February 23, 2009
by Ging Ledesma, Manager, Monitoring and Administration Unit of Oikocredit’s Department of Credit Operations
Oikocredit has been in the field of social investment for 34 years with a mission to invest in people. Empowerment of the poor, the alleviation of poverty and the creation of a more just society are at our core and for those reasons, it’s essential we measure how our work impacts lives. It’s complicated, but it’s certainly not impossible.
In the world of fair financing, the investor looks for both a social and a financial return. For some, the social aspect holds more importance. When an investor chooses Oikocredit, they choose an investment with a strong social effect and a modest financial return.
Stakeholders want to know if Oikocredit is fulfilling its social goals of empowering the poor through job and income generation. Does Oikocredit reach the poor and help bring about positive change in the lives of individuals, families and the community?
The microfinance sector – while always being socially driven – was until a few years ago focused on examining the financials of investing in the working poor. In the past, Oikocredit reported on its social performance through client stories and case studies. These provided interesting insights into how individuals and organizations benefitted from Oikocredit financing but the stories failed to deliver the hard facts.
In 2000, processes to develop Oikocredit’s social performance reporting began with staff training, MFI partner surveys and database development. Today, Oikocredit is exploring systematic social assessment tools and methodologies with predetermined performance indicators.
One of those tools is the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI), developed by the Grameen Foundation in collaboration with Mark Schreiner. Oikocredit promoted the PPI in the Philippines and Peru and has supported the development of the scorecard in Ecuador.
The assessment results can lead to improved transparency, better products and services, and more accurate targeting of the poor among our project partners. The PPI results help our partners monitor and assess their own social performance, be accountable to their social goals and objectives and make more informed management decisions.
For some, Social Performance Management (SPM) is still seen as a “cost centre” – something that makes little contribution to business sustainability or portfolio. Limited resources for SPM and the effort needed to generate and analyze data can also cause frustration. As Oikocredit deals with these challenges throughout 60 countries, we aim to keep things simple by using readily available data and building on existing systems.
In coming years Oikocredit will work with various networks to develop measurement tools and promote social performance ratings and audits. We will stay committed to SPM, striving to realize the social goals of Oikocredit and microfinance in general.