Addressing the financial needs of the most excluded

Anowara Begoum lives in Kazipara village. Anowara received a cow and goat to from BRAC through its STUP Special Targeting Ultra Poor. AusAID funds BRAC's work in Bangladesh, its estimated that BRAC works within 70,000 of Bangladesh's 86,000 villages. Photo: Conor Ashleigh for AusAID.

Anowara Begoum lives in Kazipara village. Anowara received a cow and goat to from BRAC through its STUP Special Targeting Ultra Poor. AusAID funds BRAC’s work in Bangladesh, its estimated that BRAC works within 70,000 of Bangladesh’s 86,000 villages. Photo: Conor Ashleigh for AusAID.

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The following blog post was originally published
by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

>> Authored by Larry Reed, Director, the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and Jesse Marsden, Research and Operations Manager, the Microcredit Summit Campaign

In collaboration with the CFI’s process to develop the Financial Inclusion 2020 Progress Report (to be released October 1, 2015), the Microcredit Summit Campaign recently conducted interviews with microfinance leaders* around the world committed to reaching the most excluded. In this post, we share some of the insights from these conversations about how to ensure that the most invisible clients are financially included, directly drawn from the experiences of those who are doing it.

To set the stage, Luis Fernando Sanabria, general manager of Fundación Paraguaya, made this central point: “Our clients need to be the protagonists of their own development stories. Our products should be the tools they use to meet their needs and empower their aspirations.” With that reminder of the purpose of financial inclusion, we begin the discussion by asking who are the most excluded.

In each country, people living in extreme poverty (below US$1.25 a day) make up the largest segment of those excluded from the financial system. We spoke with leaders from organizations that make intentional efforts to reach this large excluded market: Fundación Paraguaya, Pro Mujer, Fonkoze, Plan Paraguay, Equitas, Grama Vidiyal, and TMSS. These organizations not only address poverty, but also a host of other dimensions that lead to exclusion, including literacy, race, gender, physical disabilities, and age. Less frequently-discussed reasons for exclusion include sexual orientation, language barriers (especially among indigenous populations), and mental or emotional health issues. In India and Bangladesh, for example, those interviewed noted that the lack of personal identification often drove exclusion, especially among women, persons with disabilities, and the socially excluded, such as transgender individuals.

In order to reach the most excluded, you have to know who they are. “Often the poorest families are invisible in their own communities,” said Steve Werlin of Fonkoze in Haiti. “When we do the wealth rankings in a community, they aren’t even mentioned.” Fonkoze takes steps to make sure that all households get included in their surveys so that the community can see who they have left out. Creating this visibility is essential. On a wider scale, in government statistics on economic activity, data on people over 65 is simply discarded or never collected.

Everyone, and every client, is unique. One of the messages of the FI2020 Progress Report is that the base of the pyramid (BoP) is not a monolithic bloc. Arjun Muralidharan of Grama Vidiyal in India noted, “You need to have a particular and unique strategy to seek out and serve these groups. This begins with deciding who you are going after. Different populations have very different problems.”

Two key elements for including the most excluded populations are building trust and overcoming prejudice. Not only do the financially excluded need to become confident in their services providers’ ability to responsibly manage their money, but they often have to become comfortable participating in a society that has regularly closed its doors to them.

“Working with disenfranchised groups is hard. We need to provide extra training and services to help overcome their self-exclusion,” said Muralidharan. Grama Vidiyal provides health services and legal rights training to members of the Dalit group (formerly known as untouchables) before including them in savings and lending groups.

On the other side of the equation are financial services staff attitudes. “In order to include people with disabilities, we need to train our staff first, to get them to overcome their prejudice,” said John Alex of Equitas in India. Equitas provides disability awareness training for its staff and clients and encourages them to find people with disabilities in their communities to include in the institution’s borrowing groups. Equitas also adapted its training and application systems to be accessible for people who are blind, deaf, mute, or face other physical limitations.

Excluded groups may have financial needs that do not fit the typical cash flows of other clients. TMSS asked rural farmers in northern Bangladesh what programs the farmers felt would be best to introduce. This client-first approach led to new programs that combined loans and savings in sync with the growing season. TMSS also changed its policies and products to meet the needs of an aging population — eliminating its age limit for borrowers. The institution also provides savings services for these clients and training for the next generation of family members to make sure they will be cared for as they age.

Those excluded from financial services often face many other types of exclusion as well, leaving them with a range of constraints that they need to address:

  • Both Fonkoze and Plan Paraguay employ the Ultra Poor Graduation Model developed by BRAC that provides a combination of cash transfers, training, savings, an asset, mentoring, and access to credit.
  • Equitas works with homeless people and provides housing and financial capacity training before providing loans.
  • TMSS provides health services, financial capability training, and vocational training.

These organizations often partner with the government and others to make sure their clients have access to the range of services they need. Fundación Paraguaya uses its Poverty Stoplight monitoring system to assess its clients on a checklist of 50 items related to poverty, health, education, and employment. It uses this data to bring in government services for common areas of need. Equitas partners with local hospitals, and Grama Vidiyal works with the government health insurance system to provide for the health needs of clients.

Achieving financial inclusion requires consistent energy to attain, maintain, and measure progress. Fundación Paraguaya uses its Stoplight system to enable clients to define and measure their own achievements over time, and provides incentives to its staff based on these clients’ achievements. Equitas provides incentives to its account officers for including persons with disabilities and measures the progress of its clients along consumption and health indicators. Plan Paraguay and Fonkoze measure the success of their ultra-poor graduation programs based on the numbers of clients who “graduate,” having met a comprehensive set of indicators related to food security, income security, asset ownership, school enrollment, housing quality, etc., and having reached a level at which they can use unsubsidized financial services.

Financial inclusion has always been about going where others wouldn’t go, addressing the needs of people who were excluded because it was too hard to serve them, or too risky, or too unsustainable. The people we spoke with represent the many financial pioneers who use innovation to expand the boundaries of inclusion, reaching those assumed to be impossible to reach.

For more on addressing client needs, check out the interactive FI2020 Progress Report, launching on Thursday (10/1).

Persons interviewed for this post: Luis Fernando Sanabria, Fundación Paraguaya; Carmen Velasco, co-founder of Pro Mujer; Steve Werlin, Fonkoze, Haiti; Mariella Greco, Plan Paraguay; John Alex, Equitas, India; Arjun Muralidharan, Grama Vidiyal, India; and Munnawar Reza, TMSS, Bangladesh.

How you can influence global policy priorities at the World Bank (event)

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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In just two weeks, RESULTS Educational Fund, the parent organization of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, will celebrate its 35th anniversary with the 2015 International Conference in Washington, D.C. We invite you to join in the festivities and attend our workshop called “Partnerships to End Poverty: Health, Government, and Financial Services” on Sunday, July 19th at 4:30 – 6:00 PM. The conference will be held at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill.

Only $85 a day!

RESULTS International Conference — only $85 a day!

Attendees of the International Conference will hear from leading experts, activists, and policymakers on the challenges and solutions to ending poverty. Join World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus (and, of course, founder of the Grameen Bank). Find out who else will be speaking here.

The conference agenda is designed to provide the information and tools to influence policymakers — so you can deliver the message directly to your representative on Capitol Hill and policymakers at the World Bank and USAID!

The Microcredit Summit Campaign’s role at RESULTS is to lift up financial inclusion solutions designed for the world’s extreme poor, creating economic opportunities to help lift themselves out of poverty. The Campaign will be leading a workshop at the International Conference about the future of financial inclusion.

Our session, entitled Partnerships to End Poverty: Health, Government, and Financial Services,” will focus on integrated health and microfinance and linking the graduation model and conditional cash transfers (CCTs). Learn why these are key pathways to help end extreme poverty and how you can influence the global development agenda. (Read more about the six pathways.)

Sonja Kelly of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion will moderate a panel discussion with Olumide Elegbe of FHI 360 and our own Dr. DSK Rao and Larry Reed. Join us to develop your message and advocacy strategy around financial inclusion to end extreme poverty, and take it directly to major financial inclusion funders like the World Bank and USAID to influence their programmatic priorities in the over coming years.

About the panelists


Sonja Kelly, Fellow, CFI

Sonja Kelly is a fellow at the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION (@CFI_ACCION). She conducts research on supply and demand side opportunities to advance financial inclusion around the world, including income growth, demographic change, and policy shifts. Ms. Kelly is finishing her PhD at the School of International Service at American University, writing her dissertation on financial inclusion policy and regulation in low and middle income economies. Her research articulates the ways that international organizations and internal politics influence financial sector policy. She is also a consultant at the World Bank and the president of the DC chapter of Women Advancing Microfinance. Prior to joining CFI, Ms. Kelly worked in microfinance at Opportunity International.

Olumide Elegbe Olumide Elegbe, senior relationship manager at FHI 360, is a health and development expert with demonstrated results of building successful partnerships across sectors and geographies. With a focus on forging trusted, long term partnerships between the government, nonprofit and private sectors, Mr. Elegbe has a track record of brokering collaborative partnerships that drive social change by addressing health, education, sustainability and/or other development challenges. This, while delivering results and outcomes tailored to suit the needs of stakeholder individuals and organizations including market access, efficiencies in supply chain, and contribution to local GDP.

Mr. Elegbe has extensive international and cultural experience, spanning sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern and Western Europe as well as the USA. Prior to joining FHI 360, he worked as a public health specialist and a visiting lecturer in population medicine in the United Kingdom, and as technical advisor on public health programs in Nigeria.

Mr. Elegbe holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health with a minor in Health Services Management from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom.

Dr. D.S.K. Rao, Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Dr. DSK Rao has been the regional director for the Asia-Pacific region with the Microcredit Summit Campaign since 2000. The Campaign draws heavily on his wide experience and familiarity with the sector while organizing the regional and global summits. Dr. Rao has conducted scores of workshops and trainings on tools for practitioners in Asia to track poverty and other social outcomes including the Cashpor Household Index, Poverty Wealth Ranking, and the Progress out of Poverty Index. Dr. Rao is presently implementing a Johnson & Johnson-funded project for integrating health with microfinance in India, in collaboration with Freedom from Hunger. He has co-authored two books on microfinance: The New Middlewomen and Development and Divinity and Dharma.

Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Larry Reed has headed up the Microcredit Summit Campaign (@MicroCredSummit) since taking over the reins from founder, Sam Daley-Harris in 2011. Mr. Reed has co-authored the annual State of the Campaign Report for the last 5 years. He has worked for more than 25 years in designing, supporting, and leading activities and organizations that empower poor people to transform their lives and their communities. For the majority of that time, Reed worked with Opportunity International, including five years as their Africa regional director and eight years as the first CEO of the Opportunity International Network.


Our workshop will be held on Sunday, July 19th
from 4:30 – 6:00 PM
.

To attend the workshop and the International Conference, email IC2015[at]results.org
or register online

Daily registration is only $85.

RESULTS is an international movement of grassroots advocates raising their voices to end poverty. Through government program and policy advocacy, RESULTS staff and its massive network of grassroots activists help to address the root causes of poverty: lack of access to medical care, education, and opportunity to move up the economic ladder. Click here to read more about RESULTS.


Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

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

Grama Vidiyal commits to expanding health services to clients

Read the press release announcing Grama Vidiyal’s Campaign Commitment
Read their Commitment letter
Photo courtesy of Grama Vidiyal

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes Grama Vidiyal, a major Indian microfinance institution (MFI), as the 55th organization to make a Campaign Commitment, joining a global coalition working to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Grama Vidiyal commits to expand its financial and non-financial services to the following number of clients in the financial year 2015-2016:

  • Provide an additional 150,000 clients with financial services in FY15
  • Help 1,050,000 community members through Grama Vidiyal’s empowerment program.
  • Organize 720 health camps for clients, screening 300,000 members.
  • Provide 10,000 clients with discounted consultation/treatment in partner hospitals.
  • Provide health education to 80,000 client families (or community).
  • Give access to health related products and medicines to 150,000 clients.
  • Help 800,000 clients with the Free Meals program.
  • Install 1,000 household toilet connections and 4,000 water tap connections.
  • Establish 80 Community Knowledge Centers, engaging 30 poor students each (a total of 2,400 students), to motivate learning basic math and English.
  • Help 500,000 clients with the Health Service and Development Program that provides sanitary napkins for women.
  • Use the Progress out of Poverty Index to measure the poverty level of 35,000 clients.

Sathianathan Devaraj, chairman and managing director of Grama Vidiyal, explains the importance of microfinance as a means to financial inclusionhealth:

“Microfinance is a very important tool for financial inclusion, which provides financial services for poor entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to formal banking and related services. Microfinance creates a window for the poor where they can access quality financial services such as credit, savings, insurance etc., without inhibition. A double bottom line approach with the right balance of fiscal performance and positive social impact is key to the microfinance’s success. Formal banks identified and promoted bankable people, but microfinance introduced and proved that even the poor are trustworthy and bankable.”

Grama Vidiyal is one of the largest Indian microfinance institutions, serving one million clients over 5 Indian states. Their objective is to focus on eradication of poverty and improving the standard of living of downtrodden women.

Read Campaign Commitment letter from Grama Vidiyal.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign looks forward to welcoming our new partners to the global coalition and sharing their progress towards the Commitment achievement at the 18th Microcredit Summit. The 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.


We invite you to join Grama Vidiyal and…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

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