People are at the heart of microfinance — both as clients and as frontline workers. Grameen Foundation's Human Capital Center (HCC) helps to ensure that the people really making microfinance happen in the field get the support and guidance they need to work to the best of their abilities. In a guest piece for the Center for Financial Inclusion's blog, Peg Ross, HCC's director, discusses the challenges facing front-line workers and our plans to work with socially-focused microfinance institutions in India to help that sector rebuild.
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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.
Lydia Namubiru is a Partnership Analyst working with Grameen Foundation's Community Knowledge Worker program in Uganda.
For a long time, Charles Mukonyi of Gamatui parish in Kapchorwa had a problem with his chickens – the hens died off soon after hatching new ones. Three months ago, he was visited by his neighbor Tabitha Salimo, a Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) who told him that she had a phone that has huge amounts of agricultural knowledge to answer many of the problems farmers face. Naturally, the first thing Charles asked about was the hen problem. Tabitha checked her phone and informed Charles that his hens were likely to be catching diseases from their predecessors by sitting on the same hay when incubating eggs. She advised him change the hay for every newly incubating hen. He saw the wisdom of that and adopted the practice. He has not lost a hen since!
Preeti Wali is Communications Officer for Grameen Foundation's Social Performance Management Center
The Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) has acted as a real champion for social performance in past years as a data warehouse for microfinance institutions. They have helped lead the industry effort to create a set of social indicators through theSocial Performance Task Force and have just recently revised the list.
Lori Ospina is Regional Program Officer for Grameen Foundation’s Latin America and Caribbean region.
When I began working at Grameen Foundation in August 2009, I was new to microfinance and was excited about becoming an expert in loan administration, portfolio management, social performance, livelihood developments — themes that had always grabbed my attention. One can imagine my surprise when after six months on the job, I realized I was quickly becoming an expert in Colombian labor law, tax liabilities and government requirements instead!
[caption id="attachment_1505" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lori Ospina, consultant Milton Cadavid Jaramillo and IT manager Vlad Petrov in our new Colombia office just after it opened."][/caption]
With the support of generous donors, Grameen Foundation began working in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in 1999, but until recently had conducted all of its LAC-related activities from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 2009, the organization decided to decentralize and move closer to the areas where we operate, so we could support poverty-focused organizations and serve the poor more effectively and efficiently. Alberto Solano, Regional CEO for LAC, was in charge of opening the office, which would be in Colombia. He already had a full plate as the Regional CEO, so I was tasked with moving things forward. What a learning curve!
Today, Grameen Foundation is a fully registered international organization with an office in Medellín. Opening the office was an interesting journey. We navigated various Colombian agencies, including the Ministerio de Interior (Minister of Interior), the Camara de Comercio (Chamber of Commerce), and Dirrecion de Impuestos y Aduanas Nacioniales (Tax Authorities). Fortunately, we had tremendous volunteer support. The law firm of Brigard & Urrutia generously took us under its wings, educating and guiding us along the process. The attorneys there spent hours on end talking us through the processes we would need to go through, explaining immigration law and tax law and employment law over and over and over, in case we didn’t understand it the first time ... which happened often!
Ellen Yiadom is Grameen Foundation’s Africa Legal Fellow. She graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in May 2010 and is a recipient of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Community Service Fellowship.
Last November, I visited Grameen Foundation’s Mobile Technology for Community Health project (MOTECH) in Ghana. The project covers 15 health facilities in Kassena-Nankana, a district in the Upper East Region that is only a few miles from Ghana’s northern border with Burkina Faso. I was there to observe the operations of the project and help the field staff update patient care information.
We flew into Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region of Ghana, and drove two hours to Navrongo, which became my base for this trip. As we drove from Tamale to Navrongo, I was impressed by the lushness and serenity of the natural landscape, which was a contrast to the bustle of Accra, Ghana’s capital, where I was born.
Although there was very little human activity along the road, small towns would spring up along the way and the road would quickly become populated with people on bicycles, motorbikes and even an occasional donkey. These small vehicles often included several passengers. I even saw very small children riding behind or in front of their parents seemingly without fear.
Upon arriving in Navrongo, I visited a health facility in Kurugu, a sub-district in Kassena-Nankana, to help update patient care information in the MOTECH system that provides customized health information to pregnant women through mobile phones.
One key service is Mobile Midwife, which provides weekly phone calls and text messages to women about prenatal and postnatal care. After registering for the service, pregnant women receive information tailored to their stage of pregnancy, while women with newborns receive vital information during the baby’s first year of life. For example, if a woman is six weeks pregnant, she would receive information about what to expect during her first trimester. Additionally, the messages encourage the women to visit the nearest health facility throughout their pregnancy and give them tips on staying healthy during their pregnancy. Because Mobile Midwife is run through an Interactive Voice Response Server, women can call in to listen to any messages they may have missed. There’s also a call center where women can ask questions about technical issues such as the alerts and messages they are receiving; staff in the field also go out to meet with women who are more comfortable speaking in person than over the phone.