An Ear on the SEEP Conversations about Responsible Microfinance

Harshika Errangani was a guest blogger during the SEEP 2010 Annual Conference.

November 2, 2010

Today's topic for the Responsible Microfinance Track focused primarily on social performance. The first workshop consisted of the experience of three organizations (Poverty Outreach Working Group, Microfinance Information Exchange, and Fonkoze). Each presenter shared details on their respective organizations' data collection experience with respect to social performance. The second workshop focused on the importance of global networks in managing social performance. This panel consisted of speakers from Red Financiera Rural and Microfinance Council of the Philippines.

One of the most interesting parts of the Responsible Microfinance Track was hearing Natalie Domond talk about Fonkoze's Catastrophic Insurance Pilot Program. This program came in response to the deadly earthquake which struck Haiti on January 12th. This ingenious idea enabled clients of Fonkoze to receive benefits as though they had been paying into a catastrophic insurance plan, thus providing an immense source of support to clients after the deadly earthquake.

November 3, 2010

Today’s workshops focused on two topics that have been making headlines in the past few days - consumer protection and financial literacy. Recent incidents in India and Azerbaijan emphasize the importance of consumer protection and financial literacy.

The global microfinance community is concerned about reports that reckless lending amongst MFIs and coercive and abusive collections in Andhra Pradesh, India have allegedly led to a sudden increase in suicides. Such concerns emphasize that fair treatment and transparency should be part of every MFIs goals but more importantly that clients should be informed and aware of their rights. It is through this very idea that the financial literacy campaigns were formed throughout the world.

In the case of Azerbaijan, it was very interesting to see the various campaigns used to promote financial literacy. One of the points mentioned during the workshop was that financial education is most effective when taught during teachable moments (ex – in a classroom setting). I don’t feel that this would be as effective for the younger generation. For this particular demographic, I think that mass media would be the best way to promote financial literacy. After all, wouldn’t you be more inclined to listen if Bart Simpson was teaching you about interest rates rather than your not-as-exciting professor? I for one would pick Bart Simpson!

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