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Solèy at MCS: Fonkoze and the Seal of Excellence >

• Posted in Fonkoze, MCS, ppi, Seal of Excellence

Solèy means sunshine in Haitian Creole. At the recent Microcredit Campaign Summit (MCS) in Valladolid, Spain, social performance in general (and the PPI specifically) were front and center, shining brightly. To that point, here is an excerpt from a blog post by Grameen Foundation President and CEO Alex Counts on the sunshine that the MCS directed to Haitian MFI Fonkoze and the Seal of Excellence.

The recent Global Microcredit Summit held in Valladolid, Spain brought significant new exposure to the innovations and accomplishments of Fonkoze. Anne Hastings spoke at the first substantive plenary (right after the ceremonial opening session), and followed that up with presentations at several workshops and finally well-received remarks at the closing plenary. Gauthier Dieudonne presented Fonkoze’s institutional action plan in a plenary alongside the head of CARE’s microfinance initiative, ACCESS Africa. (CARE is one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world.) Finally, Fonkoze Diaspora liaison Katleen Felix chaired a workshop while CLM regional director Steve Werlin presented an important paper that he had co-authored with Anne. At this, the second largest gathering of the microfinance movement in history, Fonkoze was, among participating organizations working in a single country, the one that received the most exposure to tell its story. Not bad!

The reasons for this attention are some of the same reasons I have chosen Fonkoze as the focus on my book, and that are touched upon repeatedly in this blog. In addition, the objectives and ethos of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and its now retiring leader, Sam Daley-Harris, played a role. In short, the Campaign has long viewed microfinance as a tool for poverty reduction and social justice, and one that should be (a) combined with other social empowerment approaches (such as health education) and (b) given the full backing of civil society, governments and the media so that it can reach its potential. This contrasts with the worldview, which I find valid but less compelling, of microfinance being a kind of reengineered approach to banking that should be thought of first and foremost as a profit-making business that can lead to “financial inclusion” of the poor. This second worldview, which dominates most of the other conferences and papers in our field, is obviously less consistent with Fonkoze’s ideas of “accompaniment”, social impact monitoring, and deep poverty outreach than the one promoted by the Campaign. So, this was Fonkoze’s moment to shine. (My employer Grameen Foundation also had a good Summit, which included my own plenary paper, another major paper by Camilla Nestor and David Edelstein of my staff on technology and microfinance, and lots of activities related to our Bankers without Borders volunteer program.)

And Fonkoze did shine. The opening plenary, like all that were to follow, began with a presentation of one of the major papers commissioned by the Campaign that were combined to form a book published there: “New Pathways out of Poverty” (which can be ordered from its publisher, Kumarian Press). The ten-minute presentations were followed by commentary on the paper by a panel of experts. Each commentator had eight minutes to speak. The first paper was “Beyond ‘Ethical’ Financial Services: Developing a Seal of Excellence for Poverty Outreach and Transformation in Microfinance.” The author, Frances Sinha, was commissioned to write it by a coalition of microfinance leaders who felt that a kind of “certification” or “good housekeeping seal of approval” was a necessary complement to the “consumer protection” initiative being spearheaded by the Smart Campaign housed at the Center for Financial Inclusion.

Read the entire post at Alex’s blog on Fonkoze and microfinance in Haiti.