Six learning opportunities for the “Six Pathways”

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>>Authored by William Maddocks, director of the Sustainable Microfinance and Development Program (SMDP) at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy

New scrutiny has focused on what microfinance can’t do, and the evidence is growing that microfinance, de-linked from a social change paradigm, is simply another way to provide basic financial services to people historically excluded by the market. The new theme for the Microcredit Summit Campaign for 2015 of “financial inclusion to end extreme poverty” and the Six Pathways show promise in getting us there and can succeed in challenging extreme poverty if social change and equity are embedded as core values by those who fund, design, and implement these strategies.

These six pathways promoted by the Microcredit Summit Campaign touch on many of areas of the Carsey School of Public Policy’s current work. Using each pathway as a prompt, we will take a brief look at these themes and how you can get involved and learn more.

The Six Pathways

1) Mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities and other technological innovations

The SMDP New Hampshire Certificate 2015 in June will feature a session facilitated by Joyce Lehman, formerly with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on branchless banking and the Digital Revolution. If the infographic from Kenya tells us anything (below), it’s that digital financial services are growing exponentially beyond just transfers and remittances to group savings & loans, agricultural inputs insurance, water services, off-grid lighting, and more. Come to New Hampshire, USA, this summer to learn about this exciting frontier of financial inclusion from the unique perspective of a former donor who worked on the ground floor of paving the digital finance highway.

Infographic: Kenya's journey to digital financial inclusion

Kenya’s journey to digital financial inclusion (by Simone di Castri and Lara Gidvani – July 2013)
Source: GSMA

2) Ultra-poor graduation programs

Jan Maes, who has worked in designing graduation programs with Trickle Up and other organizations, will present findings during the SMDP New Hampshire Certificate on the effectiveness and challenges of using these strategies to move the ultra-poor into self-sufficiency.

3) Microfinance savings and/or borrowing groups linked with health education, health financing, and health product delivery

Kathleen Stack, vice president of programs for Freedom from Hunger, will make a virtual presentation at the SMDP NH on Microfinance and Health Protection (MAHP) initiatives that they are implementing with our friends, CARD MRI in the Philippines and the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and in other locations. Read more about the project, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, and how these three organizations, with the support of Johnson & Johnson, are helping address maternal and child health needs.

Photo courtesy of the Carsey School of Public Policy

Photo courtesy of the Carsey School of Public Policy

4) Agricultural value chains that reach to small-scale producers

Understanding markets is more than just knowing about products. The field of inclusive market development is moving from the linear value chain approach, to applying a systems approach that looks for, and adapts to, feedback from the system. Carsey has just launched SMDP Online and one of our first courses, “Understanding and Adapting to Complex Markets” will help practitioners understand complex adaptive systems and apply these concepts to their current work. SMDP Online course facilitator Mary Morgan, with more than 20 years of experience in development, promises a challenging and very practical learning experience for market development professionals.

5) Savings groups (aka village savings and loans associations)

One of the most promising strategies for reaching people that commercial microfinance has failed to reach are savings groups (SGs). Today more than 10 million people use SGs for saving, lending, building financial security, and social capital. Carsey has been a leader in savings groups training and learning events for several years and continues to expand opportunities to learn about this growing area of financial inclusion.

The SMDP Online will offer a blended course, “Savings Groups: Building Scale and Impact through Adaptation and Experimentation,” facilitated by Nanci Lee. This course will meet online for several months and then face-to-face in Lusaka, Zambia, during the SMDP Zambia, which occurs right before the next global gathering of SG practitioners, donors, researchers, and others at the SG 2015 conference also in Lusaka from November 10 to 12.

The lock box of a savings group in Africa

The lock box of a savings group in Africa
Photo courtesy of the Carsey School of Public Policy

6) Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) linked with mobile delivery and asset building

Reaching as many as 129 million people worldwide, CCTs work at a scale that few other anti-poverty programs can reach. Governments working with visionary partners like Fundación Capital can roll out programs that provide support, change social norms, and make a measurable impact on improving the lives of poor families. In the Dominican Republic, Fundación Capital has partnered with the Government’s ProSoli program and Banco ADOPEM and Banco Pyme BHD to connect savings groups with a CCT voucher program and bank linkages.

You can learn about this exciting pilot program by watching Jong Hyon Shin, Fundación Capital’s country project coordinator for the Dominican Republic, and her former professor (and Carsey Fellow) Jeffrey Ashe. (Watch the SEEP Network’s Taking Savings Groups on the Road Webinar Series.)

Relevant resources

E-workshop Takeaways: “How to Build Savings Groups and Other Breakthroughs in Financial Inclusion”

SfC Group in Mali_607x272

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As part of their 2014 Campaign Commitment, Carsey School of Public Policy co-hosted a learning event on Thursday, December 11th with us to share the value of starting and scaling up savings groups. William Maddocks (Carsey School of Public Policy) facilitated an engaging discussion, featuring Jong-Hyon Shin (Fundación Capital in the  Dominican Republic), and Jeffrey Ashe (The Carsey School of Public Policy).

We would like to thank the panelists as well as the E-workshop attendees, especially those who participated to the Q&A session. We invite you to comment on this post to continue the discussion about savings groups and other breakthroughs financial inclusion. Please click on the links below to explore the session content.


RESOURCES

Listen to the E-Workshop RECORDING

Have a look at the E-Workshop SLIDES

Review the E-Workshop QUESTIONS


Savings groups picture Eworkshop

A savings group replication agent trains a new group. She is using the all-oral curriculum which makes it possible for communities with low or no literacy levels to create and run a savings group with complete autonomy.

Summary of the E-Workshop

The E-workshop focused on two main issues:

  1. A 2-hour training method to create new savings groups
  2. The link between savings groups and conditional cash transfers.

Jong-Hyon presented her own experience in the Dominican Republic, and Jeff talked about the takeaways from his research in West Africa.

The live discussion with participants also touched on a wide range of topics, including the benefits and challenges of youth savings groups, the role of religious institutions in supporting the savings group movement, and the benefits of bank linkages for both the commercial banks and savings groups members. Check out the full recording of the session available here.


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A youth savings group in Mali. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Ashe.

 Takeaways from the panelists

 

Jong-Hyon Shin (Fundación Capital) : Group quality: 2 hour vs classic VSLA?

Without doubt, the groups trained by classical VSLA enjoy higher quality than the groups trained in 2 hours. There are 2-hour groups saving as much as the conventional groups, but it is true that the group quality is not even, while the conventional groups demonstrate rather consistent performance. 2-hour training can get the groups to start saving, but it’s not enough to build a strong group. I believe that a group should have at least 3-5 subsequent monitoring visits in its first cycle. This is why I am working with PROSOLI, Dominican Republic’s CCTs, in which the group members will have a periodic visits from their trainers. Another measure to complement 2-hour training is to pay attention to the selection of members. When the members are sufficiently interested, and there is a mutual trust within the group, chances for subsequent intervention drops dramatically. In sum, it is ideal to have groups trained by costly and labor intensive conventional methodology, but if we are to achieve the scale, simple training may not be an undesirable option.

Jeff Ashe (Author of In Their Own Hands: how Savings Groups are revolutionizing development)

Two and a half billion people worldwide need a better way to save and borrow. Savings groups provide an alternative, safe and convenient place to save and easy access to small loans; an approach to mitigating poverty that is uniquely scalable because it is based on catalyzing the capacity of people to mobilize their own resources with only transitory outside help. The cost: a dollar per person and trending downward as what is learned in one village spreads virally to neighboring villages. Within ten years, savings groups with 100 million members could improve the lot of the poor in a million villages, at a cost of less than one percent of what these countries will receive in foreign aid. The extraordinary growth, success and durability of savings groups are due to following these principles:

  • Start with a vision of scale and design for viral replication – multiple groups in thousands of villages in a single country
  • Less is more, and the simpler the better
  • Build on what is already in place
  • Be sustainable – 89% of groups worldwide are saving and lending without outside support
  • No giveaways – giveaways keep control in our hands, not theirs
  • Keep costs low – the problems of poverty are vast
  • Insist on local control, the key to building skills and lowering costs.
  • Embrace learning and innovation

Are savings groups the silver bullet for eradicating poverty? No development effort can deliver on that promise – but savings groups are perhaps the best and most practical place to begin. The strategy of savings groups is based on an awareness that good ideas spread as they always have: through talking with neighbors and helping one another. We will judge ourselves successful when development passes from our hands to theirs.

SfC Savings Groups Mali (June 2010)

The map of the Savings for Change (SfC) program shows the rapid expansion of savings groups in Mali over the last 6 years. Red dots are groups 5-6 years, yellow is 3-4 years, and green are groups only 1-2 years old. SfC is a program run in partnership by Oxfam America and Freedom from Hunger.

To learn more about savings groups, we invite you to read Jeff’s book (In Their Own Hands) and Jong’s blog.


E-Workshops are hosted by the 100 Million Project of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and strive to feature the work of organizations who have announced Campaign Commitments to take specific, measurable and time-bound actions that demonstrate their commitment to the end of extreme poverty. 

Join Fundación Capital and the Carsey School of Public Policy in the global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. State your Campaign Commitment today by contacting us at mycommitment@microcreditsummit.org.

A Comprehensive Approach to Helping the Poor Lift Themselves out of Poverty

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Partnerships against Poverty Summit Banner with logos

Going the Extra Mile: From Safety Nets to Pathways out of Poverty
Track: Partnerships Targeting the Vulnerable
Date: Thursday, October 10th
Time: 9:00 – 10:30 AM

Going the Extra Mile_Picture _Roshaneh Zafar_288x360

Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director, Kashf Foundation

Partnerships between financial institutions, governments, and social welfare programs are essential for empowering the extreme poor reduce vulnerability and gain self-sufficiency. Moderating the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit plenary session “Going the Extra Mile: From Safety Nets to Pathways out of Poverty,” Roshaneh Zafar of the Kashf Foundation (Pakistan) noted that “poverty is a complex matter. We need multiple solutions, we need synergy, we need leverageability, we need scalability; and we all need to work together and do much more.”

The discussion opened with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) of the Philippines Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Juliano-Soliman, who told of their “convergence strategy,” a means to help beneficiaries graduate and stay out poverty through conditional cash transfer (CCT) community-driven development and sustainable livelihoods converging. Through this program, they also partner with microfinance institutions to provide credit to clients that need larger loans than DSWD provides (10,000 pesos, or approximately $230).

Juan Borga (Inter-American Development Bank) and Secretary Soliman

Juan Borga (Inter-American Development Bank) and Secretary Soliman

Juan Borga of the Inter-American Development Bank shared their efforts toward poverty reduction. Working mostly with conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs, they are trying to create a system that creates a relationship between the recipients of the CCTs to the financial institutions so that they will have “the right instruments [to save] and the right incentives to do it.” Commonly, “the financial institutions are not really providing them with the right products they’d like to have.”

Nelly Otieno of CARE International in Kenya and Yves Moury of Fundación Capital (Colombia) highlighted the necessity of building assets through methods such as savings groups and CCTs in order to create pathways out of poverty and to prevent long term dependence on financial programs.

Moury, in particular, stressed the importance of asset building and capacity building as a catalyst to spur sustainability and self-sufficiency–and thus an exit strategy for the implementers. According to Moury, “Linking savings and CCTs has been just like putting wheels on suitcases—a powerful combination.”

The speakers agreed that health insurance, mobile phones, identification cards, social protection, and bank accounts, working in tandem, greatly help to supplement financial inclusion initiatives and create pathways out of poverty.

Syed Hashemi,  CS Ghosh, and Nelly Otieno

Syed Hashemi, CS Ghosh, and Nelly Otieno

Syed Hashemi of BRAC Development Institute (Bangladesh) spoke about incorporating governments into exit strategies that allow clients to protect their assets and take advantage of new opportunities. He emphasized that, “through national governments, we can come up with an integrated, holistic, national social protection system that combines CCTs with graduation programs so we can collectively achieve this commitment of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.”

Hashemi also touched on the cost-effectiveness of social protection policies that include safety nets and offer self-employment because, although graduation programs that include extremely intense monitoring and coaching have been seen to have an initially higher cost, they require a shorter timeline.

Innovative methods of providing health services to the poor are equally crucial to comprehensively reducing the amount of individuals living in extreme poverty. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh of Bandhan (India) stated, “Poverty is a complex syndrome. It is not only possible to eliminate poverty through credit support to the poor.”

23_plenary_audience(4)_MarciaMetcalfe+CarmenVelasco+JohnHatch_400x300_photo credit - Vikash Kumar

(Photo credit: Vikash Kumar Photography)

Organizations and government institutions working toward eliminating poverty must implement additional services beyond credit, including social, health, and educational programs that target the underlying causes of poverty beyond financial inclusion.

Overall, the plenary constructively critiqued the current successes, challenges, and future opportunities in the effort to create the pathways the extreme poor can take advantage of to lift themselves out of poverty.

However, the speakers recognized that the road ahead is difficult. As Secretary Soliman stated, “We hesitate to say graduation or exit because poverty is very complex. The notion of graduation gives the impression that we are done. But with poverty you can never be done, and that’s why we call it transition.

Watch the full video of this plenary

Yves Moury confirmed speaker at 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit

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