Improving Poverty Outreach: How MicroLoan Foundation Malawi achieved buy-in and operational change
MicroLoan Foundation aims to significantly reduce poverty in Malawi and Zambia via the provision of small loans, training, ongoing mentoring support by staff, supportive group structures and through facilitated access to savings. This is achieved by reaching a range of poor women with appropriate services. As a result of the organisation’s commitment to Social Performance Management (SPM), it discovered a disconnect between the stated goal of reaching the poorest women and the reality of that outreach. This case study focuses on the process MicroLoan has undergone in Malawi to improve its outreach to poorer women and effect institutional change to achieve its social aims in practical terms and better meet the needs of the vulnerable clients it works with.
Management buy-in was achieved by presenting data indicating that organisational financial inclusion had the potential for improvement, and actively engaging management to identify the barriers and enable them to commit to tangible solution. To ensure institutional capacity was realised, MicroLoan recruited an SPM Champion, SPM Officer and data input staff member, and embedded these roles within operations.
To enable institutional change to take place, the first step was to operationalize client poverty assessment, enabling the organisation to better meet its social mission and improve its business opportunities though improved outreach to previously excluded potential clients. This poverty assessment operationalization involved integrating into systems staff training, management quality spot checks, internal audit spot checks, as well as the development of MIS systems and analysis and reporting mechanisms. The second step towards institutional change was changing staff attitudes and organisational culture through staff workshops, integrating of poverty outreach into reporting and accountability structures, and the amendment and development of staff incentives. Thirdly, a new product for the poorest clients was developed to reduce the barriers to inclusion.
A summary of the resources required to effect these changes is included.
To conclude, MicroLoan’s experience has demonstrated that as long as the process is managed carefully, tangible improvements to organisational poverty outreach can be achieved.