ThinkChange India has a New Home!

Please head out to www.thinkchangeindia.org

Integrating MIS with Microfinance

Some of the challenges faced by Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in India have revolved around the issues of a lack of trained labor for local level administration, resource mobilization and the cost of services. One way to tackle these problems is through the use of Management Information Systems (MIS) and this is being demonstrated by Equitas, an Indian MFI.

TC-I had previously featured an interview with the founder of Equitas and they were recently featured as a leader in implementing information systems in microfinance, by Greg Chen of CGAP. Some examples of technology being used by Equitas are,

E-Docs. Membership and loan applications are completed manually by branches but are couriered to a central processing center. The documents are then scanned and from there on out, remain paperless. Forms use a series of check boxes which can be read by scanners and coded automatically.  Remaining manual entries (e.g. names) are entered by a dedicated back office processing unit.

Real Time Meeting Monitoring. Within 15 minutes of the end of a group meeting, loan officers send a text message (SMS) by cell phone with three pieces of information: meeting attendance, loan collections, and when the meeting ended.  This information is picked up by Equitas’s system which then compares it with what is expected, and creates a branch-by-branch report.

Equitas also uses SMS to gather real time information on cash management and Optical Readers for back-office operations.  The Equitas model shows the need for MFIs to focus not just on innovation in the lending model, but also on driving efficiency through various stages of the loan process. MIS has played an important role in the growth of traditional financial institutions over the past few decades and there is no reason it should not do the same for MFIs.

The complete article by Greg Chen can be found here.

Register NOW for the Harvard International Development Conference

This year, I’m helping to run the Harvard International Development Conference (IDC) at the Harvard Kennedy School.  It promises to be an exciting event, with panel topics ranging from the role of mobile technology as a means of alleviating poverty to private sector-led, entrepreuneurial models for development.  If you intend on attending the conference, please do let me know – I would love to meet members of our readership in person!

More information follows below:

The 15th Annual Harvard International Development Conference
April 3 – 4, 2009   |   Harvard Kennedy School

Register Now!  www.HARVARD-IDC.com

We would like to introduce you to the 15th Annual Harvard International Development Conference (IDC) at the Harvard Kennedy School.  In light of an increasingly challenging global context, this year’s theme, “IMPACT: Turning Global Challenges into Opportunities,” delves into the need for the reconceptualization of existing development paradigms, as well as the importance of cross-sector, entrepreneurial partnerships.

We are especially pleased to present our keynote speakers for this year’s conference:

Mr. John Wood, Founder, Room to Read; Author, ‘Leaving Microsoft to Change the World’
Dr. Kyung-Wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
Dr. Howard Zucker, Former Assistant Director General, World Health Organization

The core programmatic elements of the IDC are our 13 Panels and 4 Workshops under 4 Topics, each consisting of four to five leading development experts from a multitude of sectors: government, private sector, academia and international organizations.  This year’s topics include:

A.    International Trade & Finance
B.    Science & Technology for Development
C.    Human Rights & Human Security
D.    Private Sector & Entrepreneurial Solutions for Development

Four Critical Questions for Social Entrepreneurs

Today, as part of my “Strategic Marketing for Public and Nonprofit Organizations” class, we heard from David Dodson, founder of Project Healthy Children.  Although his talk was specifically targeted for those interested in leading nonprofit organizations, I found his comments relevant for emerging social entrepreneurs as well.

In particular, he posed four critical questions for those thinking of starting a new venture:

1) Is it (the idea or the organization) sustainable?

2) Is it cost-effective?

3) Is it scalable?

4) Is it measurable?

I thought these were particularly salient points, especially given the impulse to form organizations on the basis of what he called “emotional needs” rather than “market needs.”  He placed particular emphasis on the second question, stressing the point that “cost-effective” does not necessarily translate into “cheap,” but rather, implies that the organization is “investment” oriented, whether in the form of human capital, organizational capacity, physical infrastructure, etc.  He also emphasized the fourth point, stating that if the outcomes aren’t clearly defined, they cannot be measured, which poses the organization at the risk of “mission creep.”

The final point he made can be encapsulated in the following statement, “I say no to everything that’s not relevant.”  He emphasized the importance of not “following the money trail,” and investing time, resources, and effort only in those efforts that are relevant to the organizational mission and vision.  He cited examples of having turned down potential partnerships and funding opportunities in favour of maintaining organizational focus, and leveraging the organization’s strengths.  On this point, he asked a critical question, “Can we see a future where we can be better than anybody at this?”  Obviously, that requires that the organization remain on course, and learn how to say “no.”

Thank you to Professor Marla Felcher for challenging us to think critically about what it means to be effective leaders and marketeers!

Excerpt on Empowerment

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote for my school newspaper:

Empowerment occurs when someone is given the means, either through new responsibilities, economic independence or other ways, to take a greater ownership in the actions of their everyday lives. Empowerment of individuals who were previously marginalized is one of the fundamental tenets of the social entrepreneurship movement.

Do you all agree or disagree? Please post comments below.

Survey for NGOs

Hey all, as you may notice on the sidebar, we have a new featured survey for you all to participate in. Here is some additional information directly from the survey makers:

NGOs: Dig into your strengths and opportunities AND win great prizes!

Ethos Advisors and NGO Post have created a short survey to assess the needs to the NGO community and identify concrete solutions to improve motivated, high-impact NGOs across India. And we’ve got three great reasons to complete the survey:

1. A free assessment tool for your NGO. The survey is based on questions that leading NGO’s around the world have asked themselves and, by finding the answers, have found new ways to succeed and scale. Take a moment and complete this survey to better understand your stregnths and opportunities.

2. Tell us and tell the world: what are the new tools, websites and training that you need? This is your chance to help funders, service providers and corporate CSR departments design and customize new services for the NGO sector based on the information you share.

3. Submit to Win Excellent Prizes!!! Including:
-A new fuly-customized website for your organization based on cutting-edge technology that is simple and easy-to-use.
-Be selected as Grassroutes.in featured NGO that includes a custom Media Package that tells your organization’s story and an independently managed marketing     campaign for any purpose you choose
-Be featured in the CitiZen Section of the Deccan Chronicle

Hope you all take the survey.

American India Foundation Annual Benefit

Here is an upcoming event in NYC for AIF. Their annual benefit looks to be a good one this year. Details below. You can go here to buy tickets.

A Toast to Good Health
At
480 Lexington Avenue (at 46th Street), New York City
Saturday April 11, 2009
7:30 pm to midnight
Open bar from 8 to 11 pm

three-course indian-latin fusion dinner, silent and live auctions

Benefiting
The Apna Clinic*


Featuring
Mira Kamdar
author of the critically acclaimed memoir Motiba’s Tattoos and Planet India

$125 online
At the door – $150

We encourage purchasing advanced tickets as space
is limited and we cannot guarantee availability at the door.

*Net proceeds will be donated toward the Apna Clinic.

Formal Attire – Tie Optional
About Vermillion: The melding of contemporary Indian and Latin American cuisines
and a selection of untamed regional Indian fare “heat” – tapas, signature entrees,
hedonistic desserts, boutique latin and global wines, “herb & spice” cocktails

Information about our event sponsors can be found here.
Buy Your Tickets Now!
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.