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> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research Director, Freedom from Hunger

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While recent research indicates that access to and use of microcredit alone is not transformative for the average client served (see “Where Credit Is Due”), there has been very little discussion about the types of indicators being used to measure “transformation” in the ongoing debates. In fact, it seems that we all have accepted the general findings that microcredit has only had modest impacts on, along with other indicators of poverty and well-being, education, health, and social capital because the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have said so. There needs to be greater thought and debate about the choices of indicators used to support these conclusions.

Freedom from Hunger over the past 20-plus years has integrated health with microfinance and helped build a body of knowledge indicating that microfinance plus health services can enhance health outcomes. In an ongoing partnership with the Microcredit Summit Campaign, supported by Johnson and Johnson, we have pilot-tested a series of health indicators that financial service providers (FSPs) can use to track client health outcomes. This pilot test was built on years of experience of evaluating health outcomes with our FSP partners, as well as on similar experiences of developing common tracking indicators in the health sector. We created a list of criteria to assess the types of indicators we felt would be meaningful to track—for individuals with and without health services – which included dimensions of feasibility, usability, and reliability. Initial results have been shared in several webinars with SEEP and the Social Performance Task Force.

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> Posted by Center Staff

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Globally, about 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.25 a day. This is a huge number of people, roughly four times the population of the United States. Yet it is a smaller percentage of the world’s population than ever before – 17 percent of people living in developing countries lived in extreme poverty in 2011, compared to 43 percent in 1990. But we cannot be satisfied until extreme poverty disappears. The World Bank has put forth the goal of reducing the proportion of people living in extreme poverty to 3 percent or less of the world’s population by 2030.

Live Below the Line, which begins one month from today, is an opportunity to support the eradication of extreme poverty and gain some valuable perspective on what it’s like to live with such meager means. The global movement challenges individuals to live on a food budget of $1.50 a day for five days: April 27 – May 1. The set-up is simple. During the time leading up to Live Below the Line week, you pick one of 20 organizations targeting poverty elimination, then spread the word among your circles and gather fundraising support for your chosen organization. During the five days of living below the line, you and your team get a sense for the hardships that so many individuals around the world endure. To make the challenge more practical, the $1.50 budget only includes food and drink – not transport, health, or housing expenses.

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> Posted by John Gitau, CEO, Kenya Financial Education Centre

A year ago today, I lost a nephew, John Gachoka. He was 33 years old. As it is our tradition, my family met to make burial arrangements. We drew a tentative funeral budget of $1,870 all expenses inclusive.

John worked in a factory earning a salary of $94 a month ($3 a day). He lived with his family of four (wife and three small children, eldest aged 8) in a single room in a low-income neighborhood, rented for $10.58 a month. He belonged to the bottom of the pyramid.

Characteristic of the warmth that pervades people at the BoP, John’s colleagues joined his neighbors and they drew up a parallel funeral budget in consultation with John’s widow. We, as the larger family, were not aware of another budget until the third day when we joined the colleagues and neighbors meeting. It was time to develop one concrete program.

The chairperson of that committee gave me the budget they had drawn. It read a total of $635, all inclusive expenses, morgue to grave. The budget had all the components we as a family had listed, except that the figures were lower. For example, we had a budget of $295 for the coffin. Their budget for the same was $175. We had a food budget of $300 while theirs was $115. Correctly, they had a similar estimated attendance of 200 people, as we had.

This being a financial inclusion blog space, you must be wondering where a funeral comes in. Please bear with me. There is a grave financial management lesson herein.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.