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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.

Latest Posts

11/24/2010 by

Kimberly Davies is a Program Associate for the Microsavings Initiative, which is part of Grameen Foundation’s Solutions for the Poorest program. This is part three of Kim’s blog series. If you haven’t yet, we recommend you read part one and part two of her blog post series.

[caption id="attachment_1291" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Ranie's sixth loan, equivalent to $218 USD, allowed her to buy buffalo. She sells the milk in her rural village"][/caption]

While I like to plan ahead, one overcast day in Varanasi, India, I quickly learned that you can’t always anticipate what comes your way. Upon leaving the offices of CASHPOR (our microfinance institution partner) with our project manager, we were faced with a drizzle that quickly turned into buckets of pouring water. The busy streets became increasingly chaotic as everyone scurried for shelter, forcing us to pull our motorbike over to wait for the rain to stop. As the road began to flood, we became concerned about the laptops, cameras, and mobile phones in our backpacks, and realized that we needed to get out of the rain quickly to shield our things. We hopped into an auto-rickshaw as our only alternative transportation. Since the rickshaw did not have doors, the rain streamed into the car. The engine began to stall as it flooded with water, but somehow we made it back to my residence. This delay forced us to cancel a call that evening, even though it had been scheduled for weeks. What would have just been considered a heavy rain in Washington, was a flood in Varanasi, and prevented people from necessary travel and daily business.

The unanticipated ordeal opened my eyes just how many unknowns there are in developing areas that prevent the poor from predicting what obstacles will hit them down the road. This uncertainty is why we see a need for the poor to have access to risk-management tools, especially access to savings products, to act as a shield against shocks.

11/22/2010 by

Jason Polen works as Social Media Intern for Grameen Foundation based out of our Seattle office.

Investing in Technology– Is it worth it for MFIs?

From “Speed-Geeking” to “ROTI”; when microfinance and technology leaders come together in India to explore the power of technology, innovation is inevitable.  This year’s Microfinance Leadership Summit in India was called, “Fueling Growth: Strategic Technology for Microfinance”. One of the key goals of the conference was to engage microfinance and technology leaders in a dialogue about the immense potential of technology in helping microfinance institutions (MFIs) grow.

Starting a dialogue around investing in technology is vital for leaders of small and medium sized MFIs. As MFIs scale, they begin asking themselves a number of critical questions about the use of technology. How can technology help us grow? Which kind of technology is right for us? How much will it cost? How difficult will it be to integrate it into our existing system? When is the right time to invest? All these unknown factors can be summarized into one term a speaker at the conference, PC Narayan, introduced: ROTI – Return on Technology Investments.

Most MFIs are not adverse to adopting technology. In fact, they are usually ahead of the curve, especially in India; however, when operating at the grassroots level, adopting technology incongruent with their clients’ can mean failure. In other words, MFIs are very conscious about the importance of using technology appropriately. A key theme throughout the conference was answering this question: “Is it worth it?” Fully understanding the risks and benefits is essential. Picking the correct technology at the right time ensures they will fully capture the benefits.

We worked with Microfinance Focus to post a live blog throughout the conference which highlights many of the events in greater detail.

11/19/2010 by

Recent reporting about the activities of for-profit microfinance institutions (MFIs) in India, specifically in the state of Andhra Pradesh, has raised important questions about whether microfinance is delivering on its promise to empower poor people. We take the concerns raised extremely seriously and are following developments on a day-to-day basis through our India-based team.

Though Grameen Foundation is not currently working with any of the MFIs that have been caught up in the allegations in Andhra Pradesh (our efforts in India are currently focused on the least-served states, in the north and east of the country), we have worked with and observed the Indian microfinance sector for more than a decade. We have seen its many challenges, as well as the hard work of MFIs and others to improve accountability and service to borrowers. Grameen Foundation strongly believes that MFIs must measure their social performance as rigorously as they measure financial performance – in other words, they must demonstrate that they are reaching the poor and poorest, and that these borrowers are moving out of poverty over time.

11/18/2010 by

Kimberly Davies is a Program Associate for the Microsavings Initiative, which is part of Grameen Foundation’s Solutions for the Poorest program. This is part two of Kim’s blog series. If you haven’t yet, we recommend you read part one of her blog post series.

 

A new hands-on interview process was piloted during CARD's Customer Service Associate interviews.

 

Based in the Philippines, CARD Bank is a close partner of Grameen Foundation that truly works to empower women, as the majority of their staff is even family members of past borrowers.

11/17/2010 by

This year’s SEEP Network conference featured Peg Ross, Director of the Human Capital Center on a panel titled “Meeting a Critical Need: Leadership for the 21st Century MFI.”

At their SEEP panel, Peg Ross, along with Kathryn Mayer, Director for the Center for Microfinance Leadership at Women’s World Banking and Glynis Rankin, founding Director of Creative Metier Limited attempted to answer a key question for the industry: How can MFIs develop skilled leaders focused on the double bottom line and build meritocratic organizations [where everyone is promoted and rewarded according to their ability] in a fast changing and increasingly commercialized and competitive marketplace?

As organizations grow, transform, and add additional product offerings to better serve their clients they are adding “increasing complexity at all levels of the organization.” Specifically, Peg explained, “there’s tremendous complexity that occurs at the field level – with the leaders from the field. As an organization grows and scales this issue of complexity needs to be dealt with.” For example, decision making must be decentralized to the lowest appropriate level within the organization and accordingly, individuals should be not only held accountable for business results, but also given the support necessary to deliver.

These field leaders are the backbone of microfinance institutions around the world. They can inspire the loan officers and branch managers they work with and when they are empowered with the proper level of decision making capability, they can drive the growth and impact of their institutions.

Figuring out how best to develop these mid-level leaders is key as organizations seek to expand their operations and delve deeper into the markets they serve. Peg also emphasized how “it’s important to deliver learning opportunities that are not just classroom based. Learning is about getting information in a just-in-time manner and then having the opportunity to apply that in your every-day job.” 

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