Tracking real social impact in microfinance

Background

For years, people have ‘known’ through case studies, conversations in the field and small scale studies, that microfinance has a very important part to play in alleviating poverty and having a positive social impact.

When MicroLoan Foundation makes a loan, we want to be as sure as possible that the loan is going to make a positive impact, which is why we have introduced the Social Performance Measurement system.

About our Social Performance Measurement

The Social Performance Measurement (SPM) activity has been coming along in leaps and bounds. Not only has a strategy been drafted, but a workshop was held recently in Kasungu with UK and Malawi management as well as key field staff to discuss MicroLoan Foundation’s social mission and how the SPM piloting activity fits into this. It was a stimulating day’s discussions, with everyone actively taking part, engaging positively and contributing a range of useful ideas, which will feed into the SPM activity taking place.

MicroLoan has been carrying out a variety of training activities at the two piloting branches – Mchinji and Kasungu – with the field staff who are taking the lead on the three pilots (social assessment, training feedback and exit surveys). We’ve done office based training including role plays so staff get a good understanding of why we’re doing the pilots, can explain it clearly to clients, start to get the hang of the questionnaires and can ask any questions they may have. We then moved onto field based training, allowing loan officers in Mchinji to trial the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) on all new clients in a group, and branch managers the opportunity to do the PPI, training and exit surveys on new and exiting clients in their homes.

At this stage, the branches are now running the pilots independently, and back at Head Office we’ve been busily developing databases to collect all this new data. We have also started carrying out quality control checks to ensure data is being collected properly, to see whether there is a difference between data collected from new clients in groups versus in the home, and to determine whether we get more accurate information by using different collection techniques (e.g. questionnaires in the home versus focus group discussions).

The future

At present we’re recruiting for two new staff, who will be based in Kasungu and ensuring the ongoing success of SPM activity within MLF. These are a data entry clerk, to input the various social data, and a SPM officer, whose job it will be to manage the operations of the piloting activity and ensure that a focus on social mission remains at the forefront of MicroLoan Foundation’s activity.

 

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