2013 Mifos Community Choice Awards – Honoring our Finest

Throughout the year, so many acts of kindness, ingenuity, and dedication go unheralded. In what will now be an annual tradition, we want to recognize those members of the community who’ve gone above and beyond in their service to their fellow community members and their clients. Below is a post to recap our first annual Community Choice Awards which were given our during a rooftop ceremony and dinner on October 24, 2013 during our Mifos Summit in Jaipur. This year we had four planned awards and one surprise one that was bestowed upon me:

Most Innovative MFI – Nuru International (sponsored by Google)

This year’s Most Innovative MFI Award was sponsored by Google. When we think of innovation in an open source community, we look for innovative uses of technology, innovative service offerings, and innovative participation. Across the board, Nuru International met all of these criteria.

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Over the years, it’s been a privilege to have them as a customer and member of our community. At Nuru, they rotate who’s leading their Community Economic Development program regularly; I’ve had a chance to work with five different individuals and each one has always been ready and available to participate in the community. Starting with Arie, moving on to Vivian, followed by Rebecca, then Elias, and now Chris Isele – each one provides honest feedback and detailed requirements for the product.

Nuru has one of the most unique service models – with truly groundbreaking efforts to eradicate extreme poverty by addressing its root causes through economic development, health and sanitation, agriculture, education, and more. To guide these programs they carry out innovative client-driven processes that in the past exceeded the bounds of what Mifos 2.x could support; now as they expand their successful model to Ethiopia, we’re eager to get both Nuru Kenya and Nuru Ethiopia on top of the Mifos X platform. Many of the new flexibilities were added in with them specifically in mind.

Nuru is innovative in their day to day work and their forward-looking strategy. Even before we had a mobile app, Nuru’s field staff were using theircandybar feature phones to bring Mifos up on a Java web browser in the field. Across their other programs, Nuru extensively monitors their impact through the MPAT and also has a comprehensive communications platform, NuruSMS; both are interventions we’d like to someday support through Mifos X.

Nuru also has been quite innovative in telling their powerful story to their world at large – we’ve been honored to be featured in a number of theirbeautiful videos and engaging blog posts.

Users like Nuru that will help us achieve our mission of 3 Billion Maries and will help push forth the cutting edge of our technology. They couldn’t have gotten to where they are today on Mifos without the support of our next award recipient.

Most Dedicated Specialist – Conflux Technologies (Sponsored by ThoughtWorks)

It came as no surprise when I asked the community who they would like to nominate for an award that the form was flooded with responses for Vishwas, Conflux, etc. I’ve also lost track of how many times a customer has personally communicated to me how exceptional the support provided by Conflux has been. Conflux Technologies, based out of Bangalore, started out supporting users in India and then when users worldwide were in need of cloud hosting, they stepped in to help. They now support more than 15 users across four countries including Adhikar, Digamber and AT Grassroots in India, Nuru in Kenya, Lumana in Ghana, and SECDEP in the Philippines. No matter what country, what hour of the day or what time zone, they’re always there to help.

Conflux receiveds Most Dedicated Specialist Award

Conflux’ service and dedication doesn’t stop with their customers; they’ve also dedicated themselves to the growth of the overall community and platform since joining in 2010. Since the day we first met their team in India, they’ve always set the pace for what’s going into the platform and been so generous in giving back through the development of custom reports, offline modules, SMS tools, data migration scripts, and graphical training materials. They are another one of the key reasons for our successful transition, taking on the hosting of all our Mifos Cloud users and this past year, taking on the role of core development team for Mifos X. The new accounting module led by Vishwas and the new community app UI led by Nayan are just a few of the many developments they’ve led on Mifos X.

Even as their team has grown to eleven, each person still maintains the same level of dedication and commitment to the customers. They will continually go out of their way to find the best solution and identify the most creative and affordable workarounds for their customers and the community. From customer roadshows to developer hackathons, Conflux has traveled far and wide to support Mifos. To top it all off, they are some of the nicest guys around.

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It was my honor to recognize Conflux as our Most Dedicated Specialist – they are a model of excellence that we look for in any Specialist in the community. Their award was sponsored by the ThoughtWorks Social Impact Program which is a perfect segue into our next award.

Technical Volunteer of the Year – Gurpreet Luthra

It was around this time last year, that a couple of ThoughtWorkers were in attendance at our inaugural summit and invited us to be a part of theirHumanitarian Software Program. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Wishnie and Rohit Bansal, co-directors of the Social Impact Program, welcomed Mifos into HSP. In January, Gurpreet became a part of our community and in that time, his leadership and guidance of fellow thoughtWorkers has had a transformative impact on our platform and our community. Our community could not have emerged from our transition without his efforts – he along with members of his team put in place essential  development and testing infrastructure and documentation at the critical moment when we were launching the platform. They were a key part of the selection and initial development of our new UI on AngularJS. I marvel at how frequently Gurpreet is traveling to conferences and hackathons and is always enthusiastically waiving the Mifos flag and bringing in new contributors. The list of projects ThoughtWorks has contributed to under Gurpreet’s leadership is too numerous for this post. Apart from this, he is a mainstay on the mailing list and was also a deeply involved Google Summer of Code mentor.

Gurpreet’s technical expertise, community development skills are only surpassed by his genuine sincerity and passionate dedication to our mission. It was truly a pleasure to meet Gurpreet in person for the first time at the summit.

Gurpreet Receives Technical Volunteer of the Year Award

Non-technical Volunteer of the Year – Deanna McCusker

Our last award of the night went to a individual many in the community have had a chance to interact with this past year – Deanna McCusker. We had the good fortune of getting to work with Deanna through our partnership with Social Coding 4 Good.  Just as Gurpreet landed in our community at the perfect time, Deanna came to us right when we were ready to design the new user interface for Mifos X.  Deanna immediately ingrained herself in the community, gaining a deep understanding of our user’s needs to craft out an exceptional user experience for Mifos X. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to travel to our summit to be there in person but through her personal financial contributions and generosity she helped to sponsor the travel scholarships for both Samuel Mbithi and Esther Lemeta from Missions of Hope International in Nairobi, Kenya.

Deanna in Kenya

Deanna had the pleasure of meeting them both in person while on her 3 week immersion trip across India and Kenya as she dove into her Take 3 project on redesigning the user experience for Mifos X. Deanna designed a beautiful and clean user interface that embodies the flexibility of the Mifos X platform and retains the essence of the original Mifos 2.x user interface. Her designs are now almost fully implemented in the new UI that Nayan has built out in the Community App. Deanna continues to be an active volunteer providing feedback and suggestions to optimize the UI. She’s also volunteered by participating at local hackathons, speaking about her Mifos experience at OSCON, and designing an entire set of mobile mockups which will be the foundation for our native Android app for Mifos X.

Our whole-hearted thank you goes out to Deanna for her design expertise, deep connection to the community and her personal financial support. I’ll be hand-delivering her award the next time I see her in the Bay Area.

Deanna, Gerardo and Ed at OSCON

Distinguished Service Award – Edward Cable

Last but not least, Craig Chelius and Amit Jain conspired to surprise me with the Distinguished Service Award. I’m blessed to receive this distinction and am so impressed with the amazing progress our community has made since spinning out from Grameen Foundation. When I launched The Community for Open Source Microfinance to keep our project alive and well, I did it with the full faith in everyone across our community. Writing this post today, it’s helped me to see how far we’ve come and how inter-connected we all are. It is the deep bonds that tie us together that make our community so strong and resilient. It started with a simple petition and call to action and here we are today.

I’m honored to receive the Distinguished Service Award but the real gratitude goes to all those in the community that have made the present a reality. I’ve simply been there to connect everyone and keep us unified. Thank you to Paul Maritz for his financial support, to John and Keith Woodlock for having the courage to break the status quo and launch Mifos X, to SolDevelo for leading Mifos 2.x development out of the transition, to Conflux Technologies for all the reasons noted above, and to each and everyone of you in the community who’ve played a fundamental role.

Ongoing Recognition

While we’ll do these awards each year, we don’t want recognition to stop there. We’ll also re-start our Star Contributors of the Month that have been on hiatus but don’t ever hesitate to publicly congratulate or give a shout out to a fellow community member. So many of us are volunteering, and that appreciation goes an incredibly long way! If you’ve been helped by a community member or have someone or some organization that you feel should be recognized, let us know.

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