Archive for the ‘Philippines’ Category

Day Eight: Reaching the Poor and the Organizations That Serve Them

November 18, 2012

For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.

Cristopher Lomboy lives in Los Banos, in the Philippine province of Laguna. He joined Grameen Foundation in November 2009 as its poverty measurement specialist in Asia.

One of our exciting initiatives in Asia is the microsavings initiative in collaboration with CARD Bank in the Philippines, which reaches around 600,000 clients. Its goal is to encourage more poor people, especially those living on $1.25 or less a day, to have access to formal savings services. The program allows them to pool their money as a group and then open one account for each member of the group.

Cris strives to put life-changing tools – like savings accounts – in the hands of the poor, and to help other pro-poor organizations reach more poor people, more effectively.

My role is to help the project measure the poverty levels of the clients, then use this information to find out if we are reaching the poorer people. If not, we develop approaches to reach those clients. What makes my job rewarding is the opportunity to become a thought and practice leader in poverty measurement, and to support “blended performance reporting” – meaning that we look at both financial sustainability and social impact. Also, being able to learn about poverty alleviation efforts in different Asian countries enriches my own approach to helping influence pro-poor organizations’ initiatives to help the poor.

One of the challenges of my job involves reaching out and sharing our rich experience and tools with more pro-poor organizations. The magnitude of poverty is great and there is a real need quickly exchange knowledge and stories between practitioners, to help improve their practice. We also collaborate with other organizations, such as the Ford Foundation, to provide technical support for poverty measurement data.

Our goal is to increase our direct outreach to poorer clients. There are many people who do small jobs, like selling vegetables and seasonal manual labor, who are most vulnerable to crisis. If they can at least save some money for an emergency or life event in their families, then reduce the risk they face, and break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.

You can help us connect even more poor people to savings accounts when you support Grameen Foundation today.

Our 12 days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.

You can read the rest of our series here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Day Seven: Filipinos Saving to Secure their Future

November 17, 2012

For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.

Elsa Ligua, 41, of San Pablo City, in the Philippine province of Laguna, is married, with four children. She’s now able to save money through a microsavings program offered by CARD Bank, a microfinance institution that is a long-time partner of Grameen Foundation. She shared her story with Grameen Foundation’s Cristopher Lomboy.

Elsa Ligua’s husband has a shoe-repair stall near the public market. She helps add to the family income by selling food. All four of their children go to school, and she is proud that the eldest also works as a supermarket clerk. She joined the microsavings program at CARD Bank, which Grameen Foundation helped develop, to help save for her children’s college tuition. Both she and her husband had to drop out of school, so they want to make sure that their children become educated and have better opportunities in life.

Every day, a CARD Bank savings officer visits their home and collects about 50 cents from Elsa and other members of her savings group. On good days, she deposits even more money. Her goal is to save about $200 by June 2013, so that she can pay the tuition fees. She disciplines herself not to withdraw her savings and instead lets it grow over time until she needs it.

Elsa (right) and her niece Rose Anne are now able to save for emergencies and other future events, thanks to the savings account provided to them by CARD Bank, with the help of Grameen Foundation.

Before the savings program, she kept spare money around the house, but ended up spending it. But now, with her money in a safe and remote location, she’s not tempted to use her savings immediately, she says.

You can help more people like Elsa achieve their savings goals – and eventually escape poverty – when you support Grameen Foundation today.

Our 12 days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.

You can read the rest of our series here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Give and You Shall Receive: My Week in the Philippines

August 14, 2012

Estelle Martinson is a Bankers without Borders® (BwB) volunteer who recently returned from a project in the Philippines. A Six Sigma Black Belt, Estelle began her career working as a business analyst in information technology, and is currently a credit risk manager at Standard Bank, where she has worked for 10 years. She also has experience in the fields of disability, computer literacy, adult education and community development.

As I sat sipping some lemongrass tea, one of the many gifts I brought back home with me from my trip to the Philippines, I reflected on the series of events that led me there, and what the experience meant to me.

On the plane, someone asked me, “What motivated you to go?” That was pretty easy to answer. I am a banker, and the vision of microfinance – a world without poverty – is something I support passionately, so I grabbed the opportunity to get involved with an organization working in microfinance when it presented itself.

My interest in microfinance started when I was exposed to Grameen Bank’s work during a leadership training session at my organization. I expressed my interest in microfinance to a friend who, three years later, e-mailed me a volunteer project, saying, “This is really you – have a look at it and see if you’re interested.” Of course I was interested!

BwB volunteer Estelle Martinson (second from right) rides by water back to town after visiting one of RSPI's 25 branch offices with staff members (from left) Alice, Paul and Jeannette.

BwB volunteer Estelle Martinson (second from right) rides by water back to town after visiting one of RSPI’s 25 branch offices with staff members (from left) Alice, Paul and Jeannette.

I joined BwB and signed up for a project with Rangtay sa Pagrang-ay, Inc. (RSPI), a 25-branch microfinance organization that has been operating in the Philippines for the past 25 years, to train their research department in reviewing operations through “process mapping.”

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Using Customer Data to Fine-tune Product Design and Marketing Strategy

July 24, 2012

Emily Hosoya is a Bankers without Borders® volunteer and Communications Intern with Grameen Foundation’s Microsavings Initiative. We have included an excerpt from her post on our Progress out of Poverty­ blog, with a link to the full post below.

Since starting our work with CARD Bank in the Philippines, we’ve realized the best savings products are designed by the customers themselves. Although we’d love to sit down with each of CARD’s 500,000+ savings customers to discuss their needs, there is never enough time or resources to do so. Instead, with the help of our senior data analyst, Jacobo Menajovsky, we’ve created a process to use specific customer information to address our business questions and drive CARD’s product design and marketing strategy.

For more information on our approach, and how you can use data to help answer important business questions, see our case study titled Information as Power: Implementing Data Analytics at CARD Bank.

It can get overwhelming to sort through data without a clear approach. Over the past year, we developed a process to sift through customer information to cluster customers into manageable segments. This process allows us to better learn about their needs and analyze their savings habits.

Along with our Progress out of Poverty Index , a tool that uses country-specific indicators to predict a given household’s likelihood of poverty, we looked at CARD’s demographic and financial data to cluster customer types. In addition to poverty level, the most predictive variables we found in the clustering process included family size, education level and employment status.

Continue reading the full post >> 

A Productive Week in Asia

June 21, 2012

Shannon Maynard is Director of Bankers without Borders®, Grameen Foundation’s skilled-volunteer initiative. Maynard has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and volunteer mobilization. Before joining Grameen Foundation, she served as Executive Director of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, and managed strategic initiatives for the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. This post is the second in a four-part series; you can read her first post here.

While in Hong Kong, I start my days with the “international breakfast buffet.”  In my travels, I have actually grown fond of this tourist and business traveler’s treat. I can have a hybrid breakfast of dal and danish in Bangalore, pad thai and pancakes in Bangkok, or dim sum and doughnuts in Hong Kong.

The international breakfast buffet is particularly appropriate in Hong Kong, a truly international city to which everyone’s path seems to have spanned several global cities. As I begin the next leg of my travels, I leave Hong Kong reflecting on the many social-change agents I met. Just as my hybrid breakfast blends the best of multiple food traditions, these folks blur the lines between the social sector and corporate sector when it comes to fighting global poverty.

On Monday, I spent the day with the dynamic women of Grameen Foundation’s Hong Kong office – Sonia, Christina, Dilys and Sharada. Their careers have zig-zagged from banks and consulting firms to social enterprises and Grameen Foundation. They are all equally effective in their roles – which largely focus on cultivating corporate partnerships and donors for our work in Asia – because they know how to make Grameen Foundation’s work accessible to different audiences. They take the time to explain microfinance, social enterprise and other terms that we take for granted, and can do this easily because they truly understand how we are trying to improve the lives of the poor and poorest.

Shannon Maynard (left) meets with Grameen Foundation staff in Hong Kong.

Shannon Maynard (left) meets with Grameen Foundation staff in Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, I had the chance to kick off the Bank of America Merrill Lynch(BAML) CSR Lunch and Learn series.  I impressed by the sheer turnout (including a waiting list for the event!) as well as by the diversity in the room. Some of the most senior people in the Hong Kong office attended the event and were the first to inquire during Q&A about how their teams could get more involved with Bankers without Borders. I have no doubt we will find a way to put their commitment and skills to work in the near future. Melissa Moi, who recently left a prominent post with a well-known NGO in Hong Kong to join BAML’s Corporate Philanthropy team, has a clear vision for how skills-based volunteering can help further the Bank’s philanthropic objective of helping women and children in the Asian-Pacific region.

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Tipping: A Viral Infection We Want to Catch

June 15, 2012

Alex Counts is president, CEO and founder of Grameen Foundation, and author of several books, including Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World.

At Grameen Foundation, we often talk of the concept of “tipping,” which was popularized by the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.  I define the concept as taking something, such as an idea or a product, to the point where it starts to spread virally, exponentially and without much additional effort.  For an organization like Grameen Foundation that works with limited resources to make significant impact on a global problem such as poverty, it is a very important concept.  Through tipping, our early seeding and nurturing of innovations can lead to their widespread adoption by poor people, the organizations that serve them, and even by businesses and governments.

One example is our Growth Guarantees program, which pioneered loan guarantees to forge mutually beneficial business relationships between local commercial banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs) working to alleviate poverty.  In the program, we not only directly consummated transactions (bringing nearly $200 million to MFIs, who were then able to help more than 1 million new poor borrowers), but more importantly, proved the concept and prompted many other banks to follow suit (even without guarantees from Grameen Foundation).  Likewise, our efforts to replicate the highly successful village phone program of Grameen Telecom, initially in Uganda, set in motion dozens of “village phone” initiatives, most of which we had no direct role in starting or managing.

The PPI is a simple, short, country-specific survey that poverty-focused organizations can use to better understand the people they're trying to help, as well as the effectiveness of their work. This is a screenshot of the PPI for the Philippines.

The PPI is a simple, short, country-specific survey that poverty-focused organizations can use to better understand the people they’re trying to help, as well as the effectiveness of their work. This is a screenshot of the PPI for the Philippines.

I thought a lot about Grameen Foundation’s role in “tipping” last week when I flew to Jordan to attend the annual meeting of the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF), a group in which Grameen Foundation has been deeply involved for years.  More than 300 people attended.  The SPTF sets standards and shares best practices for those practicing ethical, poverty-fighting microfinance.  Partly as an acknowledgment of Grameen Foundation’s central role in the task force, I was asked to give the closing remarks at a historic “CEO Roundtable” where the heads of leading MFIs came together to discuss implementation of the just-completed “universal standards for social performance management.”  The standards have the potential to reshape how MFIs around the world work in fighting poverty, mainly by comprehensively adopting what have emerged as effective practices through the task force’s dialogue and research over many years.

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Tackling the Challenges of Offering Voluntary Savings to the Poor

December 23, 2011

Leo Tobias is Grameen Foundation’s Technology Program Manager of the Solutions for the Poorest Microsavings Initiative.

Offering savings programs for the poor can be challenging. First, the microfinance institutions (MFIs) that want to offer these services are competing with a variety of alternatives, such as home-based savings (under mattresses, in strongboxes, etc.), or keeping money with relatives or neighbors. Second, offering savings products fundamentally changes the relationship between the MFI and its customers.  When clients only want loans, making that the primary purpose for their interactions with the MFI, there is a standard process. Taking voluntary customer deposits radically changes that relationship, to one that is initiated by the customer and that involves varying amounts of deposits or withdrawals. In other words, the customer interaction is less predictable.  At any time of the day or night, the customer can ask for her balance and withdraw from it.

A loan officer from CASHPOR in India processes loan payments on her mobile phone.

A loan officer from CASHPOR in India processes loan payments on her mobile phone.

Grameen Foundation’s Microsavings team has found that poor customers all want to have easy and convenient access to their funds.  The MFIs we work with face common technology challenges involved with providing such access.

In this post on the CGAP Technology Blog, Leo Tobias, our technology program manager for the Grameen Foundation Microsavings Initiative, discusses two of the major technology challenges facing MFIs.

Note From the Philippines: Client Learnings on Microsavings

September 7, 2011

Any good bank strives to understand its clients’ preferences and needs. This is especially critical when you’re working with very poor people. In our three-year microsavings project at CARD Bank in the Philippines, Grameen Foundation Project Manager Julie Peachey has worked with the CARD savings team to implement a better, more accessible savings product for their clients. She discusses her experience in the September edition of Microlink’s Notes from the Field. We’ve included a short excerpt of her piece below, followed by a link to the whole article.

CARD Bank client with her ATM card.

“By the grace of God, my business is running well these days. CARD Bank’s Matapat account is convenient for small traders like me. I need smaller amounts more frequently for my business, and the ATM helps me withdraw money at my convenience.” What a joy to hear Evangeline, a CARD Bank client, speak so positively about her experience with the various features of a newly designed savings product. In a conversation with our team, Evangeline told us that she likes that Matapat ensures a return on her savings, and she is particularly pleased about the texting service for deposit pick-ups. Evangeline explained to us, “I am using SMS pick-up to deposit to my account, thus avoiding a wait at a teller counter. The receipts given by the savings associate and confirmation message received on my mobile give a feeling of security since I know my balance from my phone.”

Scaling up affordable savings products

It was just about a year and a half ago that I arrived in San Pablo City, Laguna in the Philippines and took up my role on CARD Bank’s newly formed savings team as lead Project Manager from Grameen Foundation. Grameen Foundation is partnering with CARD Bank [i] in a three-year project aimed at scaling up CARD’s offerings of safe, convenient, and affordable savings products to poor clients. The goal is to reach 350,000 new voluntary savers by October 2012.

>> Continue reading this article at Microlinks’ website.

Reaching the Poor and Very Poor with Appropriate Savings Services

June 22, 2011

What does it take to design and create savings products that are useful and safe for poor people? In a guest piece for the CGAP Microfinance blog, Debbie Dean — Grameen Foundation’s Microsavings Project Director — discusses the team’s experience working with CARD Bank in the Philippines. Together, they are integrating poverty data and financial data to better understand the savings behavior of CARD’s existing clients and the markets it is serving, as well as to design products to fill needs where there are gaps. Her guest blog post is part of a special series on savings.