This post by Alex Counts was originally published on his blog, where he describes the process of writing a book on Haitian microfinance pioneer Fonkoze. It has been a few weeks since I have posted on this blog, but I have continued to study and to work inside Fonkoze all along. Now I feel like I finally have a juicy topic to write about and time to do so. In response to my post on outcomes and impact (as opposed to inputs) in poverty reduction programs, Meredith Kimbell, a top-notch management consultant in the Washington, DC area whom I have known for years, mentioned the book Better by a physician named Atul Gawande, and in particular a chapter towards the end titled “The Bell Curve.” I read the entire book, which is basically about how the practice of medicine has been and can be improved (with lessons for other disciplines). I found that the book had some important lessons for the effort to end poverty through holistic approaches to microfinance such as those employed by Fonkoze.
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At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.
On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.
A simple and widely available tool – the mobile phone – is creating substantial impact in the developing world, changing the lives of low-income individuals, especially in rural communities. Today, 6 billion mobile phones are being used throughout the world, with approximately 75 percent of users living in developing countries.
Ali Ndiwalana is Research Lead for Grameen Foundation’s AppLab Money Incubator and Lee-Anne Pitcaithly is Program Director for Grameen Foundation’s Mobile Financial Services Accelerator initiative. Both are based in our Uganda office. This blog post originally appeared on the CGAP Technology Blog. We've included an excerpt here with a link to the full post below.
Mobile money has had bad press lately for fraud-related cases. Most of the reported cases were either the result of internal employees misusing the system to cause operator losses or fraudsters trying to scam unsuspecting users. There is another angle that rarely gets any press—when users or agents abuse the platform and use it in rogue ways that it was never intended.
Sally Salem was an Atlas Corps Fellow at Grameen Foundation, where she worked with the human capital management team for a year learning and designing toolkits to support the strategic adoption of human capital practices at microfinance institutions. Sally has more than a decade of experience in non-formal education and development and has worked with adults and young people on issues ranging from youth participation, volunteering, intercultural learning and human-rights education.
After working with Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Center for a year as an Atlas Fellow, it was time to return to Egypt. Looking back now on my year-long stay, I realize that I was lucky to have had Grameen Foundation as my host and to have worked with the human capital management team.
Thanks to good timing, one month after my fellowship ended, I had an opportunity to put all the theory I had learned into practice. I was invited to support an engagement with the Lebanese Association for Development-Al Majmoua, a leading microfinance NGO in that country, part of a collaborative effort between Grameen Foundation's Human Capital Center and Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Ltd., a joint venture between Grameen Foundation and the ALJ Foundation, a subsidiary of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group. My task was to help facilitate a human capital management assessment – the starting point for aligning an organization’s people practices with its business strategy. As a native Arabic speaker with working experience in Lebanon and deep familiarity with the assessment, I was eager to volunteer my services through Grameen Foundation’s skilled-volunteer initiative, Bankers without Borders®.
[caption id="attachment_2310" align="aligncenter" width="300"] In Sidon, Lebanon, Sally (right) met Osama – a photographer and Al Majmoua client – who is carving out a niche in her city’s male-dominated photography industry.[/caption]
Lebanon has an interesting (and somewhat tragic) modern history that some say sums up the story of the Middle East in the last 60 years or so. It is a country with a strong Phoenician heritage – sea people who made great ships using their mighty cedar trees and who explored the unknown Mediterranean at a very early stage of human history. This is still reflected in the adventurous character of today’s Lebanese people. There are more Lebanese outside of the country than in Lebanon. They are known for their entrepreneurial spirit, and wherever they go they prove to be clever merchants, excellent hosts and good cooks! What a great environment for microfinance to thrive and grow.
Alex Counts is president, CEO and founder of Grameen Foundation, and author of several books, including Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World.