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.

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!

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.

Sanitation innovator wins Stockholm Water Prize

Sulabh‘s founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, was recently named the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.  Sulabh has been working for decades to address sanitation, health, and hygiene in India and other countries.  Through inventive toilet designs, new biogas technologies, and his struggle for human rights, especially for those of the “untouchable” caste, Dr Pathak is recognized worldwide as an innovator and social reformer. A Business Standard article explains further:

The social reformer, who triggered the revolution against ‘sanitation crisis’, has been the main force behind changing social attitudes towards traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages and dense urban districts, and developed cost-effective toilet systems that have improved daily life and health for millions of people.

Dr Pathak will receive the award in Stockholm during World Water Week in August.

Article on Atlas Corps and Deadline for Fellows April 1st

Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post article on Scott Beale and the Atlas Corps, an organization we have written on numerous times in the past:

His creation is Atlas Corps, which lures highly-skilled non-profit decision-makers from India and Colombia to the United States for a year, running Sept. 1 to Aug. 30.

He concentrates on India and Colombia because he speaks the languages and because they have highly-developed non-profit sectors. They also have a high opinion of the United States, Beale said.

To join this program, go here before April 1st, which is when the applications are due.

E4SI selects 24 fellows to help change India

Here is an update on a great fellowship founded by one of our colleagues Nitin Rao.

The Engineers for Social Impact (E4SI) Fellowship Selection Committee is delighted to announce that, after receiving and carefully reviewing the close to 500 internship applications it received for its 2009 edition, it has made offers to 24 outstanding candidates for 14 roles at 10 partner social enterprises that focus on development by means of sustainable for-profit entrepreneurship.

You can read further here.

Training programme on “Governance and Management of NGO’s and NPO’s

An announcement in NGOpost calls for application for a six-week full time training programme on “Governance and Management of Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs/NGOs)”, scheduled between 6th July 2009 to 14th August 2009. The training is offered by Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII).

The training cost including accommodation is free for participants belonging to countries listed  in Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC). But participants from countries not listed can attend the training programme for the cost of $1500. Strangely, though the training programme is offered in India in partnership with the Indian’s government, India is not enlisted in ITEC. As a consequence, the fee applies to participants from India too!

Interested people can get more information on applying and information brochure here at EDII’s website.