Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2010: A social performance baseline for Kiva

Tracking social performance is a complex issue. In addition to tracking the progress of Kiva borrowers through the profiles and journal updates, Kiva looks at the social performance of our MFI partners to inform who we should be partnering with.

Some of the questions that we ask ourselves are:
• who is the MFI reaching with its services?
• what products does the MFI offer (variety of loans and beyond loans)?
• what are the benefits to the clients?
• how socially responsible is the MFI?

On that last point, a particular area of interest is whether the MFI treats its clients in a responsible manner (avoids over-indebtedness, adopts ethical practices, etc.)

This year, Kiva is embarking on a challenging social performance project. Through the use of the CERISE SPI (Social Performance Indicators Audit tool - one of the many tools available to analyze the social performance of an MFI) we will take a closer look at the social performance of our MFI partners.

Our goal is to have 100% of our long term MFI partners (MFIs that were partnering with Kiva by the end of 2009) reporting to the CERISE SPI by the end of the year.

How will we get there?

We will use data already tracked by MFIs (such as the MIX Social Performance Standards-MIX SPS, Grameen Foundation's Progress Out of Poverty-PPI, social ratings, etc.), and supplement it with data collected through the CERISE SPI questionnaires and interviews. Kiva Fellows will play a key role collecting the data and answering questions.

In 2010, we are adding a Social Performance training the week following the regular Kiva Fellows training, for our “Social Performance Fellows”.

The first training took place in San Francisco from February 1-4th. The training covered broad issues around Social Performance in the microfinance industry (day 1) as well as a detailed review of the CERISE SPI tool (day 2) and a discussion around implementation issues (days 3 and 4). Three additional trainings are scheduled for this year.


The main reason we selected the CERISE SPI Audit tool is that it is more than a reporting tool. Sure, more transparency around the social performance of our MFI partners is key. But so is supporting our partners who want to improve their social performance.

The CERISE SPI results do much more than merely provide a ‘grade’. In addition to looking at results (how many women served, how many borrowers in rural areas, etc.) they help assess strengths and weaknesses of our MFI partners, and as such can also be a point of entry for MFIs looking at improving their Social Performance Management.

We are joining a wide range of organizations already using the CERISE SPI tool, including social investors such as Oikocredit and Unitus. As of December 2009, more than 250 MFIs around the world had already reported using the SPI tool. Because CERISE SPI is compatible with the MIX, reporting on CERISE SPI also increases the wealth of knowledge on social performance in microfinance.

We are excited! Why should you be too?

Our MFI partners have varied (and all very laudable) social goals and focus (reaching rural areas, serving the poor, serving the unbanked, etc.). We want to provide more transparency around the work that is required to make it all happen. Social performance is not incidental – it needs to be managed to achieve the desired results over the long term.

Our MFI partners are doing great work that often goes unrecognized, or facing daunting challenges that are misunderstood. We hope through this effort to bring to light some of these accomplishments and challenges, so that borrowers in need have access to more appropriate and more affordable services.