Truelift’s progress and what the future holds

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A message from the Truelift Steering Committee was posted on the Center for Financial Inclusion blog on January 21st, “Truelift’s Progress and Future in Pursuit of Transparency and Accountability in Poverty Alleviation Efforts.” The message opens with the pronouncement that defines what Truelift is all about: “Institutions built upon a promise of poverty alleviation must be motivated and supported to make good on that promise.”

Formerly known by the name of The Seal of Excellence for for Poverty Outreach and Transformation in Microfinance, Truelift officially launched in 2011. It emerged through the coordinated action of leaders in the global microfinance community who were catalyzed the Microcredit Summit Campaign early in 2010. We have been and will continued to be strong supporters of Truelift.

Now, however, Truelift’s resources have diminished to the point where they must depend on volunteer staff and committee members to maintain access to the Truelift information, tool, and services. The Microcredit Summit Campaign is committed to helping maintain what Truelift has already built, and together, we seeking new funding to regain momentum.

In the meantime, practitioners and others can continue to access the Truelift information and tool through our website and to receive responses to questions/queries about use of the tool and interpretation of results. Self-assessments as well as external assessments by rating agencies remain viable options.

We invite you to read the entire message from the Steering Committee and learn more about Truelift’s progress and future in pursuit of transparency and accountability in poverty alleviation efforts.

www.truelift.org

Record 128 Million of World’s Poorest Received a Micro-Loan in 2009

Monday, March 7th 2011, the State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2011 was launched during a press conference organized by the Microcredit Summit Campaign at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The report shows that, as of December 31, 2009, more than 128 million of the world’s poorest families received a microloan—an all-time high—and, in total, more than 190 million people (of which 140 million are women) received a microloan. (Download here.)The Campaign was pleased by the turn-out; including several journalists from the US and international media, as well as Campaign members.

Campaign Director Sam Daley-Harris moderated the panel composed of report author Larry Reed, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus and Spanish Secretary of State of International Cooperation Soraya Rodríguez.

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The Report’s analysis is based on data collected from more than 3,500 microfinance institutions since 1997, and 93% of that data is current and verified by a third party. At the press conference Mr. Reed summarized the report and its significance.

In a nutshell, the importance is that we are reaching 128 million of the poorest families in the world. Take 5 family members, and that is [641] million people or more that we are reaching. That is the size of the population of Europe—or more than Europe—that we are reaching.

Also featured in the report, the Campaign’s Bangladesh study [1] empirically describes how microfinance can be a powerful poverty reduction tool and that between 1990 and 2008, 2 million households in Bangladesh moved above the threshold of poverty.

Despite these successes and microfinance’s global reach, the panel declared that there is still a great deal of work ahead—both for the microfinance field at large and to achieve the Campaign’s two goals. By 2015, the Campaign aims 1) to reach 175 million of the world’s poorest families with access to credit for self-employment and other financial and business services and 2) to ensure that 100 million families rise above the US$1.25 a day threshold, which, according to Mr. Reed, “is still much of a challenge.”

Among the panellists, there was consensus that microfinance still needs improvement. Secretary Rodríguez stated that industry actors were “aware that much remains to be done regarding management and measuring the effectiveness of the microcredit system around the world.” Echoing the 2011 report’s opening lines, Ambassador Verveer added, “Microfinance alone is not enough. It is critical when tied to insurance to protect the poor from catastrophes that can wipe away their economic progress over night.”

In recognition of these and other challenges to the microfinance field, the 2011 report introduced the concept of the Seal of Excellence for Poverty Outreach and Transformation in Microfinance. The Seal is conceptualized as a “third initiative” building upon the Smart Campaign’s focus on client protection and the Social Performance Task Force’s (SPTF) initiative on social performance indicators. Mr. Reed explained the rationale for the focus on poverty outreach in this initiative:

This Seal would focus on those microfinance institutions that seek to reach the poorest clients and to help them move out of poverty. We know that the movement out of poverty can be an arduous journey for many, and with this Seal we want to be able to highlight those organizations that demonstrate success in helping their clients make that journey.

As in any industry, there are examples in microfinance of good implementation models as well as others that actually do harm to “beneficiaries”. As the industry has expanded, it has been faced by questions such as, are we losing sight of our social mission? MFIs in Bosnia, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Morocco have failed spectacularly in recent years, and the common thread was over-indebtedness of clients, profit margins that were arguably too high, poor institutional management and, in effect, a forgotten social mission. Most recently, we have seen these problems in the crisis in Andhra Pradesh. Secretary Rodriguez affirmed the importance of the Seal.

We are aware that much remains to be done regarding the management and in measuring the effectiveness of the microcredit system around the world. In this sense, we view with great respect and expectation the possibility that a Seal of Excellence might be introduced, as proposed at the Microcredit Summit [Campaign], to certify best practices in this field. Although the proposal needs to be fine-tuned, we believe it is correct to take into joint account the viability and the economic and financial success of microcredit; however, at the same time consideration should be given to their social impact and the role they play in combating poverty and marginalisation, in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals set by the international community.

Read “Towards ‘Fair Trade Microfinance’“, a “Microfinance Voices” review of the Seal of Excellence for Poverty Outreach and Transformation in Microfinance concept note. To read the concept note and offer your feedback (deadline April 2), download the paper here.

In our next blog post, we will review the exciting innovations presented in the 2011 report and what they promise for the future of microfinance.

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[1] “Number of Microcredit Clients Crossing the US $1.25 a day Threshold during 1990-2008 – January 2011”

Helping Haiti Recover

The world is mobilizing to address the massive earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday, dealing a horrific blow to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The reported epicenter of the earthquake is a highly populated area known to house many of Port-au-Prince’s poorest families. The International Red Cross estimates that one-third of the island nation’s 9 million people have been displaced by the earthquake and many thousands are dead.

This disaster requires both immediate emergency relief and longer term rebuilding efforts. Microfinance will play a crucial role in the financing needs that inevitably arise from this type of catastrophe as Haitians look to rebuild their country.

Please Donate Today

Below are microfinance organizations participating directly in relief and recovery work among earthquake victims in Haiti. Click on the organization link below to donate:

ACCION INTERNATIONAL

FINCA INTERNATIONAL

GRAMEEN FOUNDATION

Below are other organizations that include microfinance as a part of their work in Haiti, and are currently focused on providing immediate humanitarian assistance:

ADVENTIST DEVELOPMENT AND RELIEF AGENCY

CARE

CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES 

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

WORLD RELIEF

WORLD VISION

Auditing MFIs

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

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

Freedom From Want from Ian Smillie

Freedom from Want describes the success story of the Global Grassroots Organisazation BRAC whose goal is to end up poverty. It is now available to anyone eager to learn more about the spread of its work in health, education, social enterprise development and microfinance. BRAC’s accomplishments are a source of inspiration and hope for the many government or non-profit enterprises who also wish to make a difference in the life of thousands.

This book is available on the Amazon website.

Microfinance E-Library

Here at the Microcredit Summit Campaign we look to provide access to both academic and practical resources. As the internet becomes one of the main forums for knowledge exchange in the field of microfinance, resource websites have become much more developed. The Microfinance E-Library looks to be an wonderful resource for both practitioners and networks. As stated in their institutional profile below, they concentrate on India, but look to share globally. This site focuses on “rigorous research,” not in-depth institutional profiling like existing sites such as the MIX Market.

“The Microfinance E-Library was created as part of a new initiative, the Microfinance Researchers Alliance Program (MRAP), launched by the Centre for Micro Finance and Ford Foundation. The program aims to equip researchers in India, and around the world, to learn more about microfinance and rigorous research methods.”

Visit their website at: http://www.ifmr.ac.in/cmf/elibrary/

Please submit any other microfinance based web-resources you have found helpful by email, and we will consider featuring them here!