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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Campaign to host workshop with World Bank Annual Meeting in Peru

Attending the World Bank meeting in Peru? Join our workshop, “6 Financial Inclusion Pathways to End Extreme Poverty – What Role Can You Play?”

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Are you attending the 2015 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Lima, Peru? Join us at the Civil Society Policy Forum* for a workshop to explore how microfinance and financial inclusion can contribute to the fight against extreme poverty.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign will host a workshop at the Forum at the World Bank Annual Meeting in Lima from October 6-9. The Forum promotes substantive dialogue and an exchange of views between Bank/Fund staff, civil society organizations (CSO), government officials, academics, and other stakeholders.

6 Financial Inclusion Pathways to End Extreme Poverty

What Role Can You Play?

As the 2014 Global Findex has shown, important progress toward universal financial access is evident. However, there has been much less progress for groups commonly considered to be among the most excluded or hardest-to-reach. Ensuring that these groups are not left out of the march toward universal financial access in the coming four years, intentionality in our approach will be essential as will be a clear framework for actors to coordinate their efforts.

The Campaign is highlighting six pathways that have shown positive outcomes for reaching and including the hardest-to-reach groups especially when delivered in an integrated manner. This lens can offer helpful ways to view opportunities where investment can accelerate progress in including the most excluded, hardest-to-reach populations by 2020.

Session Objective

We will show how the Universal Financial Access by 2020 (UFA2020) campaign links with ending extreme poverty by 2030. In breakout groups, participants will brainstorm how organizations like theirs (CSOs, in Bank-speak) can contribute to financial inclusion pathways to end extreme poverty.

Speakers

  • Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign
  • Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor for the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion and leads the Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign
  • Martin Spahr, Senior Operations Officer at the International Finance Corporation
  • Carolina Trivelli, Economist, CGAP

Date

October 8, 4-5:30 PM

Contact Jesse Marsden for more information.

* Note that registration for the Forum is closed. You can see the full Forum agenda here.


The 2015 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group (WBG) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be held on October 9 – 11 in Lima, Peru. The Civil Society Policy Forum, a program of events including policy sessions for civil society organizations (CSOs), will be held from October 6 – 9, 2015.

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Some Annual Meeting sessions will be livestreamed. Find out how to watch.

The registration platform for CSO representatives interested in attending the Civil Society Policy Forum is now closed. We will be processing registration requests that were received within the last few days and will be notifying applicants on the status of their request. This process can take a couple of weeks and so we ask for your patience. As previously published, no new registration request will be entertained.

WSBI’s journey in making small-scale savings work

WSBI_Mobile Popote product Tanzania_605

Mobile banking service, Popote, in Tanzania, allows savings banks clients to access their account information anywhere. Photo courtesy of WSBI

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>>Authored by Ian Radcliffe, Director, WSBI-ESBG, Belgium

WSBI has long been a supporter of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and its goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. As an organisation that represents the interests of approximately 6,000 savings and retail banking institutions across 80 countries, advancing financial access and financial usage for everyone is core to our members’ missions.

In fact, it is part of a heritage that can be traced back to our members’ roots that in some cases go back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries in promoting self-help among poor communities. And, since it has nowadays become broadly accepted that financial inclusion brings material economic and societal benefits including lifting people out of poverty, the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s mission is entirely congruent with WSBI and its members’ values.

Our Commitment to the Microcredit Summit Campaign was announced during the 2013 Microcredit Summit in the Philippines and renewed again at last year’s Summit in Mexico. Our commitment focuses on two elements:

  1. Identifying successful inclusive finance strategies for youth markets.
  2. Holding events with our partners and member banks to share knowledge about pricing research and the implications on offering savings products for the poor.

Both Commitments have been pursued under the auspices of WSBI’s major financial inclusion program that started in 2008 and that will come to an end later this year. The program’s aim was to significantly increase the number of savings accounts among the poor, working with savings and retail banks primarily in 10 countries [1]. We were developing new business models and distribution channels and, in many cases, taking advantage of mobile technology.

At the end of this particular journey, we are delighted that six of the banks that sustained projects throughout the life of the program doubled savings accounts, and their growth continues. They have developed business models based on lower-income populations and in so doing, these six banks have undergone significant internal cultural shifts, leading to strengthened identities by clarifying their market positioning. One bank even managed to turn a 75 percent dormant customer base into a 75 percent active one with almost all improvement coming from modest-turnover, low-balance savings accounts.

WSBI_agent with mobile money El Salvador_285

Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world
September 23, 2015
Four Seasons Hotel | Washington, D.C.
8:15 AM to 2 PM
Learn more

The banks’ projects were inevitably supported by a great deal of research and analysis performed by WSBI (including the youth research referred to in our Campaign Commitment), which is available on our website. And, apart from project implementation, the core goals of the program included articulating and disseminating lessons learned to a variety of stakeholders, which is where the Campaign Commitment of holding events with partners and member banks comes in.

On September 23rd, WSBI will run its final major event under this program: a workshop in Washington, D.C., entitled Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world.” We will showcase the successes and challenges faced by the banks that participated with us in our journey. Panel sessions and debates will address how banks and their projects have evolved to adapt to changing environments and competitive pressures. We will explore how strategies, institutional cultures, and practices have adapted as a consequence of program lessons. We will also examine what remains to be done and how the banks and others see the way forward.

The accumulated learning on display at “Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world” will be of clear interest to savings and retail banks, policymakers, and other practitioners involved in the financial inclusion world. The program and registration may be found here; participation is free and we really encourage anyone interested to join us at this workshop.

As we all work together in progressing our journey towards full financial inclusion, WSBI remains committed to continuing its work in this field, as witnessed by its commitment to the Universal Financial Access 2020 goal announced at the World Bank Group’s 2015 Spring Meetings. We are actively forging new partnerships aimed at addressing critical legal and regulatory reforms needed to facilitate WSBI members’ activities in improving financial access. We will continue to support the development of financial infrastructures that are tailored to individual environments. We will draw on the wealth of experience generated by our savings program to support savings and retail banks by way of advisory services aimed at overcoming technical or capacity shortcomings and promoting cultural or behavioral change. And finally, more than ever these days, we will support banks in adapting to the digitized world in which we all now exist to stimulate innovation so as to reach out to new customers, in particular those who currently have little or no access to financial services.

Footnote

[1] Mainly Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. Initiatives have also been pursued during 2015 in Ghana and Sri Lanka.


Related reading

Financing healthcare in new middle income countries: Lessons from Kenya

Release of "Who Pays for Progress?"

Report authors Steve Lewis and Evelyn Kibuchi presented their findings on the report, Who Pays for Progress? at the Third Financing for Development Conference in July. They were joined by representatives from the World Bank and other global organizations as well as Yvonne Chaka Chaka, UNICEF Ambassador and Princess of Africa Foundation. Photo credit: Steve Lewis/RESULTS UK

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>>Authored by Theo Fievet, State of the Campaign Report Intern

A step to climb

Despite economic growth over the last decade, healthcare outcomes in Kenya remain weak. Rates of maternal mortality and stunting among children have barely changed…

— World Bank, Financial Report (Kenya), June 2014

Is a vibrant, fast-growing economy enough to improve the performance of the public health sector? A case study in Kenya published recently by RESULTS UK and partners KANCO and WACI shows that the correlation between economic growth and public health is not simple, nor automatic. Even though Kenya’s growth in recent years averaged 6 percent per annum, 25 percent of the population still lacks quality healthcare.

Kenya’s improved economic performance helped the country cross the line separating low-income countries (LIC) from lower-middle-income countries (LMIC), and this shift in status has a considerable impact on Kenya’s situation on the international stage. Kenya’s new standing as a MIC threatens its income from international aid and donations. The country faces a contradictory situation: while its economic position has improved, the country’s health sector remains typical of an LIC. For example, only 28 percent of infants are fully immunized.

The Government of Kenya is working to on a plan for universal health coverage (UHC), providing all citizens with the health services they need and saving them from financial hardship. According to the World Bank, Kenya’s rate of “out-of-pocket” expenditures (the amount paid by the patient’s household) was greater than 50 percent. For poor families, this often means selling business assets or pulling their children out of school. Kenya’s challenge is to figure out how to revolutionize a health system to include even the poorest Kenyans, while international aid possibly decreases in the coming years.

In the report, Who Pays for Progress?, the authors (Steve Lewis and Evelyn Kibuchi) suggest that a balance between domestic resource mobilization (DRM, otherwise known as taxes) and official development assistance (ODA) will be the way toward a sustainable and independent healthcare system.

Alliance of public funders

RESULTS UK argues in the report that cooperation between internal (domestic) and external (international) actors is necessary since both solutions have inconveniences that the other can counterbalance.

ODA could and has declined and follows unpredictable trends. Australia, for example, decided to cut 70 percent of its aid for developing countries. International aid institutions such as the World Bank and GAVI (the Vaccine Alliance) have a variety of complex criteria from which it is difficult to determine what will be the final aid amount disbursed. Furthermore, relying on DRM instead of ODA provides greater maneuverability for countries because ODA is often conditional and subject to donor priorities. Kenya cannot risk being totally dependent on the varying ODA and its requirements.

On the other hand, ODA that is earmarked for healthcare comes with direction on how to be spent; it is thus a way to assure funding is provided for health services. Tax income, meanwhile, may be siphoned off for debt repayment or subject to a lack of political will or a lack of trust in health sector efficiency. Furthermore, while DRM currently accounts for 55 percent of Kenya’s budget, it covers only a fraction of many of the country’s healthcare needs.

Finding the most sustainable way to finance UHC

In the medium-term, ODA may fall faster than Kenya is able to increase tax revenue. In 2012, Kenya collected 15.9 percent of their GDP in tax revenue (World Bank data). According to the UNDP, this number needs to increase to 20 percent to smooth the transition from a donor- and tax revenue-financed health sector to a tax revenue- and loan-financed health sector. This is a sustainably financed health sector.

The report recommends tax reforms that combat illicit financial flows in order to a) facilitate predictability of tax income and prioritization; b) create a sense of participation to appear responsible to donor nations, which will then be obligated and/or encouraged to continue their aid; and c) gain recognition in the international finance markets for replacing grants with loans.

In the shorter term, responsible health spending (regarding the implementation of UHC) requires that ODA has to be invested in a profitable way. Investment could occur directly in some key aspect of the health sector regarding maternal health, delivery or child nutrition, as “every dollar invested in nutrition to reduce stunting yields a benefit of more than $16” [1]. Investment could also take place indirectly, for example, to reform and modernize Kenya’s tax system, as “an OECD pilot project in Kenya found that every $1 invested in tax administration, $1,650 was returned” [2].

The report concludes that Kenya should work toward a tax system suitable to an LMIC country. Kenya is not unique in its transition from an LIC to an LMIC, and this report can easily be adapted to other countries that fall in between these two categories. A close look at this group of countries would benefit other countries who are on the way to being in the same position between LIC and MIC.

Read the full report.

Footnotes

[1] “Who Pays for Progress?” page 13

[2] Page 30


Related reading

Colombia, a “Pathways” poster child

cct-grad-model_infographic_final_en1_Medium

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>>Authored by Paul Gostomski, Microcredit Summit Campaign Program Intern

The 100 Million Project, an initiative of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, aims galvanize and support work that helps advance industry toward the goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out extreme poverty. To do so, the Microcredit Summit Campaign advocates adoption of “Six Pathways,” which are financial inclusion strategies that can reach the extreme poor and facilitate their movement out of extreme poverty.

The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a global partnership of 34 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion, recently published a paper that does an excellent job highlighting two pathways that are currently being implemented in Colombia: conditional cash transfers and an initiative to link mobile banking services with agent networks.

Conditional Cash Transfers

The Más Familias en Acción program began in 2001 and aims to supplement the income of families who live below the poverty line and have children under 18. Mothers receive the cash transfer conditioned on their child’s regular attendance at school. This condition also qualifies the family for a health subsidy if their child receives regular health check-ups. In 2012, Más Familias en Acción was reaching 2.7 million families throughout the country. Between 2001 and 2012, malnutrition among children in Colombia aged two and under in rural areas decreased by 10 percent. Also in this time, school attendance for children between 12 and 17 increased by 12 percent.

The Campaign advocates for the use of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) within our six-pathways framework due to evidence such as is seen from programs like Más Familias en Acción. An array of positive externalities are also associated with CCTs, including income smoothing. Stabilizing income through CCTs help families better plan for the future as the immediate risks of today are somewhat mitigated.

Conditioned cash transfers are also incentivizing beneficiaries to make investments in themselves, often through participation in programs to increase health or education for the family. During last year’s Innovations in Social Protection program led by the Campaign, participants in PROGRESA (then called Oportunidades) indicated that while they appreciated and valued the security the transfer brought, they found that the greatest positive change was understanding the significance of the education and health investments they were making in their families.

Another positive externality of conditional cash transfer, and one we find significant, is its effect on women in poor communities. Almost all conditional cash transfers are administered to the mother of the household and this in turn increases women’s bargaining power, something that’s all too often neglected in poor communities.

 Mobile Money with Agent Networks

The second of the two pathways currently being implemented in Colombia is mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities through the mobile banking service DaviPlata. DaviPlata, launched as a private mobile service in 2011, was able to garner 500,000 customers in its first year of operation. Taking notice of this success, the government of Colombia contracted DaviPlata in 2012 to deliver the conditional cash transfers of Más Familias en Acción to its 937,000 beneficiaries.

After being contracted, the paper noted, DaviPlata as an organization began a new focus on how to serve the poorest in the country. DaviPlata, working solely through mobile phones, makes financial inclusion easier by making transferring, receiving, and withdrawing money less costly to the recipient of the conditional cash transfer. The recipient now spends less time traveling to the bank or post office and takes less risk as he or she has less cash on their person.

The World Bank reports that of the poorest two quintiles of those living in developing countries, only 30 percent have access to a savings account, whether formal or informal. The Campaign is looking at mobile money within its six-pathways framework because of how digital financial tools are decreasing the cost of transacting and, when linked with savings, increasing the ease with which the poor can access accounts, begin to develop savings, and more easily transfer money when needed.

Although many of the poor do not have savings accounts, many do have mobile devices. Mobile money linked with agent networks like DaviPlata helps link those living in more rural and remote areas to the mobile platforms where traditional financial institutions are less easy to find.

However, DaviPlata has room for improvement as a payments facility. The CGAP paper reports that DaviPlata faces an illiterate customer base and also issues with customers that do not understand the technology. DaviPlata must also deal with dormant accounts, where customers signed up for the service but their accounts have not been used in more than 30 days. Overcoming these challenges will be critical to moving forward.

Colombia’s Next Step

Colombia’s Más Familias en Acción, is a global leader in the use of CCTs to support increased health standards and school attendance among the poor. Now, work needs to be focused on decreasing the inefficiencies around the mobile banking service DaviPlata. In the CGAP paper on Colombia, it was made clear that Colombia’s greatest development challenge was in regard to DaviPlata and increasing its financial stability. This includes taking fuller advantage of the product while making the processes and channels more efficient. With a more effective method on distributing funds, the intended effects of Más Familias en Acción can then be multiplied.


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


Related reading

#tbt: Lobbying the World Bank, Part II

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“We measure what we value and we value what we measure. It is clear that donor agencies value strong financial performance because they require their clients to measure their financial performance precisely. Except for USAID, other donors still do not demonstrate a similar value on measuring the poverty level of entering clients.”
Read the entire 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 this weekend (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. In reviewing advocacy fights in the early 2000s, we remember our campaign to push the World Bank to mandate the use of poverty measurement tools by their partners.


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.

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 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…

Continuing from Part I

WB/CGAP: We of course agree that conventional microfinance does not automatically push itself deeper to reach poorer clients. In fact, many MFls do move away from poorer clients to those who are better-off, under the assumption that better-off clients pose lower risks and the larger loans they would be taking would increase institutional profitability and sustainability. We believe, therefore, that there needs to be a sustained effort at trying to reach poorer people. This needs to come from understanding client needs and developing products and services that are useful to them. It needs to come from developing better targeting tools and identifying, encouraging and funding innovations that enable sustainable financial services to the very poor. It needs to come from greater transparency so that information is made available on whether institutions are actually reaching very poor clients. What is required is a set of incentives that promote such activities and ongoing demonstration [that] financial services to the very poor is a feasible and sustainable business.

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

MCS: What greater incentive is there for promoting outreach to those below $1 a day than for an MFI to know that the World Bank and other donors want them to use a cost-effective poverty measurement tool? Wouldn’t this give us “greater transparency so that information is made available on whether institutions are actually reaching very poor clients?”

Advocacy efforts to ensure that donor efforts in microfinance reached the very poor began in 1986. There has never been a greater move to ensure that the very poor are reached than has occurred since the U.S. legislation became law in 2003. This change took 17 years and a Congressional mandate. With the Millennium Development Goals due in just 11 years, another decade of soft incentives is insufficient. Freedom from Hunger’s Chris Dunford argues that we measure what we value and that we value what we measure. It is clear that donor agencies value strong financial performance because they require their clients to measure their financial performance precisely. Except for USAID, other donors still do not demonstrate a similar value on measuring the poverty level of entering clients.

WB/CGAP: Many of the poorest people with no sources of income require grants, employment and other services, rather than microcredit. Donor support for developing models that “graduate” them from welfare-type safety net programs to where they have sufficient incomes to productively use financial services, is far more important than credit per se. Credit is, after all, debt, and under certain circumstances it can make the extremely poor more vulnerable, not less vulnerable.

MCS: “Donor support for developing models that ‘graduate’ them from welfare-type safety net programs to where they have sufficient incomes to productively use financial services” is important, but which donors are leading in this area and how extensive is that leadership? The impression is given that very poor families should not access microfinance but instead choose the services they need as if these services are readily available. This is a false choice for the very poor when 29,000 of the children of the poorest die each day from mostly preventable malnutrition and disease, when 104 million of their primary-school aged children are not in school, and when the services they desperately need are not likely to be available today or in the near future.

World Bank and CGAP officials say that “Credit is, after all, debt, and under certain circumstances it can make the extremely poor more vulnerable, not less vulnerable,” but it is the debt that they have taken on from unscrupulous moneylenders that mires hundreds of millions in a life of grinding poverty. As Karen L. McGuinness of Princeton University wrote in a letter for The New York Times, “The reality in most poor countries is that the poorest are already saddled with incredible debt at usurious rates from local moneylenders. This is the fundamental predicament that microfinance institutions have effectively addressed for nearly three decades now.”

WB/CGAP: We fully agree that there is a need for cost effective poverty measurement tools. Much greater transparency is required on whom financial institutions are reaching. CGAP has been very active in developing tools to encourage a deepening of microfinance outreach. It has developed a “Client Poverty Assessment Tool” and a “Poverty Audit of Microfinance Institutions’ Pro- Poor Services” for donors to determine whether their funded institutions do indeed try hard and succeed in working with the very poor. Recently, CGAP has also been working with financial institutions to assist them to develop their own simple and cost-effective poverty assessment tools.

MCS: While the work of CGAP is appreciated, it has not created the breakthrough in thinking and action that the new U.S. law has forged. Developing new tools can still be a far cry from ensuring their use. Even though CGAP’s Poverty Measurement Tool has been available for at least four years, not more than a handful of CGAP’s 29 members have ever used it. The slow pace of voluntary implementation is insufficient for ensuring the change necessary for cutting absolute poverty in half by 2015.

WB/CGAP: We are aware of the microfinance legislation passed in 2002 by the U.S. Congress. In fact, at the urging of its bilateral and multilateral donor members, CGAP launched a discussion on its website on whether the approach promoted by such legislation could be more broadly applicable to other donor agencies. A very active discussion followed and the result was that many senior members of the microfinance community were opposed to the extension of such mandates in other donor agencies. (The discussion submissions can be found on the internet under US Poverty Mandate Discussion at www.microfinancegateway.org.)

MCS: It is true that many senior members of the microfinance community were opposed. In fact, the first four statements posted were from CGAP Executive Committee members, all of whom were opposed to adoption of the new mandate by other aid agencies. On the other hand, the mandate had the support of Fazle Abed, Chairman of BRAC, Shafiqal Haque Choudhury, Managing Director of ASA, Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director of Grameen Bank, Chris Dunford, President of Freedom from Hunger, Anton Simanowitz, Director of ImpAct, Didier Thys, CEO of The MIX, Alex Counts, President of Grameen Foundation U.S.A., and other key players. These are the opinions from leaders of some of the largest and most successful poverty-focused microfinance institutions in the world.

Relevant 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

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

Microcredit Summit Campaign joins World Bank’s financial inclusion efforts

Global Findex database, World Bank, Washington, DC.
http://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/globalfindex

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign issued a press release today announcing our commitment to Universal Financial Access by 2020. The Campaign joins the World Bank Group and a their coalition of partners — including MasterCard, Visa, Mandiri, the State Bank of India, Equity Bank, and Bandhan — in making a commitments to accelerate universal financial access. Financial access and inclusion are stepping stones to achieving the end of extreme poverty by 2030.

The 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. Read the full press release.

This commitment was announced on April 17th in Washington, D.C., at the World Bank Group’s Spring Meetings.

Related resources

Can tablets and apps fight poverty?

Kids learning_LISTA_599x450

Kids use the financial literacy app developed by Fundacíon Capital called LISTA
Photo credit: Fundacíon Capital

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>>Authored by Julieta Bossi, Communications Officer, Fundación Capital

MoMF

April is the Month of Microfinance

We can talk about innovation and we can talk about technology, but when we work on poverty reduction, the most important thing we need to talk about is community.

It is only when we understand what capabilities and tools already exist and are being used within a community that we can develop and explore new technologies and solutions for that community. And it is only by working together with the social innovation community that we can ensure that these new tools can reach millions and have a lasting impact.

At Fundación Capital we work to eliminate poverty by fostering economic, financial, and social inclusion. Without economic opportunities and financial abilities, one cannot obtain full citizenship, including all of the rights and responsibilities that it entails. Therefore, our main goal is to promote financial inclusion and create economic citizenship. We do this by strengthening the productive, financial, human, and social assets of people living in conditions of poverty and extreme poverty, empowering them to find their own way out of poverty. Throughout this process, we rely on innovation and technology that we created in partnership with the community to provide sustainable and effective solutions.

Fundación Capital works with public and private institutions, helping government entities to create more innovative and efficient public policies and helping the private sector to develop products and services that fulfill needs at the base of the pyramid.

Working with communities, we identify needs and preferences that guide the design of new solutions we dream up and develop. Existing knowledge, capabilities, and social capital become the springboard for innovation and represent valuable tools that can be combined with digital solutions to generate real and effective change with the potential to reach millions, including those living in the most remote and rural regions.

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

A client of Fundacíon Capital wiht her daughter

Photo credit: Fundacíon Capital

Through this process of innovation and co-creation, we have developed a number of digital solutions. One of them is LISTA, an initiative that was born out of the need to provide financial education to millions of conditional cash transfer recipients in a cost-effective way. LISTA offers interactive and relevant content delivered via a tablet computer provided to the families. The app called “Produciendo por mi futuro” provides tips for financial planning, familiarizes users with ATMs and mobile money through simulators, and seeks to break barriers between low-income communities and the formal financial system. This tool is brought into families’ homes, providing users with the opportunity to study on their own time, concentrate on topics most relevant to their needs, and include all family members in the learning process.

Another way we transfer knowledge to less advantaged communities living in remote areas is through government, this app teaches them how to run a business, manage and invest the capital into productive activities. It ensures that these injections of capital will be invested and provide a foundation to build on and eventually graduate out of poverty. Once they’ve built up their businesses, communities can access additional funding through LittleBigMoney, Latin America’s first crowdfunding platform for projects or businesses led by bottom of the pyramid entrepreneurs or whose impact benefits vulnerable communities.

Another challenge encountered in poverty alleviation programs is training field workers and ensuring the quality of the financial education they deliver. Since they engage with the community on a daily basis, it is important that they are properly trained, so we have created an e-learning course for fieldworkers working with our graduation program.

We also provide fieldworkers with the “Produciendo por mi futuro” app  to increase their productivity. The fieldworkers leave the tablets with participating families, who study the material over the course of the week, so that when they meet with their fieldworker “coach”, they can have more productive and personalized conversations with real outcomes. The app empowers families living in extreme poverty, by offering them financial education and business training.

After years of working on designing, developing, and implementing these kinds of solutions, we have come to understand that the most important input for our work and innovation is the constant feedback we receive from communities. They are our inspiration and a great source of ideas for constant improvement and adjustment. While we can’t expect that any one of these digital solutions will provide a “magic bullet” tool for poverty alleviation, these tools support communities as they work to improve their lives and reach their goals.

A Fundacíon Capital family in their shop Photo credit: Fundacíon Capital

A Fundacíon Capital family in their shop
Photo credit: Fundacíon Capital

The only way to ensure that innovation and technology works is by both designing and testing it with the community and then learning from failures and making the necessary adaptations. For us, it is also important to learn from and share ideas with the social innovation community, so we look forward to working in partnership with other members of the community.

Fundación Capital made a Campaign Commitment to end extreme poverty, watch this video to know more about it:

 

Is it April Fools’ Day, or ‘Groundhog Day’?

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

MoMF

April is the Month of Microfinance

We are capitalizing on the occasion of the Month of Microfinance to bring you articles throughout April on our 100 Million Ideas blog that reflect the results of this year’s Listening Tour. We received written feedback from 151 people and conducted 27 interviews with thought leaders like Beth Porter (UNCDF), Syed Hashemi (BRAC University), Essma Ben Hamida (enda inter arabe), and William Derban (Fidelity Bank). This feedback from the industry forms the basis of the Campaign’s theme for 2015 of financial inclusion to end extreme poverty and the six pathways that we think show promise in getting us there:

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

These six pathways will be reflected in the 2015 State of the Campaign Report, the 18th Microcredit Summit, and Campaign Commitments to be featured this year. From the start, the Microcredit Summit Campaign has advocated scaling up microcredit (and, by extension, “microfinance”) as just one part of a larger effort to end poverty. We have held up as paramount the continued innovation and client-focused development of financial tools, creative ideas for delivering these services to remote and hard-to-reach areas at affordable prices, and the promise that microfinance can help create positive and durable changes in the lives of those being served. These six pathways are a continuation of that promise.

Fazila Begum struggling Member of Grameen Bank Shakhaerchar branch

We met Fazila Begum in 2007. She was a struggling member of Grameen Bank, Shakhaerchar branch.

When will researchers catch up with microfinance leaders?

From the very first loan of $27 that Mohammad Yunus gave to 42 women in Bangladesh, the heart of microfinance has always been about getting to know the needs of people living in poverty and designing products and services that help them loose the bonds that keep them in poverty. The aim of Yunus and many other founders of the movement was not to build financial institutions, but to empower people women to create a better future for themselves and their children. To do this they had to get to know people living in poverty and their cash flows, needs and aspirations in order to develop combinations of helpful products and services.

So when our team listened to the presentations of academic researchers made at the World Bank covering six randomized control trials of microcredit programs, we came away more than a little underwhelmed. Their big conclusion, after spending several years and millions of dollars on research: “Understand clients.” (Watch a recording of the forum.)

Even more alarming was that many of the researchers and the audience seemed surprised by the news. We have been engaged with leading microfinance groups around the world and have seen how they have learned — on their own — the lessons that the researchers presented as well as how they adapted their programs to address them long ago.

Here are some examples of research findings presented at the World Bank gatherings and actions previously taken by leading MFIs:

“Credit alone, on average, has neither large positive or negative effects.”

Very few of the leading MFIs that have focused on reaching people in poverty and facilitating their movement out of poverty have ever offered only credit. Grameen, from the start, had group savings and the 16 Decisions. The Village Banks developed by FINCA offered group savings and a group insurance fund. Many also provide training in business, marketing, health, nutrition, and sanitation in their group meetings.

“When only credit is available, people may use it when what they really need is savings, or insurance or other financial products.”

Microfinance leader BRI in Indonesia has been offering individual voluntary savings accounts since the 1980s and now has over 35 million savings accounts and 8 million borrowers. While many of the group lending systems provided loans, savings, and insurance bundled into one package, many of the leading MFIs have begun unbundling those services in the last two decades.

Grameen II, instituted in 2001, provides a range of financial services to clients, including voluntary savings and micropensions, and it removed the group guarantee on loans. Opportunity International began providing microinsurance in 2002, expanding from life insurance to health, casualty, and crop insurance and then spinning off MicroEnsure as a subsidiary that now reaches over 10 million clients.

Nangolkot, Noakhali, Bangladesh

Villagers in Nangolkot, Noakhali, Bangladesh
Photo credit: ©Shamimur Rahman and Giorgia Bonaga

“For 5-10 percent of the clients, credit has a very large positive impact on business growth and income.”

Aris Alip, founder of the CARD network of mutually reinforcing development institutions, saw this happening in the villages where CARD provided group-based savings and lending services. He also saw that those 5-10 percent that grew benefited the community by providing stable employment to others. In 2008, CARD created an SME bank to work specifically with fast growing microbusinesses and to see if, by providing appropriate products and services to this group, they could increase the percentage of growing businesses to 15 or 20 percent.

“For the ultra-poor, a gift of an asset has significant positive impact.”

REST Client photo_427x569

A woman client of Relief Society of Tigray (REST) in Ethiopia harvests her mango tree.
Photo credit: REST

This learning came directly from the work of BRAC and its ultra-poor graduation program. BRAC found that those who live on less than $.50 per day face so much vulnerability in their lives that they do not want to take on more debt. They developed a system of regular stipends of food or cash, a gift of an asset like an animal or a sewing machine, business training, savings, and regular mentoring. This program has now been replicated in several countries, and studies of these programs show strong positive impact.

The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) has combined this programs with the government’s Productive Safety Net Program so that the government provides the stipends and the assets, REST provides training and mentoring, and Dedebit Bank provides savings and lending facilities.


We are glad that these studies have proven out the innovations implemented by many leading MFIs. But if researchers want to get ahead of the learning curve, they could start to engage with some of these leading institutions on the questions that they are asking now. Here are some suggestions we have for new areas of research:

Research question 1: Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) seem to play an important role in providing some regularity in lives that are filled with unpredictability and vulnerability. How can these be linked with other services, like savings and insurance, to help beneficiaries move from resilience to asset building?

Research question 2: Are there some financial services that consistently provide benefits and rarely cause harmful effects so that they should be recommended for all? It looks like savings could fit this category, provided the savings mechanism is safe and the account maintains its value over time.

Research question 3: How do we refine our understanding of the situations in which credit is most likely to be helpful? And, what role do other services, such as group meetings, access to health care, insurance, and savings, improve the likelihood that a person will benefit from credit?

Research question 4: Graduation programs that start with a donated asset, group meetings, mentoring, and community involvement and lead to other financial service like savings and credit have proven to have a positive impact. Can we start to determine under what circumstances a person will need all of these services — and which people might need only one or two — to start moving from extreme poverty?

Instead of taking more time and money to prove that we need to understand clients, we suggest that researchers work with microfinance institutions that already listen to their clients and develop with them research agendas based on that growing understanding.

The same family from the top of the article has gone through the Stoplight process and now their situation is much improved.

A Fundación Paraguaya family has gone through the Poverty Stoplight process and now their situation is much improved. Read our blog post about the Poverty Stoplight.
Photo credit: Fundación Paraguaya


Relevant Resources

2013 State of the Campaign Report:Know Your Client

Social protection: innovative programs deliver financial services at scale

How families are creating step-by-step plans for poverty elimination


 

A few key takeaways from the World Bank forum on microcredit (video)

The diagnosis of the six randomized evaluations that spanned six countries on four continents, in both urban and rural areas with different borrower, lender, and loan characteristics, was that they showed no significant impact on the poverty level or living standards of the clients.

In some studies, it was concluded that the top 5-10 percent of clients did have some significant impact on their income and assets. One study showed some positive impact on women’s empowerment while another showed that depression seemed to go down for clients who had taken a loan, but their stress levels went up. Basically, it was all rather inconclusive, yet it also opened a transformative dialogue about how we can learn from our mistakes and what we need to do better to meet the needs of our clients.

On learning from what we know does work

The results of the randomized evaluations suggest that microcredit alone doesn’t have a transformative effect on the poor. However, despite its shortcomings, it is recognized that microcredit enhances the range of choices available to the poor and allows them to manage their circumstances as they consider appropriate.

Furthermore, microcredit still serves, in many cases, an important role as a risk absorption tool, acting as an insurance product that allows the clients to react to shocks and emergencies. In these instances, credit provides stability and prevents the clients from falling deeper into poverty. It has long been recognized that credit is not suited for many people, so insurance products should not be built around a credit product. In fact, several panelists said that microinsurance may be more needed than microloans particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,

For his part, Alex Counts (Grameen Foundation) invited the audience to focus on the five percent of clients — equivalent to millions of families — who moved out of poverty with microcredit. We should do this because we should want to understand (isn’t it our job to understand?) what it was that helped them compared to those less successful (or unsuccessful).

More research is needed to stimulate this conversation around what is working and what is not and to promote models that can serve as examples for adaptation and replication.

On understanding your clients

The research presented at the World Bank forum showed us that we need further analysis on what poor people really want and in understanding the heterogeneity of needs. It is important to study the particular context of each country, region, and community. Different circumstances lead to heterogeneous needs, so we need to offer a variety of products and services that actually meet the specific needs of the clients.

In addition, we need much more work on tracking how the money is being used. Perhaps we should not only look at factors like change in profits, wages, or consumption to test the success of microcredit products. Clients sometimes use their loan for personal needs, like for health issues or for social obligations such as weddings and funerals, and in order to see the impact of microcredit on the overall quality of life for clients, we need to know where the money is going.

Knowing more about these two dimensions will enable better product design, promote innovation, and help microfinance evolve in a manner that is both sustainable and beneficial to the extreme poor. It comes back to what Dean Karlan said, “Understand your clients.”

On the implications of digital innovations

Innovations in financial technologies are increasing client outreach and reducing transaction costs (to nearly zero), but they are also creating new transparency challenges that could pose serious risks to the clients if they are not addressed.

The main concern is the lack of adequate regulation for digital financial services. Client protection measures need to be in place to raise awareness of the risks linked to loans and ensure that customers understand the terms and conditions of the loans they are taking out. This is particularly important when we consider the rapid pace of growth and expected outreach of the new digital services.

When looking at agent networks, serving 100,000 clients after five years was a big achievement; today, however, they are expected to reach 1,000,000 clients after only one year of implementing a digital service.

We need to carefully assess the risk of inflicting harm to a large number of people at the base of the pyramid to ensure that digital financial services are being provided in a responsible way that brings no harm to the clients. Keeping this in mind may inspire innovative ideas for consumer protection and improve the quality of existing products.

On their recommendations for further research

In the coming years, Abhijit Banerjee (J-PAL) stated that research should focus on answering the questions: Why is there a low demand for microcredit products? What do clients need? What are the right products to offer them and the right channels? Where does the money go if it doesn’t reduce poverty?

Esther Duflo talked specifically about the graduation pilot programs, which are targeting the ultra-poor and already show some positive results on poverty levels. The results of this research will buoy efforts to promote the adoption of graduation programs as a poverty alleviation tool and underscores the need to segment the poor for the purposes of understanding the impact of microcredit and designing adequate products.

Are we measuring the real story? Jaikishan Desai, one of the researchers of the RCTs, posed this question to the audience. This seemed to go beyond how do we interpret the data to what is the purpose of measuring the impact of microcredit? Is microcredit and microfinance supposed to be the cure of the world poor or should it be used as a tool to include ignored segments of the population and reduce risk to those most vulnerable? Are we looking for a change in poverty levels or should we be focusing on the impact credit has on maintaining stability?

Other questions that were not resolved included, was the length of the study a factor? Do we need more long-term or short-term assessments? What about the generational impact? Could it be that we won’t see the effects of microcredit on clients unless we track progress through the next generation?

What impact does an MFI’s staff incentives and governance have on its clients? Does this impact the type of loans they receive and the quality of the product?

Relevant resources


For those who are unfamiliar with the cultural references in the title

April Fools’ Day: April 1st is a day of pranks and practical jokes and has its roots in medieval Europe — or possibly even earlier — and is similar to (or may be related to) the Holi festival of India.

Groundhog Day: February 2nd is an American tradition brought over by our German ancestors and adopted by popular culture and the media; it consists of looking to a rodent (a groundhog) to find out if winter is over or not. However, our reference here refers to a fantastic movie of the same name where Bill Murray relives the same day over and over again to hilarious effect.

Microfinance India Summit 2013 Workshop On Transforming The Lives Of Poor Clients

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Learn how you can help ensure that microfinance is part of the movement to end extreme poverty by 2030. EspañolFrançais Continue reading

Partnering to End Extreme Poverty

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“Together we can achieve an important milestone in human history. A world that is free—truly free—from extreme poverty.”
—World Bank President Jim Kim EspañolFrançais Continue reading

Opening Ceremony Sets the Tone for 2013 Summit

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Partnerships against Poverty Summit Banner with logos

Date: Wednesday, October 9th
Time: 9:30 – 11:00 AM

“Together we can achieve an important milestone in human history. A world that is free—truly free—from extreme poverty,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in the opening session of the 2013 Microcredit Summit:  Partnerships against Poverty. In a pre-recorded statement, Dr. Kim urged the more than 850 delegates from 71 countries to commit themselves to making microfinance a key tool in the movement to end extreme poverty.

Watch Dr. Kim’s statement

Read the transcript in English, Français, or Español.

The World Bank’s two new goals to end extreme poverty by the year 2030 and to increase the incomes of the poorest 40 percent “are now the central purpose and moral underpinnings of our institution,” explained Dr. Kim.

9-2_OpeningCeremony_AmandoTetango_205x307_photo credit - Vikash Kumar

Amando Tetangco, Jr., Governor, Central Bank of the Philippines
(Photo credit: Vikash Kumar Photography)

“To achieve this bold vision, all of us will have to work together, including civil society, as well as our public and private sector partners. The many organizations involved in the Microcredit Summit Campaign and the 100 Million Project are making important contributions to these goals…”

This became the guiding theme for our three-day Summit. Through plenary presentations and workshop discussions, participants explored how, through partnerships, technology and innovation, microfinance could do a better job of reaching those living in extreme poverty and facilitating their movement out of poverty.

Central Bank of the Philippines Governor Amando Tetangco, Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, and Indonesian Minister of Cooperatives and SMEs Syarifuddin Hasan joined Dr. Kim’s call for financial services providers to reach the excluded with products and services that enabled them to build resilience and take advantage of opportunities. (Watch the video of this part of the Opening Ceremony here.)

Opening Ceremony_client interviews_597x144After the shared anecdotes of successful Filipino clients of microfinance, Professor Muhammad Yunus wrapped up the opening session to the Summit, joining his colleagues in imploring for financial inclusion across the globe. “Nobody should be outside the financial services.” Professor Yunus continued his interview discussing the importance of partnerships, and how by working together, and learning from each other, the World Bank’s goal of ridding the world of extreme poverty by 2030 will continue to present itself as one that is attainable.

Watch the the interview of Professor Yunus

The statements of dedication to existing and new partnerships against poverty from the many high-level presenters during the opening session of the Summit set forth a strong foundation for the engaging and action-oriented sessions that followed. They also put forth the platform on which delegates could form Campaign Commitments to helping 100 million families lift themselves out of severe poverty—and thereby make a dramatic step forward in doing our part as an industry to support reaching the World Bank’s goal for 2030. Learn more about the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s new initiative, Campaign Commitments, here.

Watch the full video of the Opening Ceremony
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