Where’s the Map? Another sneak peek!

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John Snow mapped out London's cholera epidemic in the 1850s. This helped my make connections between seemingly unrelated unrelated
“A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.”
— Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

How does BRAC, the world’s largest non-governmental organization (NGO), develop pathways out of poverty for the poorest people in a village? They begin with a map. As you see in the photo on the cover of this report, they bring the village together and start drawing maps in the dirt, identifying each household, market, business, and place of worship. They then ask the help of the community to identify the poorest households, marking each one on the map. Their work begins with those households.

This painstaking, household-by-household approach of identifying the excluded and locating them within their community and context represents the next step that we need to take to achieve a new set of ambitious global development goals.

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Sneak peek of the 2015 State of the Campaign Report

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The map on the right illustrates the prevalence of below $1.90 per day poverty in rural areas. Source: Adapted from World Bank Data (online), 2015, "Rural Population (% of total population)," http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS; and ibid., "Poverty gap at $1.90 a day (PPP 2011) (%)," http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GAPS.
The World Bank and the United Nations have both set their sights on ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. The Bank has also set a concomitant target of universal financial access by 2020 as a major contributor to ending extreme poverty. Our assessment, after reviewing the contributions that microfinance institutions and other financial providers have made toward these two goals, is this: if financial services are meant to play an important part in bringing an end to extreme poverty, we will not come close to reaching it.

Microfinance has demonstrated the viability of providing financial services to people in poverty and technological advances have drastically reduced the cost of providing financial services. But, we still do not see widespread adoption of financial services among the largest groups of those that still need to be reached: those living in extreme poverty.

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Swedes, chimps, and you and me on sustainable development

Hans Rosling shows how the child mortality rate declined at a phenomenal rate across the globe between 1964 and 2012.

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>>Authored by Sabina Rogers

Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Hans Rosling opened his presentation, “Sustainable Development: Demystifying the Facts,” with three questions for the audience about the state of global development (about extreme poverty, measles vaccination, and population in 2100). He was testing their knowledge in order to illustrate how preconceived ideas will do us wrong.

He had done this test before. Rosling conducted studies with Swedes, Americans, and chimps about the state of global development. The chimps were asked to choose a banana that is associated with 1 of 3 possible answers, and they got the answer correct 33 percent of the time. In essence, they were bound to be right 1 time in 3; the humans were not as lucky. Basically, according to his study, chimps in a zoo have a better chance of choosing the right answers at random to questions about the state of the world than the average Swede and American does.

It is detrimental when we underestimate the progress that has been made just in the last 15 years. In 1964 (the date he starts with his child mortality chart), the world was clearly divided into two worlds: the developing world with large families and high child mortality and the developed world with the opposite. Today, there really is just one world, with a few outlying countries, mainly in Africa.

It’s also a world of inequality within countries. Take India, for example. “If someone comes from outer space and wants to see the world,” says Rosling, “and [they] have only one day to visit, they should go to India. Because they can see everything in India: the most fantastic success [and] progress being made, but also remote, rural areas where still, extreme poverty is rampant — but decreasing.”

This is where the post-2015 agenda has to focus the world’s energy and money: the still marginalized, the remote and hard-to-reach areas. This is why we at the Microcredit Summit Campaign are championing six financial inclusion strategies (our “six pathways“) that we believe hold the greatest promise in helping to end extreme poverty at the frontiers — at the margins of society in economic, social, and geographic terms. The six pathways offer a means to reduce the cost of delivery (mobile money), help the poor build assets (cash transfers linked with savings), tackle the challenge of a weak health infrastructure, and more.

But, this isn’t just about practitioners and donors. With the launch of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, we are seeing a massive media campaign targeted at you and me. It is a media campaign designed to get people excited and believe in the possibility of achieving the SDGs. Each goal has been reworded to express greatly simplified concepts. No numbers. No percentage signs. Just simple framing: No poverty, no hunger, good health, and so on.

It is also is designed to put “we the people” in the driver’s seat of this “next generation” of development. This is good because we are going to need everyone behind this agenda to fund it and traditional “aid” funding will not suffice. Tax revenue must contribute to the estimated $172.5 trillion price tag (over 15 years). The MDGs cost $915 billion in total. That’s $114 billion per goal compared to more than $10 trillion per goal for our post-2015 agenda.

In an interview on NPR’s Goats and Soda blog, Paul O’Brien of Oxfam America said, “It’s not just about more aid and donors doing more. This is going to be about sustained political will by governments to use their own money to tax corporations more effectively and make sure the money from their natural resources goes to poverty reduction.” This is the same conclusion in Who Pays for Progress?, a report from RESULTS UK about how to finance healthcare in new middle income countries. And, we can only do this if we understand what Rosling is trying to show us with his charts: “We can make the world much better. The long-term trend is going in the right direction.”

I would add, don’t underestimate what a world united by a set of global goals can achieve.

Watch Hans Rosling’s presentation at the World Economic Forum

Here is Rosling’s first question for WEF attendees:

In the last 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has…? A. almost doubled, B. remained more or less the same, C. almost halved.

The answer was C (though the numbers of extreme poor may not have decreased in absolute terms). How many got it right? 61 percent of respondents from the WEF were right; in an online survey he conducted, 23 percent from Sweden and 5 percent from the US answered C.

How many of the world’s one-year-old children are vaccinated against measles? A. 2 in 10, B. 5 in 10, C. 8 in 10.

Again, the answer was C, and 23 percent of WEF got it, 8 percent of Swedes, and 17 percent of Americans.

How many children will there be in the world in 2100? A. almost 4 billion, B. 3 billion, C. 2 billion (with no increase from 2000).

26 percent of the WEF audience answered the correct answer, C, 11 percent of Swedes, and 7 percent of Americans. Rosling’s chimps surveyed answered correctly 33 percent of the time.

What does this mean? When you answer worse than random, it means that the problem is not lack of knowledge, the problem is that you carry preconceived ideas, which makes your score worse than chimps.

The whole point of this exercise queued up his presentation (starting at 6:33) on the state of child mortality between 1964 and 2012 (hint: the vast majority of countries are doing amazingly well). He showed how child mortality today in Bangladesh (8:52) is better than the state of child mortality in Italy in 1964 and that even the worst off families (women with absolutely no education) are, today, where the better-off and most-educated Bangladeshis were in 2001.

Hans Rosling shows why the concept of “developing countries” (those with less than US$12,000 per capita) doesn’t have much meaning anymore — for a happy reason. We have great reason to be optimistic about ending extreme poverty by 2030.

The main reason for optimism is the evidence of the past…the long term trend is going in the right direction.

Re-strategizing with the SDGs…Inspiration from MDG 6

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization).


>>Authored by Ifesinachi Sam-Emuwa, an Atlas Corps Fellow and the U.S Department of State fellowship Alumni

The launch of the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development (also called “SDGs”) this month during the U.N. General Assembly will focus world attention once again on the global development framework. Countries and the global community must use this opportunity to focus not only on the future, but also on the unfinished work of the MDGs.

The MDGs came as a global development framework to drive the global fight against poverty; to improve education, health, and the environment; and also to boost partnerships among member nations to tackle these issues.

World leaders from 189 United Nations member states signed this global framework, agreeing to achieve its goals, targets, and indicators between 2000 and 2015. As that period comes to an end by September, 2015, it is important to understand how well the different countries performed against the goals. Knowing this will allow the global community to re-position strategically in bid to achieve the SDGs, which 193 member states of the U.N. will adopt by September 2015.

Proportion of children under age five sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets for selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, around 2001 and 2013 (percentage)

The proportion of children under age five sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets for selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa has grown exponentially since 2001.
Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Besides other issues like eradication of extreme poverty and achieving universal primary education being tackled by the MDGs, the achievement of the health MDGs has been of great concern. Much focus was particularly put on achieving MDG 6 to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria (ATM) — deadly diseases that kill millions of people every year.

graph_MDG6

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

In fact, according to the World Health Organization, these are the latest statistics of the ATM:

  • In 2014, approximately 1.2 million people died from HIV-related causes globally (fact sheet).
  • In 2013, 9 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died from the disease (fact sheet).
  • In 2013, malaria caused an estimated 584,000 deaths, mostly among African children (fact sheet).

The MDG agenda helped to focus both energy and awareness on the fight against ATM, and progress to reach these targets and were driven by funding from partners like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and other donor funding to implementing countries. Awareness about these diseases has increased, stigma and discrimination have been reduced, and people are learning how to avoid contracting these diseases. In that regard, MDG 6 has had huge global success, especially around treatment and management of the ATM.

For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 40 percent of people living with HIV received anti-retroviral treatment (ART) in 2014. New advancements in malaria treatment have been achieved, with WHO now recommending the use of ACT (artemisinin-based combination therapy) antimalarial drug used in the treatment of malaria. Controlling the spread of tuberculosis (TB) has also improved through the DOTS (directly observed treatment, short-course) centers, these are centers that provides TB patients with treatments while directly observing them. These are all steps in the right direction for the eradication of the ATM.

Nigeria’s strategy for MDG 6

Nigeria made its own efforts to implement programs geared towards eradicating ATM by establishing agencies to oversee the implementation of interventions. The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), and the National TB and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) were established in a bid to contribute to the global fight against ATM in Nigeria.

Nigeria has made a lot of progress towards achieving MDG 6 and other MDGs — but isn’t there yet[1]. Like many other countries (Kenya, for example), Nigeria needs to focus on domestic resource mobilization and also to use the new opportunity presented by the SDGS to refocus its national strategy. Nigeria’s government should focus interventions on equity; using the equity lens, Nigeria could ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable people are reached with the various health interventions.

The question of whether or not Nigeria has achieved the MDGs should not impede the country from focusing on stamping out HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Nigeria successfully rallied against Ebola in 2014 and has now reached a one year polio-free milestone. With effort, resources, and political will, Nigeria can meet its agreed-to milestones on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria and save lives.


About the Author

Ifesinachi Sam-EmuwaMs. Ifesinachi Sam-Emuwa is a Professional Fellow for the U.S Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She is also an Atlas Corps Fellow and a USAID CIDI volunteer. She has over eight years of professional experience in the nonprofit sector working with Treasureland Health Builders Initiative; she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Education from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University and a Master Degree in Community Development and Social Work from University of Lagos. She has Certifications in Global Health and International women’s health & human rights from the USAID and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health eLearning Center and Stanford University Online respectively. While working as a Project Coordinator and Community Development Specialist with Treasureland Health Builders Initiative under the Global Fund Malaria and HIV/AIDS Project, she helped improve the health of rural dwellers reducing the incidence of malaria and HIV/AIDS in Western Nigeria.

Ms. Ifesinachi is passionate about reproductive health of young people and women, and has trained over 3,800 women and girls on becoming community volunteers in that area. She has authored three books and has received several awards for her outstanding contributions to youth, women & community development in Nigeria. Through these experiences, she developed strong project coordination and implementation skills.

Other writing:


Footnotes

[1] According to a research study conducted by Adedokun A. & Ololade, B.M (2014), “Nigeria in the Eve of MDGs Final: A Progressive Analysis,” in Developing Country Studies, http://www.academia.edu/7538837/Nigeria_in_the_Eve_of_MDGs_Final_A_Progressive_Analysis

Insufficient and greatly uneven progress on the maternal health MDG

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization. They are lobbying for bipartisan legislation in the Senate that can impact the lives of mothers and children worldwide. (See the Fact Sheet.)


>>Authored by Marion Cosquer and Sabina Rogers

MDG 5: Improve maternal health

Target 5.A: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

graph_MDG5

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

In 1990, 380 pregnant women were dying for every 100,000 live births. As of 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio has decreased by 45 percent to 210 women per 100,000 live births. The highest gains were seen in South and Southeast Asia with a 64 percent and 57 percent reduction, respectively. Developing regions overall achieved a 46 percent reduction. Maternal survival has been aided by a one-third increase in childbirth attendance by skilled health personnel. Thus, the news in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals Report for MDG 5 is promising.

Nonetheless, progress towards improving maternal health so far falls far short of the targets set under MDG 5 and has lagged far behind the other MDGs. Additionally, global figures tend to mask regional inequalities. For example, there were 510 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in sub-Saharan Africa compared to 190 in South Asia and 140 in Southeast Asia.

Progress in raising the proportion of births delivered with skilled personnel has been modest over the last 15 years, reflecting the lack of universal access to care. Indeed, one in four babies still being delivered without skilled personnel and wide disparities are found among regions. For example, there is a 52 percent spread between the largest rural/urban disparity across regions:

  • In Central Africa, 32 percent of births were attended by skilled personnel compared to 84 percent in urban areas.
  • In East Asia, there is no difference between urban and rural areas.

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia pull down the developing region average. Overall, 56 percent of births in rural areas are attended by skilled health personnel compared to 87 percent of births in urban areas.

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Target 5.B: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health
After 25 years of slow progress, only half of pregnant women in developing regions receive the minimum of four antenatal care visits recommended by the World Health Organization. Once more, coverage levels in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia trail the other regions. Sub-Saharan Africa has barely increased from 47 percent to 49 percent of pregnant women; South Asia has the lowest coverage at 36 percent (though it increased from 23 percent). Moreover, despite having doubled contraceptive use [1] in sub-Saharan Africa from 13 to 28 percent, sub-Saharan Africa still trails all other regions.

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Proven health-care interventions can prevent or manage the complications that cause maternal deaths, such as hemorrhage, infections, and high blood pressure. These complications are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, accounting for 86 percent of all deaths worldwide in 2013. Use of contraceptives also contributes to maternal health by reducing unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal deaths.

The report tells us that contraceptive use has risen in all regions and 90 percent of users were using effective contraceptive methods. However, the unmet need is still high (24-25 percent) in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceana. Other developing regions hover around 11-14 percent unmet need, and the overall use in those regions is significantly higher than in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceana.

The adolescent birth rate shows a mixed story. While the global rate for developing regions has fallen by half (from 34 to 17 births per 1000 girls), it hides poor progress in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. Indeed, in three regions (Southeast Asia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and North Africa), some of the gains in the adolescent birth rate from 2000 reversed in 2015. Moreover, progress in East Asia was stagnant over the last 15 years.

The report calls for urgently needed intensified efforts to delay childbearing and prevent unintended pregnancies among adolescents. By increasing opportunities to go to school and for paid employment, we would see an overall improved maternal and child health as well as reduced poverty, greater gender equality, and women’s empowerment.

Maternal health in the post-2015 development agenda

The new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which are set to be approved at the Sustainable Development Summit September 25 to 27, encompasses a broader, more ambitious and inclusive health goal. Goal 3 seeks to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Indeed, it seeks to reduce the global mortality ratio to fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Under Goal 3, countries will agree to ensure, by 2030, universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs — for which the microfinance sector can be a key partner.

The report concludes on the inequalities in data availability on maternal health among and within regions. The lack of data is a key factor contributing to the unfinished MDG agenda, hampering efforts to establish priorities on national, regional, and global health. In the post-2015 period, it is imperative to have better and more data, especially concerning registration of births and deaths, in order to set adequate policy priorities, target resources more efficiently, and measure improvements.

In order to build on the successes of the MDGs and achieve Goal 3 of the SDGs, the 18th Microcredit Summit will focus on integrated health and microfinance as one of the six pathways out of poverty. Empowerment of women — which can help reduce maternal mortality more quickly and efficiently — will also be an important theme.


Footnote

[1] “Contraceptive use” is defined concerning women aged 15-49, married or in union, who are using any method of contraception

Post-MDG 3: Achieve gender equality to tackle the root causes of poverty

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization).

MDG 3 is focused on gender equality and empowering women. Many MFIs are actively working to address gender inequality and to empower women in their own corner of the world. A dozen organizations have so far made a Campaign Commitment specifically targeting women. For example, Grama Vidiyal launched a Commitment will help 500,000 clients in India with their Health Service and Development Program that provides sanitary napkins for women. Crecer (Bolivia) committed to continue to prioritize services for female clients. CRECER has 152,000 clients and will grow 3 percent per year to reach 166,000 clients by the end of 2017 while maintaining a rate of 80 percent women clients.


>>Kristin Smith, former intern for the 100 Million Project

MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

As the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) rapidly approaches, we are called to evaluate the significant and substantial progress made across the board in addressing the root causes of global poverty. The final MDG report, recently released by the United Nations (U.N.), documents the global 15-year effort to achieve the aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration, highlighting the vast successes while acknowledging the substantial gaps that remain.

The number of people living in extreme poverty, the proportion of undernourished people in developing regions, and the global under-five mortality rate have all decreased by more than half; however, despite these remarkable statistics, millions are still being left behind due to their sex, age, disability, ethnicity, or geographic location.

As we aim to continue substantial advances in reducing global poverty through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or “Global Goals”), we must renew our efforts to focus on the most vulnerable populations.

Target 3.A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

The importance of achieving gender equality arguably extends into every facet of society. MDG 3 aimed to address parity in education, political participation, and economic empowerment and emphasized the crucial role of women in achieving the other seven MDGs as well.

At the Council on Foreign Relations in 2004, economist Gene Sperling noted that “girls’ education is an integral part to virtually every aspect of development, and what is just striking is the amount of hard, rigorous academic data that is not only about what girls’ education does in terms of returns for income and for growth, but in terms of health, AIDS prevention, the empowerment of women, and prevention of violence against women.”

Women are proven to be key contributors to large development payoffs such as increased economic productivity and reduced maternal and infant mortality. This final report reiterates that “the education of women and girls has a positive multiplier effect on progress across all development areas.”

MDG-infographic-3

Indicator 3.1 Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education

In reviewing key statistics highlighted in the report, progress towards MDG 3 seems promising, yet further analysis paints a rather dreary picture. While the developing regions as a whole have eliminated gender disparity in primary, secondary, and tertiary education, this comes only as a result of averaging progress with the few prosperous regions. In South Asia, for example, female primary school enrollment has surpassed boys’: from 74 girls for every 100 boys in 1990 to 103 girls for every 100 boys today.

However, looking at the Gender Parity Index (GPI), defined as the ratio of the female gross enrollment ratio to the male gross enrollment ratio for each level of education, certain regions have backtracked on progress since 2000. GPI has decreased at the primary level in East Asia, at the secondary level in Oceania, and at the tertiary level in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Indicator 3.2 Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector

Women still face discrimination in access to work and economic assets, and they lack sufficient representation in public and private decision-making roles. The most prevalent barriers to women’s employment, as noted in the report, are household responsibilities and cultural constraints.

Distribution of working-age women and men (aged 15 and above) by labour force participation and employed women and men by status in employment, 2015 (percentage)

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Indicator 3.3 Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

Since the launch of the MDGs, women have gained significant ground in political representation. The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled over the past 20 years; however, there remains significant work to be done with only one in five members being women. Organizations like UN Women help focus future development efforts on including women as a key demographic in global development, as poverty remains a heavily feminized condition.

Distribution of countries* in the developing regions by status of gender parity target achievement in primary, secondary and tertiary education, 2000 and 2012 (percentage)

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Onward with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Despite uneven progress and persistent inequalities, the MDGs helped to lay an ambitious framework for the long-term effort of tackling the root causes of global poverty.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development, or SDGs, are intended to build on the successes of the MDGs and tackling problems where they fell short. While some people complain that there are too many goals, they have been designed with an eye toward promoting concise and reasonable actions. Perhaps that requires 17 goals and 169 indicators. In analyzing the draft language of the successor Global Goals, it is important to note the widespread presence of important phrasings such as “inclusive” and “for all.”

UN Women advocated for a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality, similar to the MDGs. SDG 5 is “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;” this means tackling violence against women as well as ensuring equal economic and leadership opportunities, property rights, equal policies, social protection, and more. This singularly focused goal is crucial to creating a ripple effect for the integration of gender equality throughout the other goals.

Reaching full equality and empowerment for women and girls remains a crucial requirement to achieving full and sustainable development.


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Does anti-poverty work actually … work?

Photo credit: Giorgia Bonaga & Shamimur Rahman

Photo credit: Giorgia Bonaga & Shamimur Rahman

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The following blog post is re-posted with permission. Read the original article on Next Billion, “NexThought Monday – Does Anti-Poverty Work Actually … Work?: Three questions every ‘pro-poor’ group needs to ask themselves.”


>>Authored by Chris Dunford and Carmen Velasco

This month, the United Nations will celebrate achievement of Millennium Development Goal No. 1. The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by more than half, from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. How did this happen? Is it because of targeted anti-poverty programs, or is it due to broad-based economic growth, especially in China and India? If economic growth is the main cause, as it seems to be, further progress may be doubtful. Economic growth alone is unlikely to reach the residual hundreds of millions still living in extreme poverty.

Nor is it likely that anti-poverty programs, whether public or private, will lift this “bottom billion” from extreme poverty. For example, the U.S. poverty rate hovers around 15 percent of the population, nearly unchanged for decades, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on U.S. anti-poverty programs. For another example, in poorer countries, microfinance was billed as a self-financing solution to deep poverty and became a darling of international development donors in the 1990s and “social investors” in the 2000s. Then smart social scientists tested the claims with sound field research and found little to no impact on poverty.

Is it reasonable, however, to expect anti-poverty programs, by themselves, to lift large numbers of people above an arbitrary poverty line? Given that the poor must overcome many burdens before they can seize whatever economic opportunities are available, perhaps we should ask a different question:

Do anti-poverty programs ease the burdens of poverty?

While the recent research into microfinance shows little to no increase of annual household income, on average, the same studies very often show that the burden of poverty is alleviated by giving microfinance participants access to money when they really need it during the year. Economists call this impact “consumption smoothing.” In plain terms, it means people get enough to eat throughout the year instead of going without adequate food for a day, a week, or even months at a time. If so, this is an impact worth celebrating, is it not?

Even with this more modest and realistic expectation, some anti-poverty programs are effective and some are not. We know this from our collective experience in anti-poverty work, with more than 70 years between us. We know the challenge is to distinguish what works from what does not. It is better to seek out “pro-poor” rather than “effective” anti-poverty work, because there are gradations of effectiveness. All programs have room to improve. “Pro-poor” programs actually strive to improve toward greater effectiveness. Transparency and accountability are not just about separating wheat from chaff; they are about improving.

How can we fully distinguish pro-poor programs from those that are not?

In a volunteer initiative called Truelift, leading thinkers of the “social performance” movement in microfinance (seeking social as well as financial return on investment) have hit upon a truth that applies to all anti-poverty work: Truly pro-poor programs provide the right answer to each of three straightforward questions.

First: Does the program work with people living in poverty?

Straightforward indeed! But how do you know a person living in poverty when you see one? More important: How does a program know them, recruit them, include them and keep others who are not poor from co-opting what the program offers?

Too many anti-poverty programs cannot answer this question. Regardless of legitimate reasons, these programs are flying blind in their poverty outreach and, therefore, their potential to impact poverty. “Blind” programs may be “wasting” precious resources on the “wrong” people — even though much good may be done. Such programs are not entitled to the “pro-poor” label — they need a different justification. Or, they can get serious about knowing the poverty status of the people they work with.

Second: Does the program design and adapt its services specifically for people living in poverty?

The staff of a pro-poor program changes and adapts the services and products they offer — intentionally and systematically, always listening carefully to people living in poverty and being clear about the benefits the program seeks to provide them. It is basic good business practice — know your customers, listen to them, design for them, satisfy them.

The Réseau des Caisses Populaires in Burkina Faso (RCPB) discovered while providing savings and credit services to groups of rural women that they wanted information about how to prevent and treat malaria, a disease that kills children and robs adults of far too many productive work days. At left, an RCPB animatrice (field agent) shows a women’s group how to understand the symbols on a take-home card that shows illiterate people how malaria is prevented and treated. (Image credit: Karl Grobl for Freedom from Hunger)

Third: Does the program track the progress of the people using its services?

It is not enough to reach out to people living in poverty and to design and adapt services to suit their needs and constraints. We must have some evidence that our work is helping them move in the right direction, even if not all the way to the intended destination. This is not just to show that our work is worthy of the money spent, but also to know how to improve our work. We need “real time” information about change in clients’ lives.

We operate programs in a world where sophisticated research into cause and effect is rare and likely to remain so. Logic, experience and some evidence indicates that programs providing the “right” answer to each of the three Truelift questions are likely to show positive impacts on people living in poverty, if and when sophisticated impact research is done.

It is not too difficult for managers, donors, investors, regulators and business leaders to ask these three questions and know when they get good answers. We can know a pro-poor program when we see one — and act to support it.

Truelift_RGBChris Dunford and Carmen Velasco are co-chairs of the Truelift Steering Committee.


Read the full article on Next Billion.

Learn more about Truelift.

Post-MDG 2: Bringing the “last mile” children into our schools

MDG 2

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization).

MDG 2 is focused on primary school enrollment for children everywhere, including the poorest of the poor. The children of tens of millions microfinance clients may be some of the “last milers” still left behind, still excluded from primary school, and many MFIs are actively working to solve the access gap in their own corner of the world. For example, ESAF Microfinance (India) has just launched a Commitment to reach at least 2,000 children with educational programs for academic growth and value education. Fafidess (Guatemala) committed to offer education loans to their clients.


>>Authored by William C. Smith, Right to Education Index Senior Associate, RESULTS Educational Fund

Millennium Development Goal Achievements

Target 2.A: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

MDG 2 - Global out-of-school children of primary school age & Primary school net enrollment rate in sub-Saharan Africa

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

During the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) period, the world saw a huge surge in the number of students enrolled in primary school. In 2015, an estimated 91 percent of all primary age students are enrolled in primary school with the largest increases in enrollment over the 15-year period found in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Worldwide, this impressive expansion in access has cut the number of out-of-school children by approximately half, from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015. This is especially impressive when seen in light of the rapidly expanding growth rate of the primary-school-age population in many regions.

Although the world fell short of the MDG 2 target, the growth in enrollment over the 15-year MDG period outpaced the decade before 2000, ensuring that a greater number of children have access to the education essential to their well-being and that of the wider community. These results clearly indicate that when attention and resources are strategically directed they can make a difference.

Equity Concerns

As impressive and important as the rapid expansion from the MDG period was, there are several concerns as the world moves beyond the MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also referred to as the “Global Goals”). While MDG 2 focused on universal enrollment in primary education the education, SDG (#4) attempts to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The general shift from access to quality makes one wonder, who will be left behind? As the SDGs move forward, emphasis on the goals last two words “for all” is essential. Unfortunately, bringing the final 9 percent of students, the last milers, into school is challenging and expensive. Recent trends suggest that as the world moves forward to address the differences in student achievement and education quality, those left behind by our inability to completely close the access gap are further disadvantaged.

The challenge of reaching the last milers is illustrated by the stagnating global enrollment rate. Between 2000 and 2007 the global primary net enrollment rate quickly increased from 83 percent to 90 percent. Over the last seven years, however, the rate moved slightly from 90 percent to 91 percent. The missing 9 percent represent 57 million primary age children out of school.

Based on estimates made in 2012, 43 percent of these 57 million children are expected to never go to school. Identifying who these children are and including them in the education system is paramount to reaching the SDGs.

The Last Milers

The last milers represent students that have yet to be included in the rapid expansion of education from the MDGs. The number of last milers are difficult to calculate as they are at times invisible to society and living in extreme poverty.

Number of out-of-school children of primary school age, selected regions, 1990-2015 (millions)

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Surveys suggest that these remaining out-of-school children are more likely to be female, live in a rural setting, or have a disability. Students in the poorest quintile are less likely to enroll in school or complete school if they do.

For example, while 9 percent of primary age children overall are not enrolled in primary school, 22 percent of children in the poorest quintile remain out of school. And, of those who do enter primary school, nearly 35 percent of children in the poorest quintile do not complete primary school. For the poorest 20 percent of children worldwide, this means that for every child in school, his or her sibling will not complete primary school while nearly 90 percent of children in the wealthiest 20 percent move onto secondary school.

Accessing education may be increasingly challenging for children in poor families in some areas. Countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana have seen a sharp increase in private schools that price these families out of education. When national governments abdicate responsibility and see private education as a substitution for public education, the well-researched equity concerns with private education are likely to leave the last milers on the outside looking in.

In addition to the groups mentioned above, children in conflict areas and children of refugees are especially struggling to enjoy the benefits of education. For example, the conflict in Syria not only reduced the enrollment rates of children in the country, but refugees that fled Syria found education in refugee camps sparse. Estimates from refugee camps in Lebanon from 2013 place the enrollment rate of children at approximately 12 percent, a sharp contrast from the 91 percent global number.

Collective Will

Ensuring that the last milers have access to education is a challenge to our collective will. The remaining 9 percent represent those with the highest per capita cost to access. A large financing gap remains in education globally with resources moving away from improving access and away from primary education. This trend suggests that in the coming years, reaching these last milers will be challenging, at best.

The transition of funding beyond primary education is evident in the decrease in official development assistance (ODA) from European Union institutions. ODA targeting basic education has fallen from 50 percent in 2002-2004 to 43 percent in 2009-2011. Furthermore, the focus on quality over access is illustrated by two developments. New projects funded by the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) prioritize student achievement as the primary measure for education system quality, and the World Bank has recently shift education resources to results-based financing that focuses on student literacy and numeracy.

While quality is important, the stagnating enrollment rates from the past seven years and the shift in attention and resources away from access and toward quality, makes one question whether the last milers will be left behind in the SDG era.


About the author

William C Smith

William C. Smith is a Senior Associate with RESULTS Educational Fund where he is developing the Right to Education Index (RTEI). The index will eventually provide a globally comparative alternative measure to national education quality while identifying specific target areas for countries to address. Prior to this position he completed a dual title Ph.D. in Educational Theory and Policy and Comparative International Education at The Pennsylvania State University and was a Thomas J. Alexander Fellow at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). His research addressing education’s role in international development and educator based testing for accountability has resulted in over 15 academic and policy publications. William is the editor a forthcoming book (Spring 2016) in the Oxford Studies in Comparative Education Series titled “The Global Testing Culture: Shaping Education Policy, Perspectives, and Practice.”

Post-MDG 1: Focusing the lens on those still in extreme poverty

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization).


>>Authored by Sabina Rogers and Maeve McHugh with support from Anushree Shiroor from RESULTS UK

MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

graph_MDG1

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

The overall number of people living in poverty in developing countries fell by more than half since 1990. The rate dropped to 14 percent in 2015 and the absolute number to 836 million people. There has also been significant progress made towards curbing hunger worldwide.

Target 1.A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day

Looking at the regional distribution of data, poverty reduction was concentrated in eastern and southern Asia thanks to immense poverty reduction measures in China and India. Progress is less apparent in other regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of the population still live in extreme poverty, and in western Asia, extreme poverty is actually expected to increase between 2011 and 2015.

The mix of progress and failure provides some guidance to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Namely, they must continue the campaign around eradicating extreme poverty while also confronting challenges that hinder progress in the regions that have seen marginal improvement.

While the world met its goal of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, we must now look with a narrower lens at those remaining in extreme poverty. We must ask what changes must be made to the policies that did not succeed.

Full and productive employment

Target 1.B: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

This target faced various challenges. First, the global labor force grew, and continues to grow, faster than employment opportunities. The global working-age population that is employed actually declined 2 percent between 1991 and 2015. (The 2008-09 global economic crisis certainly didn’t help.)

Youth (15-24 years) are especially affected by unemployment, with three times as many unemployed than adults. Young women are especially affected by unemployment and have few employment opportunities. They face unequal access to work as well as unequal pay, inadequate social protection, and unsatisfactory access to assets. These factors all contribute to women’s overall greater vulnerability of living in poverty.

Additionally, the situation is precarious for both those living just above the $1.25 a day line and those working in vulnerable employment conditions (i.e., unpaid family workers and own-account workers). Half of the developing regions’ workforce live on less than $4 a day, necessitating improvements in social protection programs and policies that see beyond extreme poverty. We need to take into account what comes after.

Halving hunger

Target 1.C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Progress has alternated between slow and rapid declines in the proportion of undernourished people since 1990. Current estimates indicate that approximately 795 million people are undernourished globally, and for the developing regions, the proportion of undernourished people is projected to drop to 12.9 percent, or 780 million, in 2014-2016.

The vast majority of undernourished people live in developing regions. They experience various risks of food insecurity, namely natural disasters, volatile commodity prices, rising food and energy costs, and periods of economic stagnation, among other difficulties.

Addressing child health, specifically, is an important challenge to tackle in order to end hunger. While the proportion of underweight children under the age of five has been halved, the absolute numbers are still high at 90 million. Furthermore, sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia are home to nearly 90 percent of all underweight children.

Looking Forward

SDG 1The world has made immense progress in improving the lives of millions of people since 1990. While MDG 1 can be called a qualified success, the targets must remain a linchpin in the post-2015 agenda. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 is to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere.” However, the SDGs, which are to be approved at the U.N. General Assembly next month, need to address the shortfalls in reaching the MDGs within regions and the individual factors that combine to cause people to slide back into poverty.

SDG 2SDG 2 proposes to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” While the MDGs considered only one aspect of undernutrition in children (i.e., underweight), we now have a better understanding of other forms. We know that stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies, as well as overweight and obesity are all important factors to track. These indicators in the SDGs are more reliable than “underweight” alone in predicting growth, development, and well-being of children.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) has also set targets to reduce multiple forms of malnutrition by 2025. If we want the world to commit resources and take action to meet these targets, indicators must be built into the proposed SDGs to track these multiple forms of malnutrition the WHA is seeking to address.

However, early signs point to the inclusion of merely one or two undernutrition indicators as was the case with the MDGs. This will lead to a very limited body of data with which to understand progress in achieving SDG 2 and an inadequate basis on which to measure and predict children’s growth, development, and well-being. Indicators on reducing stunting, wasting, anemia, and overweight that come under SDG 2 as well as promotion of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of infancy within SDG 3 will give a much more accurate picture of actions being taken, and progress made.

Looking beyond 2015 and the MDGs, it is clear that microfinance has a role to play in supporting achievement of the SDGs. It can be a tool to generate sustainable growth and ultimately create self-sufficiency for poor and vulnerable households.

When proper targeting is employed…

When integrated with important non-financial services like health…

When coupled with government programs like conditional cash transfers…

When the business model measures “success” in terms of their client’s well-being…

When these measures are taken, then microfinance institutions can work directly with individuals living in the very conditions the SDGs are aiming to address. Those living in extreme poverty or fighting hunger can use microfinance as a tool to mitigate the risks they face and seize opportunities to build lasting and positive change in their lives.

A deep dive into the Millennium Development Goals Report

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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>>Authored by Sabina Rogers, Communications and Relationships Manager

The United Nation’s (U.N.) Inter-Agency and Expert Group on MDG Indicators recently issued the latest assessment of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in a 75-page report. The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015 is a rich document presenting data on each of the eight goals. In short, the MDGs have had mixed results, and the headline of one billion people lifted out of extreme poverty (living on less than US $1 a day) is almost entirely a result of the massive gains in China and India.

The 2015 MDG report presents the successes and shortcomings in the areas reducing poverty, increasing employment, and eradicating hunger. In the foreword, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon extolled these successes while conceding that “inequalities persist and that progress has been uneven.” Specifically, few countries met their poverty alleviation targets, and women and other vulnerable groups still tend to be excluded in what gains there were. Maternal and child health is still a very serious problem around the world (especially these 17 countries), including the Philippines, where we have a project with Freedom from Hunger and CARD MRI whose express purpose is to address this problem.

In just a few weeks, world leaders will convene in New York to finalize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successors to the MDGs. (Here is the SDG agenda for the U.N. Summit.) What is most important for the international community to consider is what worked with the MDGs and why. Moreover, we should take inspiration from the fact that the MDGs did reshape our world. Ban Ki-moon says it best:

“By putting people and their immediate needs at the forefront, the MDGs reshaped decision-making in developed and developing countries alike…Reflecting on the MDGs and looking ahead to the next fifteen years, there is no question that we can deliver on our shared responsibility to put an end to poverty, leave no one behind and create a world of dignity for all.”

In the coming weeks, we will be publishing articles reflecting on each MDG and the assessment as presented in the 2015 report from the U.N. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization), a non-profit that supports a movement of passionate, committed everyday people who use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. RESULTS grassroots volunteers have been instrumental in so many (often unsung) ways over the years to bring about the successes that we do see in the 2015 report.

We will present the first post in that series tomorrow morning. In the meantime, check out this fantastic visualization of the MDG data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.


Published articles to date:

Does your microfinance program improve newborn survival?

Products provided to microfinance clients through the “Healthy Mothers, Health Babies” project in the Philippines implemented by the Microcredit Summit Campaign, Freedom from Hunger, and CARD MRI. The products included are selected for their usefulness to women soon to give birth.

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>>Authored by Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Research from the World Health Organization shows that half of the decline in under-5 child deaths is due to factors outside the health sector. In addition to health improvements, advancements in girls’ education, women’s economic status, water, sanitation and hygiene, energy, and infrastructure all make a vital difference. We believe that the microfinance sector has an important role to play in bringing child mortality down even further.

At the Microcredit Summit Campaign, we know how powerful integrating health programs can be. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) that offer health products and services to their clients help them to manage shocks and improve the health of clients and their families. In partnership with Freedom from Hunger and with the support of Johnson & Johnson, we are working with microfinance partners in India and the Philippines to provide health products and services to hundreds of thousands of families.

In the Philippines, our project focuses on improved health outcomes for pregnant women and their newborns. To date, CARD MRI (our local partner) has delivered the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” education to nearly 300,000 women clients. The education is delivered using an innovative pictorial learning conversation (PLC) methodology developed by Freedom from Hunger. This PLC module distills important information about pre- and post-natal care into easily digested 15-minute segments.

An image from the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” PLC. It teaches about the importance of visiting a health facility throughout the pregnancy.

An image from the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” PLC. It teaches about the importance of visiting a health facility throughout the pregnancy. Contact Cassie Chandler at Freedom from Hunger to learn more about the education module.

At the Community Health Day events organized under the project, thousands of women (pregnant and with newborns) also get free consultations and medical checkups — many for the very first time. In addition, attendees have learned important information for ensuring healthy pregnancies and healthy newborns. Medical professionals have delivered lectures on family planning, signs and symptoms to be aware of during pregnancy, as well as prenatal care like nutrition during pregnancy and post-natal care like breastfeeding or caring for a newborn.

The Campaign is helping CARD and other members of the MFIs for Health consortium to leverage this small, one-time grant by building a strong, local resource base for their work. Through our Campaign Commitments, we are mobilizing microfinance actors around the world to take specific, measurable, and time-bound actions to address the multiple dimensions of poverty. We hope to do the same in the Philippines to improve the health of microfinance clients and their families.

Mapping integrated solutions

An effort is underway to develop a new online map to capture such programs around the world. Called the Newborn Survival Map, this initiative hopes to encourage the development of cross-sector partnerships delivering integrated solutions. In our experience, when an MFI hesitates to introduce health programs, it is often because they say that their job is to provide financial services, not health. In this case, partnering with health development organizations and other health sector actors is a viable alternative to offering health services in-house. The map could direct your organization to potential future partners in health.

The Newborn Survival Map will initially focus on 16 countries where newborn deaths are concentrated (see the map below). It will focus on programs with a total value of US$500,000 and above across 14 different sectors whose work greatly impacts newborn survival. Note that this threshold is for the life of the project and represents a total investment. Investments will also be tracked by sub-region, so it may be that an organization has a series of smaller investments in different locations or over a period of time, but the total current and planned investment for their work in a sub-region may equal or exceed the $500,000 threshold.

Priority countries (MDG 4, child mortality)

Priority countries are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Ethiopia, Angola, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Niger. Send in your program information by August 24th to be sure that you are included in the Newborn Survival Map.

The initiative is led by FHI 360, an international development organization, in partnership with the MDG Health Alliance and Johnson & Johnson. FHI 360 and partners invite actors in the microfinance sector to take part in this exciting initiative. We encourage you, our audience, to make sure that significant microfinance programs — especially those benefiting women of reproductive age — are represented on The Newborn Survival Map.

The Newborn Survival Map is in collaboration with the Every Newborn Action Plan and in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child movement.

Take action today!

Email Christina Blumel (cblumel[at]fhi360.org) with the name and email of a contact person in your organization who will be responsible for getting your microfinance program included on the map. Christina will guide your colleague through the necessary steps to an online form, which takes approximately 20 minutes to fill out.

Many thanks for your partnership as we enter the Sustainable Development Goal era where achievement of the ambitious new goals will require unprecedented levels of collaboration. Read the letter from Leith Greenslade of the MDG Health Alliance inviting your organization to be part of this exciting initiative (and en français).

About the organizations responsible for the map

The MDG Health Alliance is an initiative of the UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria. The Alliance operates in support of Every Woman Every Child, an unprecedented global movement spearheaded by the Secretary-General to mobilize and intensify global action to improve the health of women and children.

FHI 360 is a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions. Our staff includes experts in health, education, nutrition, environment, economic development, civil society, gender, youth, research and technology — creating a unique mix of capabilities to address today’s interrelated development challenges. FHI 360 serves more than 70 countries and all U.S. states and territories.

At Johnson & Johnson, our Credo inspires our strategic philanthropy to advance the health of communities in which we live and work, and the world community as well. We focus on saving and improving the lives of women and children, preventing disease among the most vulnerable, and strengthening the health care workforce. Together with our partners, we are making life-changing, long-term differences in human health.


Related reading

#tbt: Lobbying the World Bank, Part I

#Tbt_6

Elizabeth Littlefield, CEO of CGAP in 2004, said at the 2004 Microcredit Summit in Bangladesh, “There is no evidence of a necessary trade-off between poverty and sustainability.”
Read her full quote on page 12 of the 2004 State of the Campaign Report.

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2004. The RESULTS International Conference is only three weeks away (July 18-21), and grassroots activists from the U.S. and around the world will be in D.C. to lobby the USAID Administrator and World Bank Directors. Therefore, we’re reviewing advocacy successes and struggles in the early 2000s. This week, we look at a breakthrough we achieved in getting the World Bank to recognize microfinance as an important strategic element in reducing poverty and announcing that they were committed to increasing their funding for microfinance.


In this introduction to the State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, rather than presenting a neat, uncontested picture of the field of microcredit seen solely from the Campaign’s perspective, we think it useful to listen to the challenges and opposition to what the Campaign and these parliamentarians have championed, coming as it does from some of the most influential institutions in development. In the pages that follow, we invite you to listen in on debates that contrast the views of the World Bank and CGAP with those of industry leaders like BRAC founder Fazle Abed, Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, and the Microcredit Summit Campaign. What follows are excerpts from the World Bank and CGAP’s responses to the 700 parliamentarians, along with reactions from the Microcredit Summit Campaign.

Download the full 2011 State of the Campaign Report in our Resource Library

Download the full 2011 State of the Campaign Report in our Resource Library

In his response to 188 British Parliamentarians, World Bank President James Wolfensohn wrote, “I very much agree with your observation that microfinance has a demonstrated, powerful impact in improving the livelihood of the poor, and a crucial role in reducing poverty. Access to financial services for the poor is a critical condition for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.”

This is a tremendous vote of confidence from Mr. Wolfensohn, but if, as Wolfensohn says, “access to financial services for the poor is a critical condition for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” then reaching those below $1 a day is also critical. Mr. Wolfensohn acknowledges the poverty goal, which seeks to cut absolute poverty in half by 2015, as the lead MDG. Absolute poverty is measured by those living below $1 a day, adjusted for purchasing power parity. This show of support is important, but the words must be followed by more effective action.

Wolfensohn asked officials from the World Bank and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), to jointly address the detailed issues raised in the parliamentarians’ letter.

World Bank and CGAP officials begin their own response to the parliamentarians on a hopeful note when they write that microfinance forms “…an important strategic element in any broad based effort to reduce poverty,” and assert that the World Bank and CGAP “are committed to massively scaling up this access to financial services.”

While it is good for the Bank to declare microfinance as an important strategic element in reducing poverty, there is still a disconnect between this assertion and the fact that microfinance constitutes less than one percent of annual Bank spending. Assigning such a low priority to microfinance is neither strategic nor a sign it is viewed as important. There is also a disconnect between the Bank’s enviable commitment “to massively scaling up…access to financial services,” and the fact that the Bank offers nothing measurable in response to the parliamentarians’ request to double spending. It would seem that a massive scale-up would at least equal a doubling from less than one percent to less than two percent.

World Bank and Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (WB/CGAP) officials continue by saying, “While the World Bank Group already provides more microfinance funding than any other agency, we remain committed to doing much more. The fundamental constraint to an exponential increase in the numbers of poor people receiving financial access is, however, a real absence of retail institutional capacity. Building this capacity is an integral part of the financial systems of our client countries and is, therefore, a critical task for the World Bank Group and other agencies.”

MCS: The World Bank should provide more microfinance funds than any other agency given that its overall portfolio dwarfs that of all other bilateral and multilateral donor institutions. However, the World Bank does not provide more funding than any agency. USAID surpasses the Bank’s total spending in microfinance. In addition, more than one percent of USAID’s funds and more than three percent of UNDP funds[5] go to microfinance.

Retail institutional capacity does exist. Some of the global and domestic partners of a number of institutions and networks are either already reaching very poor clients or gearing up to do so as a result of the new U.S. law. These include institutions and networks such as ASA, BRAC, PKSF[6] and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, NABARD and SIDBI in India, Pro Mujer, Freedom from Hunger, Opportunity International, FINCA, CARE, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Katalysis, Grameen Foundation U.S.A., ACCION and World Relief in the U.S., Développement international Desjardins in Canada, members of The Africa Microfinance Network (AFMIN), Sanabel members in the Middle East and North Africa, and members of REDCAMIF and Foro Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Finanzas Rurales in Latin America.

PKSF alone estimates that for the six years beginning July 2004 and ending in June 2010, $562 million could be absorbed by its 192 Bangladeshi partner organizations and those to come. This is in just one country.

There are scores of institutions around the world that have demonstrated the vision and systems to reach the very poor sustainably. To say there is “a real absence of retail institutional capacity” is to imply that whatever capacity exists has been fully exploited. This is clearly not the case. The greater problem is the low priority donor agencies place on finding institutions with the vision and systems necessary for expansion to the very poor, not the “absence of retail institutional capacity.”

WB/CGAP: We agree with the spirit of your recommendation that at least 50% of World Bank funds should be reaching those living on less than a dollar a day. However, we do not think that earmarking funds would be the best strategic choice for moving the microfinance industry towards sustainably serving much larger numbers of those in absolute poverty. In fact, such directed lending could have an adverse effect on scaling up, through distorting markets. Many MFIs achieve sustainability through increasing outreach to a larger diversified client group. They end up serving much larger absolute numbers of the very poor, even though they may have a smaller percentage of very poor clients in comparison with poverty-focused institutions that are not sustainable. Such MFIs would be penalized through the suggested mandate.

MCS: Institutions that do not exclusively, or even predominantly, target the poorest need not be penalized. The parliamentarians are not asking that all MFIs reach the very poor or that half of an MFI’s clients fall below $1 a day when they entered the program. They are asking that, on balance, half of World Bank spending in microfinance go to people who were very poor when they started with the program. Within the World Bank’s portfolio there might be a group of institutions that primarily serves better-off clients, another group with a more mixed clientele, and a third group largely serving those starting below $1 a day. Yet institutions such as the World Bank have not provided incentives to reach those below $1 a day. If anything, the Bank and others have discouraged depth of outreach. This is why the parliamentarians believe earmarking is required. The World Bank/CGAP response leaves the impression, however unintended, that programs reaching very poor clients may be less sustainable, but this is far from current reality. CGAP CEO, Elizabeth Littlefield, backed that up with remarks made at the Asia/Pacific Microcredit Summit held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in February 2004.

“There is no evidence of a necessary trade-off between poverty and sustainability,” Littlefield said in Dhaka. “…Very recent data from our MicroBanking Bulletin (MBB) and from The Microfinance Information eXchange (The MIX) show us that the best poverty-focused microfinance institutions are breaking right through conventional wisdom. Of the 124 microfinance institutions reporting to the MBB, 66 were fully selfsufficient. Of those, 18 were institutions that work with very poor populations, the poorest. These 18 institutions had higher average sustainability, higher return on assets, and higher return on equity than the overall averages. Sustainable microfinance institutions that serve lower end markets, the poorest, reach, on average, one and a half times as many borrowers as other microfinance [institutions] and they do it with fewer resources. Hence, these institutions do a much better job of stretching their resources to reach more clients. In terms of clients served, they are far more efficient with their human resources, serving each borrower at half the cost, on average, of a sustainable institution serving higher market segments.”

Footnotes

[5] Approximately two percent of USAID funds and three percent of UNDP funds go to microfinance.

[6] Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) is a Banlgadesh-based autonomous microcredit fund.

Relevant resources

#tbt: A New Law and New Hope

#Tbt_5

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2004. The RESULTS International Conference is only three weeks away (July 18-21), and grassroots activists from the U.S. and around the world will be in D.C. to lobby the USAID Administrator and World Bank Directors. Therefore, in the weeks leading up to that great event, we’ll review advocacy successes and struggles in the early 2000s wherein we achieved breakthroughs in poverty measurement in order to target the extreme poor and other concessions from USAID and the World Bank.


The revolution in reaching the very poor is most evident in a new U.S. law and the resistance to it by some leaders in international development. The law, which was enacted in June 2003, calls for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop and certify two or more cost-effective poverty measurement tools that measure $1 a day poverty. The new tools are to replace loan size, which is currently used and has proven to be inadequate for poverty measurement. As Freedom from Hunger President Chris Dunford remarked, “The average loan size for entering clients tells you more about the institution making the loan than it does about the poverty level of the person receiving it.”

Download the full 2011 State of the Campaign Report in our Resource Library

Download the full 2004 State of the Campaign Report in our Resource Library

After the newly mandated tools are certified, institutions receiving microenterprise funds from USAID will be required to use one of them and report the number of entering clients who start below $1 a day. The law is an effort to bring accountability and transparency to the long-standing Congressional commitment to have at least half of USAID microenterprise funds benefit very poor clients. This new law, particularly if it is adopted by other aid-giving countries and institutions, would have a great impact on the Microcredit Summit’s commitment to reaching the very poor and provide tremendous support to the MDG focused on halving the number of families living below $1 a day by 2015.

While the new law demonstrates the revolution that is taking place in microfinance, efforts to expand the revolution have been met with resistance. This resistance comes from major development institutions that have been asked to adopt policies similar to the new U.S. law — The World Bank, the regional development banks, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

In November 2003 more than 700 parliamentarians from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, India, and Mexico wrote to the heads of the World Bank, the Asian, African, and Inter-American Development Banks, and UNDP. The parliamentarians lauded the institutions’ commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which they said are “crucial to building a safer and more equitable world — and will show our constituents that development programs are truly making a difference.”

The parliamentarians continue with a concern that:

…sustainable microfinance for the very poor has not received sufficient priority in your policies and practice aimed at cutting absolute poverty in half by 2015, the most crucial — and most difficult — of the MDGs. As important as it is to support well-designed health, education, and good governance programs, these interventions alone will not ensure that some 600 million people move out of poverty.

The parliamentarians ask the heads of these powerful institutions for the following:

  • Increased funding for microenterprise: We urge you to make substantial increases in the proportion of your institutions’ lending and grants that go to microenterprise and actually reach clients. For example, the World Bank estimates that an average of $168 million in funding, less than one percent of Bank resources approved annually, is approved each year for microenterprise. We believe resources devoted to microenterprise should at least be doubled (emphasis added).
  • At least 50 percent of funds reaching the poorest: By December 31, 2004, we would like to see your institutions make the commitment to having at least 50 percent of your microfinance funds reach clients who are below US$1 a day when they start with a program.
  • Use of cost-effective poverty measurement tools to ensure meeting the target: By December 31, 2005, the microenterprise institutions should be required to use cost-effective poverty measurement tools that can determine which families start below US$1 a day and use the same or similar tools to show which families have moved above US$1 a day.
  • Annual reporting of results: By December 31, 2006, we would urge your institutions to report, on an annual basis, the amount of funds provided for microenterprise and the percentage of those funds that reach families who begin with a program at below US$1 a day.

In their letter, the parliamentarians discuss the new U.S. law and say, “We believe your institutions should be a vital part of this process and urge you to adopt a similar procedure.”

Relevant resources

The 2015 Listening Tour: Mapping pathways for ending extreme poverty

Photo credit: by Geoff (originally posted to Flickr as Pilgrim’s path) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.”
— Muhammad Ali

After the success of Generation Next: Innovation in Microfinance, our 17th Microcredit Summit (Mexico in 2014), the Microcredit Summit Campaign conducted a Listening Tour to identify how this next generation could contribute to ending extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 a day) by 2030. The theme that emerges from this consultation will be reflected across the Campaign: in the 2015 State of the Campaign Report, the 18th Microcredit Summit, and Campaign Commitments.

With the post-2015 development agenda under negotiation, the financial inclusion and microfinance sectors have an opportunity to assess our role in shaping the international development framework and reflect on the impact we can have on the lives of millions of the world´s extreme poor. Our Listening Tour was the first step in surveying our coalition of partners to see what our role in this endeavor should be.

The Listening Tour was our time to listen — and your time to speak — on the issues that the microfinance and financial inclusion sector face and served two purposes. First, it was our hope to find out how our audience (you) felt about the World Bank’s goal of eradicating poverty by 2030, and equally important, we wished to consult you in identifying the topics that were most pressing and urgent.

We collected your feedback through an online survey where we received 151 responses from participants from around the world representing practitioners, advocates and support organizations, funders, investors, policymakers, and regulators. We also conducted phone interviews with 27 leaders in the microfinance and financial inclusion sectors. Below are some key findings from our Listening Tour calls and survey.

A client of Fundacíon Capital wiht her daughter Photo credit: Fundacíon Capital

A client of Fundacíon Capital wiht her daughter

Photo credit: Fundacíon Capital

1. Ending extreme poverty.

Our members believe that our main objective should be to end extreme poverty, but they acknowledge that microfinance and financial inclusion actors need to be mobilized around this objective. We need to take a leadership role in re-focusing the microfinance sector on a pro-poor mission and helping the microfinance community build confidence in a system that protects and benefits those who we serve. In order to accomplish this, we need to galvanize new visionaries and champions for the movement.

2. Universal financial access, financial inclusion, and ending extreme poverty.

The strategy for achieving both universal financial access by 2020 and the 2030 goal must be clear, and clear linkages should be created between these two goals. In addition, we need to clarify the definition of financial inclusion, especially in how it relates to ending extreme poverty. We cannot get to full financial inclusion unless inclusive financial systems are created that serve the extreme poor.

3. Defining roles.

It’s unclear what role each stakeholder plays in achieving these goals. Our challenge is to create a unified voice in support of this agenda among a diverse group of microfinance stakeholders, who sometimes have divergent priorities. How do we design a strategy and create a sense of responsibility to provide the appropriate products and services that help people move out of poverty?

4. Pushing innovation while maintaining client protection.

Innovation is key, and technology will need play an important role in reaching full financial inclusion. The microfinance community tends to copy successful ideas but hesitates when it comes to new methodologies. While we need to do away with this risk-averse culture when it comes to innovation, we need to make sure there is adequate regulation and client protection practices in place where our clients could be vulnerable.

Organizations that made a Campaign Commitment are recognized on stage at the 17th Microcredit Summit in Mexico.

Organizations that made a Campaign Commitment are recognized on stage at the 17th Microcredit Summit in Mexico.

5. Financial inclusion to end extreme poverty: six pathways.

Finally, we saw an emphasis on six topics that we have framed as our “pathways out of poverty;” these are financial inclusion strategies that reach people living in extreme poverty and facilitates their movement out of poverty:

  • Mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities (for example)
  • Agricultural value chains that reach to small scale producers (for example)
  • Savings groups (aka village savings and loans associations) (for example)
  • Conditional cash transfers linked with mobile delivery and asset building (for example)
  • Ultra-poor graduation programs (for example)
  • Microfinance savings and/or borrowing groups linked with health education, health financing, and health product delivery (for example)
Dignitaries who attended the 1997 Microcredit Summit.

Dignitaries who attended the 1997 Microcredit Summit. From L-R: Tsutomu Hata, Former Prime Minister, Japan; H.E. Pascoal M. Mocumbi, Prime Minister, Mozambique; H.E. Alberto Fujimori, President, Peru; H.M. Queen Sofia, Spain; H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister, Bangladesh; Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady, United States; Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank, Bangladesh; Elizabeth de Calderón Sol, First lady, El Salvador; Ana Paula dos Santos, First Lady, Angola; H.E. Dr. Siti Hasmah, First Lady, Malaysia; H.M. Queen Fabiola, Belgium.

Let’s take a quick ride down memory lane. In February 1997, we convened the first Microcredit Summit in Washington, D.C., bringing together more than 2,900 delegates from 137 countries. This event resulted in the Declaration and Plan of Action in which Summit delegates promised to work towards making the Campaign a “global effort to restore control to people over their own lives and destinies” [1]. Since 1997, the Microcredit Summit Campaign has been leading, supporting, and guiding the microfinance field to address failures in reaching the extreme poor.

Jump forward to 2015. We still have a lot of work to do, but the will of our community to map out a better future together is evident. This is a time for change and transformation in the global development sector, and we must be bold in setting our goals.

We have taken it upon ourselves to make sure that the microfinance and financial inclusion movement is included as a tool in ending extreme poverty by 2030. Financial inclusion needs to serve the bigger purpose of helping people in poverty mitigate vulnerability, build resilience, and take advantage of opportunity. But, to reach the ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, we need to draw a map of how to get there. We need to show how digital payments, savings groups, conditional cash transfers, agricultural value chains, and graduation programs intersect with other sectors like health, education, housing, and nutrition to build pathways out of poverty. We must map out pathways for how these different interventions, stakeholders, and initiatives can work together to achieve our shared goal.

We share responsibility for promoting microfinance and financial inclusion practices that put clients at the center and show progress toward poverty eradication. At the World Bank’s 2015 Spring Meetings, the Campaign made a commitment to support the World Bank Group’s goal to reach universal financial access by 2020 (UFA2020). Through our commitment, we have joined a global coalition of partners that includes Visa, Mandiri, the State Bank of India, the World Council of Credit Unions, WSBI, the Microfinance CEO Working Group (a group of 10 international microfinance networks), Telenor, Ooredoo, Equity Bank, and Bandhan.

We know that the hardest part of reaching UFA2020 will be to ensure that financial services reach those living in extreme poverty, and the Microcredit Summit Campaign will work with its reporting institutions to help them expand their outreach by at least 53 million of the world’s poorest families, bringing the overall total of the world’s poorest families reached by microfinance to 175 million by 2020.

UFA2020 will be a stepping stone to achieving the post-2015 development agenda, and the Campaign will document what is being done well and disseminate those lessons far and wide through the State of the Campaign Report and our Microcredit Summits. The 18th Microcredit Summit will be an opportunity to learn about these six pathways and engage in a thoughtful discussion around the role each of us plays.

We invite you to join us and take part in leading this movement; start by organizing a breakout session for the 18th Microcredit Summit and making a Campaign Commitment. Submit your breakout session proposal for the 18th Microcredit Summit, and use our platform to inform our community about what you are doing to contribute to our common mission. You can also join our own coalition of Campaign Commitment makers by announcing specific, measurable, and time-bound actions that you will take to support our goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. This is a key step in reaching the end of extreme poverty by 2030, and by focusing on our six pathways, we can design a better future and create a map of opportunity.

Financial inclusion to end extreme poverty

Related resources

Sources

Declaration and Plan of Action. Microcredit Summit Campaign. February 1997, Washington, D.C. http://www.microcreditsummit.org/resource/58/the-microcredit-summit-declaration-plan.html

Voices from the Field: Syed Hashemi

Pathways: financial inclusion to end extreme poverty | Find out what we heard from the industry in this year’s Listening Tour

We’ll be bringing you articles throughout April that reflect the results of this year’s Listening Tour
Photo credit: by Geoff (originally posted to Flickr as Pilgrim’s path) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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April is the Month of MicrofinanceLearn more

April is the Month of Microfinance
Learn more

In preparation for our 18th Microcredit Summit, the Campaign conducted a Listening Tour from December 2014 through February 2015. The Listening Tour served two purposes. First, it was our hope to find out how our audience (you) felt about the World Bank’s goal of eradicating poverty by 2030, and equally important, we wished to consult you in identifying the topics that were at the top of everyone’s mind.

The Listening Tour is our time to listen — and your time to speak — on the issues that the microfinance and financial inclusion sector face. We collected your feedback through an online survey and organized conversations with 27 leaders in the microfinance and financial inclusion sector. We heard from them on how financial inclusion can contribute to the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and the role of microfinance in the post-2015 agenda. The results of this consultation will be reflected in the 2015 State of the Campaign Report, the 18th Microcredit Summit, and Campaign Commitments.

Below is a short excerpt from our conversation with Syed Hashemi, senior adviser for the CGAP Vulnerable Segments Initiative and professor at BRAC University in Bangladesh.

Q: What do you think will be needed to achieve the goal of global financial inclusion by 2020 and how can this contribute to the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030?

Syed M Hashemi_BRAC_187x249There have been major efforts to achieve financial inclusion through developing better and more flexible products to meet client demand, using technology to lower costs and financial education to improve client money management. Far less has been happening on linking access to finance to extreme poverty eradication. In fact, few MFIs actually reach out to those in extreme poverty. Part of this is due to the singular focus on credit which is not what the poorest often need immediately. And, possibly more importantly it is the failure of the microfinance sector to work with other development sectors.

What microfinance needs to do is better understand the lives of the poorest (as distinct from “the poor”), the risks they face and the needs they have. So, savings and insurance, specially designed for this group, as well as financial education, is what is required. But, too often the poorest spend all their time with the day to day struggles for food security. And too insecure to even plan for the future. This is where the primary need is for safety nets to guarantee them basic consumption levels.

Now if microfinance was to work closely with safety nets and build on top of the food security that safety nets provide, it could assist in creating a ladder for the poorest to eventually use financial services, build sustainable livelihoods and graduate out of extreme poverty. This is the graduation model that BRAC pioneered and CGAP and Ford Foundation adapted and promoted globally.

However, it is not enough to have some models that work or some products that increase outreach. What is required is massively scaling these up so that we can indeed achieve the global goals we set out. This is where governments and policy makers are key. MFIs can only achieve so much on their own. It will ultimately be governments who have the bandwidth to make this happen, of course with MFIs and NGOs as critical strategic partners.

Q: What is the role of microfinance in the post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)/ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) era?

Many of the sustainable development goals will focus on building resilience of different demographic groups — children, the youth, the elderly, the disabled — as well as the extreme poor. Microfinance has a huge role in the effective design and delivery of child support grants, universal pension schemes, health insurance as a key element of universal health coverage, financing schooling and training, credit for micro and small enterprises, better transfer payment and emergency loan mechanisms, deposit services and of course partnering with graduation programs.

The Summit is an ideal platform to convene people to show case ideas and campaign for financial inclusion and the end of extreme poverty through more effective use of financial services.

Q: What are the most recent innovations and proven best practices in the field helping those living in extreme poverty? What are key themes to consider or important debate topics we need to address in the microfinance & financial inclusion sector in the coming year?

Let me highlight the key concerns moving ahead:

  1. Financial education and consumer protection.
  2. Children, the youth, the elderly, and the disabled.
  3. The environment, climate change, and the shrinking ecological reserves.

And the way forward in addressing these issues (and addressing pervasive market and government failures) is far greater collaboration with governments. We know governments can be slow and unresponsive, but ultimately, they have the budget and the constitutional obligation to increase the welfare of its citizens. We need to hold them accountable to that.
19_plenary_Going-the-extra-mile_SyedHashemi_594x345_photo credit - Vikash Kumar Photography

About BRAC University

BRAC University (BRACU) was established in 2001 building on BRAC’s experience of seeking solution to challenges posed by extreme poverty by instilling in its students a commitment to working towards national development and progress. The mission of BRAC University is to foster the national development process through the creation of a centre of excellence in higher education that is responsive to society’s needs, and able to develop creative leaders and actively contributes to learning and creation of knowledge.

Syed M. Hashemi is Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics and Social Sciences at BRAC University. Prior to that, he spent five years as founder-director of the BRAC Development Institute—a resource center for promoting research and building knowledge for addressing poverty, inequity and social injustice. Hashemi also spent nine years with CGAP at the World Bank in Washington DC, focusing on identifying pro-poor innovations and disseminating best practice lessons related to poverty outreach and impact. Hashemi was amongst the pioneers who started the Social Performance Task Force to promote a double bottom line in microfinance. He also headed a multi-country program to develop new pathways for the poorest to graduate out of food insecurity through building sustainable livelihoods. Hashemi continues to be involved with the graduation work at CGAP. Earlier, Hashemi directed the Program for Research on Poverty Alleviation at Grameen Trust and taught Development Studies at Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh. He has a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Riverside.

Click here to visit the BRAC University website.