, BRAC learnt the hard way that we were not making effective poverty reduction gains for those most in need. We were consistently failing to reach the millions of households at the very bottom.

Classified as the “ultra poor,” this sub-segment of the extreme poor, who live on less than USD 0.80 per day, fail to meet their daily energy requirements, are chronically ill, and live on the fringes of society. In these circumstances where basic needs are unmet, microfinance alone can do little to provide a pathway out of poverty.

In 2002, BRAC developed a model designed to create livelihoods for the ultra-poor in a way that also addressed the other dimensions of abject poverty creating barriers to their development. Capitalising on our previous social safety net programme experience, BRAC’s Targeting the Ultra Poor programme (the basis of the graduation approach) combined asset transfer with livelihood development and social support.

GradBlogGraphic

For two years, clients receive an integrated package of cash stipends, an asset (such as a cow or chickens) with training, and basic healthcare. Early into the programme, clients cultivate strong savings behaviour, and learn the basics of financial management. The programme also includes a large social component: regular household visits from our staff and integration in the community.

Notably, the model in Bangladesh does integrate microcredit for some clients; 70 percent of the graduates in Bangladesh actually received their assets as “soft loans,” which they repay over the course of two years.

The results have been remarkable. Since 2002, 95 percent of the 1.4 million clients who have come through this programme have graduated from ultra-poverty. The programme is costly in one sense, because it’s grant-based and financially unsustainable, but the social returns are high and extend well beyond the end of the intervention period.  An RCT has shown that even years after members graduate, most continue to experience growth in their household income and well being.

The achievements of ultra-poor graduation are even greater because this is not a success story limited to Bangladesh. An initiative led by CGAP and the Ford Foundation sought to test the replicability of the BRAC model by piloting it in several contexts internationally.

The RCT results published in Science, which covered pilots in India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras and Peru, show definitively that they were successful. In all six of the countries studied, all treatment households witnessed significant improvements across a range of indicators that continued beyond the end of their programmes. Today, the graduation approach is continuing to break ground with a range of other actors that include microfinance providers, multilateral agencies, NGOs (e.g. Fundacion Capital, UNHCR, Concern Worldwide) as well as governments looking to improve costly social safety net programmes that protect the poor from destitution, but fail to put them on a ladder out of poverty.

As a sector that has come under fire for failing to make conspicuous reductions in poverty, the success of ultra-poor graduation carries notable implications for the role that financial services can play in putting millions onto pathways out of extreme poverty.

One is a lesson to microfinance providers that, actually, the extreme poor can be extremely credit worthy – once the initial investment is made. Indeed, some of BRAC’s most reliable and disciplined microfinance clients are graduates from our ultra-poor programme. Microfinance institutions may not be the ones to make that investment, but they can help ensure that “graduates” of such programmes have a bridge that transitions them from ultra-poverty into mainstream microfinance.

Secondly, this model shows that financial services, when integrated within a broader set of wrap-around services, is unquestionably transformational, even for those in the most desperate forms of poverty.

Critics will likely ask, which are the most crucial elements? Is it financial access that is making wrap-around services transformational, or is it the wrap-around services that make financial access transformational?

The answer is most likely some combination of the two, but so long as this interaction is producing these results, I am satisfied in knowing that access to financial services remains a vital ingredient in the solution to extreme poverty.


Shameran Abed is the director of the BRAC microfinance programme, which serves more than five million clients in seven countries in Asia and Africa, and has total assets exceeding USD 1 billion.

Starting its work in the early 1970s, BRAC was one of the earliest known organisations to use the modern microfinance model of lending small amounts to groups of women. Working alongside several other development programmes, the success of the microfinance programme supported BRAC in its growth to be the largest development organisation in the world in terms of staff numbers.

Mr Abed also serves on the boards of BRAC Bank’s mobile financial services subsidiary, bKash, and Guardian Life Insurance. Additionally, he sits on the Microfinance Network Steering Committee and the World Economic Forum Financial Inclusion Steering Committee. Prior to joining BRAC, Mr Abed was a journalist and wrote primarily on political issues.

Mr Abed is a lawyer by training, having been made a barrister by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in London, UK. He completed his undergraduate studies at Hamilton College in the United States, majoring in economics and minoring in political science.


BRAC launched a Campaign Commitment in 2014! We invite you also to…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty:

MicroLoan Foundation commits to reach the poorest women

Photo courtesy of MicroLoan Foundation

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes MicroLoan Foundation as the newest Campaign Commitment maker, joining a global coalition of 51 other commitment makers working to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. The Microcredit Summit Campaign’s 100 Million Project is building a movement among financial service stakeholders committed to helping to end extreme poverty through: public statements of commitment to action, expanding practices to reliably measure movement out of extreme poverty, and promoting innovations and best practices to accelerate movement out of poverty.

“At the MicroLoan Foundation,” said Peter Ryan, founder and CEO, “we’re committed to ongoing innovation and learning in our mission to reach the poorest women and enable them to move out of poverty. This project is all about responding to client needs with products and services that enable them to overcome difficulties and improve their standard of living.”

MicroLoan Foundation’s mission is to work with the poorest women and enable them and their families to move out of poverty. MicroLoan Foundation commits by the end of 2016, to successfully complete a pilot program in two Malawi branches and one Zambia branch involving 2,700 clients enabling improved client outcomes due to the following:

  • Streamlined products which meet the needs of the poorest clients (living under $1.25/day) as well as more experienced business women who wish to grow their business
  • Improved access to savings for emergencies and planned costs
  • Improved support to vulnerable clients including formal rescheduling of loans
  • Standardization of pre-disbursement and follow up training using adult learning methodologies

Daniella Hawkins, social performance manager, explains their intent:

“MicroLoan Foundation’s mission is to work with the poorest women and enable them and their families to move out of poverty. As early as 2010 when we started using the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) in Malawi, we realised that we could be reaching poorer clients, those living under $1.25/day. We therefore designed a pro-poor loan product which improved our poverty outreach dramatically: data from 2011 showed that 74.6% of clients accessing this pro-poor loan product were under the $1.25/day poverty line, compared to 51.7% of our clients on average. This learning has informed our current pilot, which integrates the pro-poor loan product into a suite of our other products, streamlining our services and allowing clients on different loans in the same group. This will ensure that poorer clients with less business experience learn from our more experienced clients.

Clients who are not able to save ahead of receiving their first loan will qualify for this pro-poor loan. The importance of saving is highlighted to all our clients, and all will be encouraged to save if they want to receive a larger loan, but clients on the pro-poor product will not need to save as much in order to access a loan size increase. Increases are strictly limited to ensure that clients are not over-indebted, and at any sign that any clients are experiencing problems making repayments or savings, a one-on-one meeting with their loan officer will take place so that s/he understands the problem and can facilitate the appropriate supportive response. Clients who have had problems making repayments and/or savings are identified as vulnerable and will not be eligible for a loan size increase.”

Here are the different products offered by MicroLoan Foundation:

  1. Level 1, which is aimed at clients living on less than $1.25/day and/or clients who have never done business: the pro-poor loan product with fewer savings requirements; small loan sizes (maximum first loan is $25).
  2. Level 2, which is aimed at slightly better off clients and/or clients who have done business before: slightly larger starting loan sizes (maximum first loan is $90) and higher savings requirements for clients who want to increase their loan sizes in the next loan cycle.
  3. Level 3, which is aimed at clients with slightly larger, more established businesses: larger loan sizes than Level 2 (initial loan upon graduation to this level is $180) and the option for clients to repay on a monthly basis; the same savings requirements as Level 2 for clients who wish to increase their loan sizes next loan cycle.

The Campaign looks forward to welcoming this new partner in the global coalition and sharing their progress towards the Commitment achievement at the 18th Microcredit Summit in 2015.

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MicroLoan Foundation

MicroLoan Foundation (MLF) helps some of the poorest women in the world feed their families, send their children to school, and pay for life saving medicines. By providing small loans (on average £60) and ongoing business training and support, MLF empowers women in rural Malawi and Zambia to set up self-sustainable businesses. The profits from these businesses enable the women to work themselves and their families out of poverty.


We invite you to join MicroLoan Foundation and…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty:

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.

Speakers:

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

Moderator:

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.

Looking Back at 2014, the Year of Resilience

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>>By Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Larry visits a CARD group in Tacloban

Larry visits a CARD group in Tacloban whose members are rebuilding with the help of CARD’s quick and appropriate response to the Typhoon Yolanda disaster.

I started 2014 in Tacloban, Philippines, where one of the worst storms of this century, Typhoon Yolanda (or Haiyan outside the Philippines), made landfall. I visited Tacloban 75 days after the Typhoon hit to see how the storm affected the lives of microfinance clients, and what role financial services could play in helping them get back on their feet.

In the Central Business District only a few shops had dared to reopen. The dangling power lines and intermittent electricity made regular operations a challenge.

When I traveled to the parts of town where people lived in poverty, I found something much worse. Yolanda struck these low lying areas the hardest, hit them first with her 100 mph winds and then with the storm surge that followed in her wake, uprooting everything that was not permanently attached to the ground and then carrying it out to sea as the waters receded.

Homes and everything in them had been taken away, so people rebuilt with scrap lumber and sheets of plastic. They established homes and businesses again, selling daily necessities from the side of their rebuilt houses.

A mix of charity and financial services played a key role in helping people get back on their feet. Aid organizations employed people to help clean their neighborhoods and the rest of the city, giving them daily cash wages.

Microfinance institutions like CARD and ASKI got back into the city as soon as they could, providing rice and medicines for their clients’ immediate needs, while also paying insurance claims, providing access to savings and issuing emergency rebuilding loans long before any commercial banks restarted operations.

I came away with great admiration for the strength and resilience developed by those that live with constant vulnerability and an appreciation that the role that fast and appropriate financial services, delivered with a human touch, can have in catalyzing that energy to rapidly rebuild destroyed neighborhoods.

In August of this year, I visited another great example of resilience, this one over a decade in the making. Several government ministries in Ethiopia banded together under the leadership of the Prime Minister to design a program that would build resiliency in the land and the people that regularly suffered from drought. International aid organizations united behind this plan that now covers over 5 million people.

With support from the MasterCard Foundation, the Campaign hosted a trip for government ministers and leaders of government anti-poverty programs from Ghana, Mozambique, and Malawi to visit this Productive Safety Net Program (PNSP) in Ethiopia.

Participants of the Innovations in Social Protection project

Participants of the Innovations in Social Protection project on a field visit in Ethiopia.

Under the PNSP, people living in poverty who are not able to work (the elderly, the disabled, and mothers with young children) receive regular cash payments in exchange for maintaining regular health checkups and keeping their children in school.

Those who can work participate in local public works programs decided on by the leadership of each village. These projects can include expanding school facilities and building health clinics; although, most of them involve work that improves the productive capacity of the land.

With technical support from NGOs with highly trained professional on staff, the villagers work together to build dams, retention ponds, irrigation channels and hillside terraces. They receive the payment for their work in accounts set up in local banks or microfinance institutions, which also provide loans to help them expand businesses that profit from the land’s increase productivity.

Those who started the program with the greatest poverty participate in an ultra-poor graduation programs that provides them with an asset transfer, a savings account, business training, mentoring, and access to credit.

We visited at the end of the rainy season, and we could easily see the transformation that the PNSP had brought to the land and its people. We looked down a valley filled with tall green plants, with every hillside terraced and water flowing into dams and ponds that would provide irrigation after the rains stopped. Land that used to struggle to provide one crop now provided two or three crops a year.

Almost a quarter of the people who had started with this public assistance program now no longer needed it. I tried to imagine what it must feel like for the men and women working together on the hillside, digging a retention pond together, to look down the hill and see every part of the valley filled with green plants that would provide food for their animals and income for their livelihoods and to know that, not only were they and their children better off, but their entire community was better off because of the work they had done.

In September, we helped to assemble almost 900 people from 60 different countries in Merida, Mexico, for the 17th Microcredit Summit. As we gathered in the land of the ancient Maya who envisaged a new world coming into being at this time, we imagined a world where all people have access to financial products and services they need to protect against vulnerability and invest in opportunity.

Opening Ceremony - Prof Yunus_453x604

“Poor people didn’t create poverty. It’s the system that created the poverty. And, if we want to end poverty, we have to change the system.”

Muhammad Yunus issued the challenge for the Summit in his opening talk. “Poor people didn’t create poverty. It’s the system that created the poverty,” he told us. “And, if we want to end poverty, we have to change the system.”

During our 5 plenary sessions and 40 workshops, we heard from innovative thinkers and doers who are working to change the system. We discussed ideas and formed partnerships to begin or expand innovative programs that link conditional cash transfers to savings groups; extend agricultural value chains to small scale producers; provide health education, financing, and services in group meetings of microfinance clients; and employ digital technology that delivers payments and other financial services at a fraction of the cost of moving cash.

Together we made Commitments for what we would do to help extend financial services to all and help speed the end of extreme poverty. Then we closed by celebrating the real heroes of this work: the men and women who employ these services in order to earn and save enough to provide for their families and build a better future for their children.

I just completed my last trip of the year to the Inclusive Finance India Summit and saw a different type of resilience on display. Microfinance institutions in India have been devastated by the Andhra Pradesh crisis, where rapid growth in lending led to over-borrowing, client defaults, and a harsh response from the state government that halted collection efforts.

The sector is now growing rapidly again, enough that a few observers are worried that there may be some areas of overheating in the state of Karnataka, where many MFIs have moved.

Almost all the delegates I spoke with expressed excitement about new regulations announced by the Reserve Bank of India, which create a category of Small Finance Bank that can take deposits and make loans. The regulations also create a new category of Payments Bank to allow for institutions that make money from payment transaction, rather than from intermediating savings and credit.

A local community health volunteer trained and supervised by Bandhan, an Indian MFI, meets with members of a local self-help group and their families. (Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson)

A local community health volunteer trained and supervised by Bandhan, an Indian MFI, meets with members of a local self-help group and their families. (Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson)

In a dinner session I had with leaders from MFIs, I heard a lot of discussion about how they might transform their operations under these new regulations to provide a broader ranges of services to their clients. It will be interesting to watch this period of creative destruction that will take place in India as MFIs, mobile phone operators, and banks all adapt to the new regulations. I was glad to hear in our dinner the creativity and passion of many leaders to use these new opportunities to expand the services they provide to those living in poverty.

And now, as the year comes to a close, so does news of another Super Typhoon hitting the Philippines. This time, people knew about the power of storm surges and moved to higher ground before the storm struck, resulting in a much lower loss of life.

But still, thousands of people will go back to where they lived and find their houses and businesses destroyed. The fortunate ones will find an officer of a microfinance institution waiting for them, asking them what they need to get back on their feet.

On behalf of everyone at the Microcredit Summit Campaign, thank you for taking an active role in this global movement to bring appropriate financial services to those who struggle against poverty and vulnerability. It is our great honor and privilege to be working with you as we join with others to help bring an end to extreme poverty in our towns, our countries and our world.

May you be filled this holiday season with joy as you share the love of your family and reflect on the new financial system that we are creating together.

Sincerely,

Larry Reed

The 100 Million Project: Commitment to Action at the Summit

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Participant writing on the Wall

A  Summit participant writes on the Commitments Wall

Where to find Commitments at the Summit?

The 17th Microcredit Summit in Mérida was a huge success, bringing together some 1000 people from 75 countries and featuring 162 speakers and presenters in 7 plenary sessions and 35 workshops. Throughout sessions delegates had the opportunity to hear about the Campaign Commitments their colleagues from other organizations weremaking ahead of the Summit. Launched in 2013 with 18 original Commitments, we celebrated together the 36 new organizations joining them now 2014. Many present were inspired to become leaders in the movement as well and joined (or reaffirmed their role in the Campaign) by stating their own at the Commitment Café. Join them by making your own Campaign Commitment to action! Write to mycommitment@microcreditsummit.org or visit our Online Commitment Form.

Full Commitment wall

51 organizations, including Plan International, the Rotary and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection from Ghana, wrote on the Commitment Wall.

Throughout the Summit, around 200 attendees visited the Commitment Café every day and 51 new Commitments were written on the Commitment Wall. The Café and the Wall were the gathering area for Summit delegates to join the Campaign, by stating their Commitment to actions that contribute to the global movement to end extreme poverty. There, they had the opportunity to meet with Commitment coaches who helped them form their Commitments. Commitment Makers then posted their actions on the Commitment Wall – creating a dramatic and inspiring range of actors and actions that will help move the industry toward ending extreme poverty.

Commitment Coach

A Commitment Coach is helping a Summit Participant to state her Commitment at the Cafe.

At the Closing Plenary, Summit delegates together with Mohammad Yunus, Larry Reed, John Hatch and Carmen Velasco celebrated the efforts of all Committed Organizations. We particularly acknowledged the 12 organizations who met their 2013 Commitment. The 36 Commitments announced in 2014 were also applauded and represent a great step towards galvanizing the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of poverty.

What Commitment Makers say about Campaign Commitments

During the Summit, we conducted interviews with representatives from Commitment Makers to learn more about their Commitment. They shared with us their own Commitments, their current progress on those actions and also told us why it is important for their organization to join the movement to end extreme poverty.

Yves Moury,  Founder and CEO, Fundación Capital (see his short Interview at the Video Corner here)

“We need massive alliances among all sectors of civil society. We invite governments, banks, private companies, civil society institutions to join us for the magnificent objective of ending extreme poverty by 2030.”

Anne Hastings, Microfinance CEO Working Group (see her short interview at the Video Corner here)

“I am here at the Summit because the 8 CEOs I represent have made Commitments. We are here to learn what we can about partnerships that we need to be building and how to collaborate better with the rest of the sector. The challenge for the microfinance sector today is to demonstrate results and especially results in reaching and assisting the extremely poor to get out of poverty.”

William Maddocks,  Program Director, Sustainable Microenterprise and Development , Carsey School of Public Policy

“We want to be part of this Campaign. Making this commitment is an opportunity for us to tell more people about what we do and to support the work of the Campaign. We want our voice to be a part of this Campaign.”

Closing Ceremony: we celebrated 2013 and 2014 Commitments.

Closing Ceremony: we celebrated 2013 and 2014 Commitments. Click here to see all Committed organizations.

Jared Penner,  Head of the Education Division Child and Youth Finance International: “Commitments are made within a community of believers that think this is something incredibly important to advance the industry and these targets give us something to really aspire towards. They are not legally-binding commitments, but there is something that allows us to keep each other accountable and see how things are advancing within our own operations.”


What you can do today

Domestic Violence and Microfinance: What Is Our Role as Financial Service Providers?

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Originally posted on Center for Financial Inclusion Blog:
> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research and Evaluation Specialist, Freedom from Hunger Embed from Getty Images The day after the closing of the Microcredit Summit in Merida, Mexico, conference participants were also invited…

Join us for an E-Workshop on Gender Performance on Tuesday, Nov 11th

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Learn how the Gender Performance Indicators will help you track and improve gender performance. Continue reading

Microfinance communities working together to improve maternal health

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1700+ women attended a two-day community health fair in the Philippines got a checkup, learned about pre- and post-natal care, and more! EspañolFrançais Continue reading

Concrete Steps to Managing Social Performance: SPTF’s Campaign Commitment

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Learn about SPTF’s progress on their 2013 Commitment as well as how they are working towards the end of extreme poverty EspañolFrançais Continue reading

Improving Maternal Health in the Philippines Through Microfinance

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Collaborating on a cross-sectoral program to help achieve MDG 5 in the Philippines EspañolFrançais Continue reading

How Savings and Retail Banks Can Bring an End to Extreme Poverty

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Register for the 17th Microcredit Summit today!

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

The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) 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 WSBI to learn about the progress they’ve made on their Commitment and the ways they are working towards the end of extreme poverty.


logo_wsbi_new_quadri-300x150The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) represents the interests of approximately 7,000 savings and retail banking institutions in 90 countries. It focuses on issues of global importance and supports the aims of the G20 in achieving sustainable, inclusive and balanced growth and job creation worldwide. WSBI favours an inclusive form of globalisation that is just and fair, supporting international efforts to advance financial access and financial usage for everyone. It supports a diversified range of financial services that responsibly meet customers’ transaction, saving and borrowing needs.

WSBI has long been committed to alleviating poverty via financial inclusion. In fact, WSBI member institutions rank financial inclusion as the most important international policy topic. At last November’s Microcredit Summit, WSBI made two Commitments for 2014:

  • To study youth markets to better identify successful strategies for inclusive financial products and services, focusing on four key areas – usability, affordability, accessibility and sustainability – and seek to publish a summary of preliminary outcomes by the end of 2014.
  • To hold with partners and member banks at least three events to share knowledge about appropriate pricing research in Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam, and its implications for offering savings products for the poor.

WSBI is indeed on track to fulfill these Commitments. Regarding the first Commitment, we have begun a study into the youth markets of Morocco’s Al Barid Bank and Kenya Post Office Savings Bank, in order to better understand the financial habits of people aged 15 to 24.

Regarding the second Commitment, since last November WSBI has delivered workshops at the European Investment Bank and the WSBI African Regional Group Meeting, a “mobile banking as good as mobile money” workshop for the Association of Savings Banks of East Africa (ASBEA) and the WSBI Asia Regional Group Meeting, and a webinar for the Swiss government’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). We will hold another event at WSBI’s General Assembly in San Salvador on July 3rd and 4th.

WSBI 1

Poorest Four Countries (78 Million Adults)

But these two commitments are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to WSBI’s overall dedication to financial inclusion. For example, over the past five years, WSBI has worked on a major financial inclusion programme with member banks in the ten countries mentioned in the second commitment above. Apart from project implementation, the core goals of the program were to articulate and disseminate lessons learned to a variety of stakeholders.

One of our first tasks was to scope and scale the target markets, from which we learned that the unbanked poor were the big open market space. The challenge was to understand exactly who the unbanked are, what they need, and how much they can afford to pay to meet their needs. As we broke down the target markets by type of unbanked adult, we learned quickly that demographics matter hugely, and that the young “third adult” in households (aged between 15-24) made up a very significant proportion of unbanked households.

WSBI 2

Three Best-off Countries (220 Million Adults)

While we had a good idea about the financial habits of young people in the poorest countries that we work in–in one form or other they seek to contribute to the family budget–in the better off countries, we could find no research about the financial habits of the 42% of the unbanked population that are young.

Therefore, our Microcredit Summit Campaign Commitments not only contribute directly to the goals of our financial inclusion program but also help to fulfill our high level mission of increasing financial access and financial usage for everyone.

What’s more, empirical evidence at micro-economic, local economic, and macro-economic levels supports the conviction that financial inclusion helps poor households improve their lives and spur economic activity. WSBI’s Marrakech Declaration goal of “an account for everyone” is also fully consistent with the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s goals.

We are actively seeking funding to extend our financial inclusion program to other countries, to work with local social structures–such as village savings and loan associations–and to take  advantage of technology (mobile banking) and innovative techniques (data analytics) that help member banks to develop more customer-centric approaches.


Join WSBI in stating YOUR Campaign Commitment

Fostering Access to Agricultural Financial Products: FAO’s Commitment

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We are pleased to present this guest post from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization covering much of the outstanding work they are engaged in, in pursuit of their recent Campaign Commitment.

For the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the topic of financial inclusion is of the utmost relevance. Enabling the rural population to access a wide set of financial services that meet their needs and help them accomplish their aspirations is one of the several important conditions required to attain sustainable agricultural development and food security. This is why as part of FAO’s Agribusiness and Finance Group, we are thrilled to have made a Microcredit Summit Campaign Commitment to join forces with a vast network of organizations working to expand the delivery of financial services to those underserved population segments in the developing world.

We are happy to bring our focus on smallholder households and the rural small and medium enterprises they participate in. This target group represents a financially under served clientele of about 475 million households. Various estimates 1made derive from the World Census of Agriculture, which FAO has been helping Governments around the world to implement since 1950. For an interesting reference on this subject, click here.

Both the development and business case of enabling sustainable financial services to smallholder households has never been stronger. On the one hand, mounting evidence shows how growth in agriculture, enabled through greater finance and investment in the sector, reduces extreme poverty significantly more than growth in the non-agricultural sector in the context of least developed countries. On the other hand, world agricultural markets have been booming, mainly because of the rise of a middle class in developing countries that demand various agricultural products. This has created new agribusiness opportunities that hold the potential to greatly benefit the rural poor. But this opportunity will not become a reality unless we figure out how to solve those challenges limiting the delivery of rural financial services, which should include credit, insurance and savings.

Given the prominent role of agriculture in rural areas and its development and business potential, we at FAO have been focusing on fostering broad access to agricultural financial products, as part of the mixed bundle of financial services required by the rural poor. For this we are leveraging on the presence in over 143 countries of the CABFIN partners, which includes FAO, IFAD, GIZ, UNCDF and the World Bank. Our current work plan includes the screening of innovations led by pioneer organizations around the world that have been able to design and sustainably deliver different agricultural financial products for smallholder households, enabling them to exploit rising opportunities in the agricultural sector and improve their incomes, food security and nutrition. We are in the process of analyzing these innovations to draw evidence-based training toolkits on how financial institutions, Governments and agricultural value chain actors can join forces to effectively scale them up and make them more inclusive of the rural poor. This means solving challenges in the supply and demand side of rural finance. You can see some of the training material we have developed over the years here. These new findings will be disseminated through the Rural Finance Learning Centre, the largest on-line multi-language gateway specialized in the topic of rural and agricultural finance, hosting policy guidance, training guides, news and events produced by development finance practitioners from all over the world.

FAO and the CABFIN partners look forward to sharing these new insights as part of the campaign commitments made. We hope to provide intervention alternatives that recognize the leading role of agricultural value chain actors with important advantages related to client information; promote efficient ways for financial institutions to partner with them and develop more flexible and feasible financial products; make use of modern MIS and telecommunication technologies to enable product delivery, and put in place more effective policies that encourage wider and deeper exposure of the financial systems in rural areas.