Microfinance Networks

 

Many countries in the developing world have membership associations in which many MFIs band together into networks for advocacy, professional development and peer relationships. Over the last decade, IDEAS has developed a strategy of working with MF networks to provide training services and has become one of the leading trainers of MFI networks worldwide. We have trained many country-level networks as well as some regional level networks in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Instead of working with one or two major players within a country, IDEAS can provide services to a wide variety of MFIs within the country by contracting with a network. Although some of these MFIs are competitors with each other, IDEAS does not see this as a problem. Those who take the best advantage of the training provided by the network will have a competitive advantage over their peers. By providing the training to all members on an equal access basis IDEAS gives each of them the same advantage.

IDEAS provided six different trainings on impact evaluation and market research for the ASAMIF network in Nicaragua and held two complementary workshops with the PROMOFIN network. Over the eight workshops, ASAMIF members who participated and learned to replicate the techniques taught in the workshop gained tremendous insight into their clientele, how their services were received by their clients and what benefits clients felt they received.

In neighboring Honduras IDEAS led a series of four different workshops for the national network there. Each workshop was designed to teach network members a particular tool within the Impact Toolkit. Between workshops participant organizations practiced using the tool, and the network compiled a comprehensive analysis of the findings from each member group. These finding were presented at the next workshop, allowing the participants to see their own findings and also how those related to the overall findings in the country. This proved to be a motivating factor that encouraged them to participate actively in the following workshop. This pattern continued over several years with one workshop every six months.

IDEAS has provided workshops to other networks, such as COPEME Peru. After attending an IDEAS workshop in 2000, several members of GAMFIN invited IDEAS to do a major evaluation in Ghana, involving volunteers recruited from many different network members. This was similar to the work done in Peru, where members of different network organizations participated in a common evaluation. Network members sent their senior staff to work beside the member that was being evaluated, alloweing them to learn evaluation techniques while working alongside their peers. IDEAS has done the same type of work in Latin America, Africa and Asia, stimulating members of networks to work on each others’ evaluation.

In the Philippines in 1999 IDEAS led a workshop on the AIMS-SEEP ImpAct evaluation tools. From that workshop one member decided to do an impact evaluation of its more mature clients. Volunteers from the country-wide network helped ASCI complete its evaluation, with the tradeoff of being able to learn volunteering.

Not all MFIs are willing to open their doors for their peers and competitors to evaluate their organization. Some fear their competitors would learn valuable inside information. However, those that have tried it have proven that the benefits far outweigh any possible risks. These institutions are seen in their countries and pioneers in this type of participatory evaluation.

IDEAS has found that many network executives welcome a series of training events by IDEAS. They see it as a way to offer benefits to the members of the network. In many cases, while giving network members the first opportunity to sign up for the workshops, network executives have opened workshop participation to nonmembers as a way to introduce the benefits of the network. In Nicaragua, some participants in the workshops have then later joined ASAMIF.

IDEAS has worked with the SEEP network to develop many of the tools for MFIs that are currently used by networks around the world, such as the SEEP-AIMS tools. For a directory of MFI networks worldwide please see www.seepnetwork.org. We often work with networks to seek funding jointly for a workshop series. For example, IDEAS worked with ASOMIF in Nicaragua to obtain workshop funding from several sources, including Imp-Act and NOVIM.

In the majority of cases, when IDEAS has been chosen by networks, these networks have had their own resources and have been able to choose their trainers and consultants. IDEAS is proud to have been chosen by networks to provide these services when they have such wide range of choices. If your network has a need for training or technical assistance, please contact IDEAS.