WASHINGTON – The Microfinance CEO Working Group is pleased to announce their new Co-Chair, Lauren Hendricks, Executive Director of CARE’s Access Africa program, who joins current Co-Chair Alex Counts, Founder of Grameen Foundation. The two will lead the Working Group’s continued efforts to promote responsible microfinance, so the field can reach its full potential of bringing financial and related services to those who have been traditionally excluded.
Hendricks succeeds Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, who served as a founding Co-Chair for more than four years. Iskenderian was among an informal group of leaders who first came together in 2011 to discuss the state of the microfinance sector. She was instrumental in creating the Microfinance CEO Working Group as a collaborative effort to promote responsible microfinance as part of the broader effort for full financial inclusion for more than 2 billion people around the world without access to formal financial services. Today, the Working Group represents 240 microfinance institutions and 93 savings groups in more than 89 countries around the world. Combined these institutions serve nearly 69 million clients. During her tenure as Co-Chair, Iskenderian led many Working Group initiatives, including their commitment to the World Bank’s coalition for Universal Financial Access 2020. Together, the ten member organizations committed to opening a total of 70 million new accounts around the world by 2020.
“As the microfinance industry continues to grow and evolve, I have truly valued working alongside Mary Ellen as a fellow innovator in the effort to bring full financial inclusion to the most underserved people and communities in the world. Her commitment to serving low-income women with the financial products and resources that they require to achieve security and prosperity is unparalleled. She represented us, and our agenda for ‘responsible microfinance’, very effectively on many occasions and will continue to do so even after completing her term as Co-Chair. On behalf of the group, I offer sincere thanks to Mary Ellen for her constant insight and guidance as we welcome Lauren to the new role of Co-Chair,” said Counts.
Hendricks is the Executive Director of CARE’s Access Africa program. Launched in 2008 to advance financial inclusion across the continent, Access Africa was built on CARE’s 20 years of experience harnessing the ancient practice of savings groups and creating a sustainable system of home-grown microfinance. CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are built entirely on member savings and interest from loans; they receive no direct capital investment from CARE. However, their members do receive a year of intensive training from CARE in group dynamics and governance and in money management. This training enables the groups to become self-supporting, to flourish and even to establish and train other groups.
“Lauren’s work with CARE builds on a pioneering savings group legacy by embracing the innovations and partnerships that will best serve vulnerable communities in Africa. We are thrilled to welcome this innovative spirit to help lead the Working Group. Lauren is already energizing our members as we work together to promote responsible best practices across our diverse industry,” said Iskenderian.
As Co-Chairs, Hendricks and Counts are joined by fellow members: Shameran Abed, Director of BRAC’s microfinance program; Michael Schlein, President and CEO of Accion; Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of FINCA International; Steve Hollingworth, President of Freedom from Hunger; David Simms, Global Chief Development Officer and President, Opportunity International, U.S.; Rosario Perez, President and CEO of Pro Mujer; Scott Brown, President and CEO of VisionFund International; and Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.