The Microfinance CEO Working Group has focused its initial efforts on supporting innovative responsible microfinance initiatives, advocating for high standards of practice, and deepening the collaboration and bonds between member organizations.
The microfinance industry is being shaped by several emerging initiatives that are developing high standards of practice in several areas: namely, client protection (The Smart Campaign), pricing transparency (MicroFinance Transparency), and social performance (Social Performance Task Force). These initiatives have the potential to significantly enhance microfinance practice through tools to better serve clients, investors, and other stakeholders. The Working Group has made it a priority to advance adherence to the principles of these initiatives, starting first and foremost within their own organizations.
Since its inception, the Microfinance CEO Working Group worked to support the above initiatives, extend awareness, and establish their member MFIs as “standard bearers” of high performance. The group also works to monitor the markets in which its MFIs operate, and takes action when needed to help ensure a safe and responsible environment. Examples of our efforts include:
- Four of the five inaugural microfinance institutions receiving Smart Campaign certification for their client protection work were partners of Working Group members. In early 2013, the Working Group also released a public statement supporting the Smart Campaign’s new certification program.
- With their lead social performance staff members, the Working Group “beta tested” the SPTF’s Universal Standards with 21 member MFIs, meaning member organizations worked with select partners to help assess their current social performance practices and to better understand the applicability of the Standards in practice. This project marked the first large-scale review of the finalized Universal Standards for Social Performance Management. Read our report here.
- Between December 2011 and December 2012, for example, the number of Working Group network MFIs that had endorsed the Smart Campaign increased by more than 40 percent and the number of MFIs that had assessed their client protection practices increased by nearly 70 percent!
In an effort to engage with key groups and advance the tenets of responsible microfinance, the Working Group engages in advocacy targeted at the broader microfinance industry.
The members have developed two industry-wide “calls to action” – the “Road Map for the Microfinance Industry” and the “Global Appeal for Responsible Microfinance:
- The “Road Map for the Microfinance Industry” was the Working Group’s first public statement. Released in January 2012, it identified the Smart Campaign, MicroFinance Transparency, and the Social Performance Task Force as key to strengthening practices in microfinance.
- The Working Group joined with Convergences 2015, a European microfinance and development organization, to support the “Global Appeal for Responsible Microfinance.” The Global Appeal is a landmark document that urges all microfinance stakeholders – including practitioners, investors, and policymakers – to take concerted action to ensure a strong and principled microfinance industry. Announced in September 2012 at the Convergences 2015 World Forum in Paris, the Global Appeal has been signed by more than 1,600 individuals and organizations – signifying the sector’s sincere commitment to responsible microfinance.
The Working Group seeks to expand its ability to advocate and advance responsible microfinance practices. Members of the Microfinance CEO Working Group conduct monthly calls and quarterly in-person meetings.
In addition, in order to extend collaboration and learning beyond CEOs, the Working Group has launched similar “peer” groups of senior staff – including directors of social performance, communications, information technology, finance, general counsels and human resources — for each of the eight member organizations. These new groups allow the development of functional network of peers for support and greatly expand the Working Group’s capacity.