You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Social Performance’ tag.

> Posted by Anne Hastings and Tyler Owens, Microfinance CEO Working Group

The following post was originally published on the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s blog, 100millionideas.org.

Since its inception in the spring of 2011, the Microfinance CEO Working Group has worked diligently and collaboratively to define the concept of Responsible Microfinance around the globe and lead by example to try to fulfill this vision. It has focused on three key pillars on which Responsible Microfinance is built: client protection, pricing transparency, and social performance management. A responsible microfinance institution (MFI) is one that, at a minimum:

  • Does all in its power to protect its clients from harm;
  • Is transparent about fees and interest rates; and
  • Implements best practices in social performance management including monitoring effectiveness in achieving desired client level outcomes.

An MFI can achieve this by complying with the industry-developed standards of the Smart Campaign, MicroFinance Transparency, and the Social Performance Task Force, known as the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management.

The Working Group is a collaborative effort of the CEOs of Accion International, FINCA International, Freedom from Hunger, Grameen Foundation, Opportunity International, Pro Mujer, VisionFund, and Women’s World Banking. At the Microcredit Summit in Manila in October 2013, the Working Group publicly encouraged its collective 224 affiliated MFIs around the globe to embrace Responsible Microfinance by sharing a list of commitments. Since making those commitments, the group has made significant headway toward strengthening each one of the pillars of Responsible Microfinance.

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> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI

Nearly every industry requires infrastructure to thrive, and this goes for the microfinance industry too. But the infrastructure that the global microfinance industry has constructed over the past two decades is looking a bit shaky today. Infrastructure investments are urgently needed to keep the industry sound and prepare it for the future.

One could argue what exactly constitutes the microfinance industry’s infrastructure, and there are a range of organizations to choose from, but for this conversation, let’s look at several key organizations dedicated to setting standards and providing information for microfinance globally: the Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX), the four specialized microfinance rating agencies, the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF), Smart Campaign, and Microfinance Transparency (MFT). These organizations, which perform vital functions for the industry, arose during two different phases of microfinance industry development.

The first generation of organizations – MIX and the rating agencies – were created to provide financial transparency and standards, primarily so that investors could identify well-performing institutions, and also so microfinance institutions could evaluate their own performance against common standards. It took a lot of work to create these organizations. MIX had to find ways to incentivize MFIs to report and to devise a system for data quality assurance. The founders of the rating agencies – Microrate, Planet Rating, Microfinanza Ratings, and M-CRIL – took substantial personal risk in devoting their careers to promoting financial transparency in microfinance.  Together, these organizations have helped spread financial standards throughout the microfinance industry and contributed to improving the financial performance of MFIs, enabling the entry of private social investors who now contribute very importantly to the funding of microfinance. We sometimes now take financial transparency for granted, but if these organizations were to stop playing their role in upholding it, adherence to standards across the industry would undoubtedly drop, with consequences for investor interest, which up to now has remained strong.

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> Posted by Meghan Greene, Manager, Microfinance CEO Working Group

Last June, at the annual Social Performance Task Force meeting in Jordan, the members of the Microfinance CEO Working Group and their lead social performance directors announced their plan to conduct the first large-scale analysis of the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management (USSPM) in practice, a process we called “beta testing.” You may recall our blog post about the plan last summer.

After a year of work, we’re ready to share our results, as detailed in the new working paper, “Insights from ‘Beta Testing’ the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management.”

As many of you know, the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management are a set of 99 “Essential Practices,” organized into six sections:

  • Section 1: Define and Monitor Social Goals
  • Section 2: Ensure Board, Management, and Employee Commitment to Social Goals
  • Section 3: Treat Clients Responsibly (Essentially tracking the Smart Campaign)
  • Section 4: Design Products, Services, Delivery Models, and Channels that Meet Clients’ Needs and Preferences
  • Section 5: Treat Employees Responsibly
  • Section 6: Balance Financial and Social Performance

The Universal Standards are considered applicable to all double bottom line microfinance institutions, and meeting the Standards signifies that an institution has strong social performance management practices. Clearly, implementing all 99 Essential Practices requires careful thought, planning, and execution, but we wanted to learn more about the process of translating the Standards into action. We partnered with more than 20 MFIs to work to answer a number of questions, including: Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Antonique Koning and Kate McKee, Microfinance Specialist and Senior Adviser, CGAP

The following post was originally published on the CGAP Blog.

Microfinance investors are now openly discussing responsible investment, including balancing returns and how to reduce risks of market saturation and over-indebtedness, more than ever before. Investors agree it’s time for action. At the mid-year Social Investor Roundtable, convening of the Sangam Group (CEOs of the ten largest MIVs) and annual Development Finance Institutions (DFI) consultation on responsible finance last month they agreed on a “to-do” list of six concrete actions:

1. Join the discussion on balanced returns: Many participating investors had signed the Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance (PIIF). Most agree that the balanced returns principle is the most difficult to pin down. The topic came up frequently: How much is too much, when it comes to prices and profits in the sector? Several MIV CEOs asserted that their commercial business model was the most effective way to drive responsible financial inclusion at scale. Eyebrows around the room shot up when one fund manager stated the target return of his fund: 20 percent. Other fund managers disagreed with the philosophy that such returns are consistent with responsible practice and desirable client outcomes. “We’re fooling ourselves” to suggest that there are few trade-offs between the financial and social bottom lines, they said. By policy some funds agree to take a lower return in the short run if it translates into better rural outreach or services like deposits that clients need and want. Sangam MIVs formed a working group on balanced returns and will feed their perspectives into related discussions led by the PIIF and Social Performance Task Force (SPTF). If you’re an investor, you should join one of these processes and help the search for a pragmatic but meaningful understanding on balanced returns.

2. Use the new Lender Guidelines on avoiding over-indebtedness. Market saturation was another hot topic: What can and should investors do about risks of market saturation and over-indebtedness? Investors in the AvOID Working Group have developed a Lender Code of Practice, which outlines steps investors should take in market analysis, due diligence, monitoring, and governance engagement. The Code has now been finalized and integrated in the PIIFs. Your investment organization can benefit by integrating the guidelines into your processes.

3. Support country-level research on market saturation and over-indebtedness: In addition to guidance that individual investors can use to rein in over-indebtedness, investors are also working together on analyzing such risks at the country or market level. DFIs and MIVs have supported this work in countries such as Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Kyrgysz Republic. Most recently, Blue Orchard, Incofin, and Oikocredit stepped up to jointly fund an innovative methodology in Cambodia that combined country-level proxies for market penetration, indicators of MFI lending practices, and surveys and qualitative research on borrower indebtedness and related factors. Findings were presented at the Social Investor Roundtable and will be formally released later this month. Sangam members committed funding to replicate the study elsewhere. Other investors can join and support expansion of this important work in additional markets.

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> Posted by Mary Jo Kochendorfer, Manager, Social Performance Management Center, Grameen Foundation

Mary Jo Kochendorfer, on right, at AFMIN Annual Conference in Uganda.

This post by Mary Jo Kochendorfer was originally published on the Progress out of Poverty blog. Progress out of Poverty is an initiative of the Grameen Foundation that assists microfinance institutions and other organizations measure and track the poverty levels of groups and individuals, and in turn better manage their programs.

This past summer, the microfinance industry recently celebrated a milestone when the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) released the Universal Standards of Social Performance Management (USSPM) after a worldwide consensus-building effort. After much work and collaboration, the microfinance industry, by way of the SPTF, came together and put forth standards which outline the best practices for monitoring and managing social performance. The SPTF defines social performance as “the effective translation of an institution’s social mission into practice in line with accepted social values.” Following the SPTF annual meeting back in June, regional microfinance networks have also prioritized social performance in their agendas.

Last month, the Africa Microfinance Network (AFMIN) hosted its annual conference in Kampala, Uganda to discuss “the State-of-the-Practice of Social Performance Management in Africa.” While there, I participated in a panel on Poverty Measurement Tools along with colleagues from Caurie-MicrofinanceVisionFund International and CGAP.

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>Posted by Danielle Donza

Several years ago the Council of Microfinance Equity Funds (CMEF) created a small booklet containing governance guidelines for microfinance institutions.  The booklet quickly became a minor classic: it was translated into multiple languages and dozens of MFIs used it as a guide to operations for their own boards.

Then came the 2008 global financial crisis and a number of market-specific microfinance crises in several countries. These crises served to highlight the need for strong, mission-led governance by MFIs. Lessons from these events did not alter the core principles found in the original Guidelines, but they revealed a need for greater attention to areas such as risk management and social performance. In response to these lessons, CMEF is releasing a revised version of the guidelines, “The Practice of Corporate Governance in Microfinance Institutions.” Read the rest of this entry »

>Posted by Sergio Guzman

Today, we link to Accion Ambassador Juan Rubio’s post describing a social rating by Planet Rating at El Comercio in Paraguay.

Juan starts out with an interesting question–is measuring social performance similar to measuring love?  How can it be quantified? Indeed, social performance can be an abstract concept and at times it seems a bit difficult to measure. However, there are Social Performance Standards have been specially designed in order to give us a better idea how MFIs are working not only towards the idea of improving clients life, but also making sure that their products are not making them any worse off.

Now, with some markets showing signs of saturation, managing social performance goals might be secondary for some bottom line focused institutions who might want to focus on their core business. Notwithstanding, this has proven to be a differentiating factor for many microfinance institutions like El Comercio who see this as a strategic objective. Or as we call it, Smart Microfinance.

Read the rest of Juan’s excellent post here and further stories from the field through the Accion Ambassadors blog.

Image credit:pastorgraphics.com

Have you read?

The Universal Standards have been finalized!…What’s next?

Data with a Purpose: A Call for Creativity and Cooperation

> Posted by Julie Shea

Large scale commercialization of microfinance institutions (MFIs) has led to an increased focus on profitability and with that a growing fear of “mission drift.” In an industry facing increased demands for both social and financial performance, how can investors in microfinance funds ensure that both of these “bottom lines” are appropriately balanced? One way is to create incentive structures that measure and compensate fund managers and the managers of the microfinance institutions (MFIs) in which they invest in accordance with the stated mission of the fund.

Paul DiLeo of Grassroots Capital Management, in his recently published paper, Re-Positioning Microfinance with Impact Investors: Codes of Conduct and “Social First” MFIs, argues that investors should do a better job of articulating their fund’s priorities. Rather than promoting a single, standard model, DiLeo promotes a framework, developed by the Monitor Institute, that more clearly positions funds along a spectrum from “Social First” to “Financial First”. In adopting this framework, investors are encouraged to provide transparency and to attract likeminded investors that support the mission of the MFI. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Steve Wright, Director, Social Performance Management Center, Grameen Foundation and Kate Griffin, Director, Solutions for the Poorest, Grameen Foundation

In the recent New York Times article, “How Companies Learn your Secrets”, Charles Duhigg discusses how companies can use demographics and data on personal consumption behavior to manipulate shopping habits and attract new customers. Target, for example, can predict if a customer is pregnant, what trimester she is in, and, with this information, target baby-related advertisements to her. For many consumers, this use of “big data” (very large and complex data sets and the analytics to mine them), seems like an unacceptable intrusion of privacy. For many of us working in microfinance and development, this concept produces a reflexive “Eewww,” probably because our goals are much less about directing consumption through marketing than they are about increasing the opportunity and capacity to consume.

Despite this initial reaction to the manipulation of customer data to drive profits, the use of big data can actually prove very effective for the fields of microfinance and financial inclusion. At Grameen Foundation, we strive to: 1) examine large datasets to find relevant patterns and leverage opportunities, and 2) build tools and systems that use data to enable the poor to improve their quality of life. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Elizabeth Davidson

Last Monday, January 30, Milford Bateman, author of Why Doesn’t Microfinance Work? The Destructive Rise of Local Neoliberalism, and David Roodman, author of Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance, faced off in a debate about microfinance and the future of financial inclusion. The event, held at the QED Group and co-hosted by USAID and the Financial Inclusion Forum, was moderated by Chuck Waterfield, founder of MFTransparency.

To say the debate was contentious would be an understatement. Provocative, lively, and fast-paced also describe the two-hour event. Those of us from the Center for Financial Inclusion who attended the debate have been all a-buzz ever since.

The obvious differences in Bateman’s and Roodman’s debating styles were central to how we interpreted the arguments both men offered. As Holly Padgett articulated:

Bateman focused his arguments on extremism and was very eager to simplify the matter at hand. His style of debating clearly and attractively conveyed his principal arguments while avoiding supporting evidence. On the other hand, Roodman analyzed both negative and positive evidence of microfinance before developing a more nuanced, less decisive argument. Read the rest of this entry »

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