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Quito Chapter launches first Mifos Chapter in Latin America

Quito Chapter, first meeting.

Last Tuesday, a group of ten people, from different backgrounds, gathered around to have the first meeting of the Quito Chapter, the first Mifos chapter in Latin America. Mifos Chapters are volunteer-led groups to bring together users, partners, and innovators right within their local communities to share ideas, collaborate, and build a flourishing ecosystem. Fill out our Chapter Startup Form if you’d like to launch a chapter in your city. img_5380

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Partner Spotlight – Flexibility

This regular blog series will shine the light on some of our top Partners. Not only do we want to recognize them for their accomplishments, we want others to learn from the approach they’ve taken to promote and implement Mifos.

Mifos Partners are one of the most crucial links in our community – they are the driving force that is promoting and supporting Mifos worldwide.  Aside from championing our product and bringing the Mifos technology to new markets, they act as the fundamental bridge feeding in MFI requirements to be developed by the community. Partners don’t stop there as many are also developing and localizing the product to fit their local market.  For all these reasons, we focus our full energy on making Partners successful – they are the primary channel to market, the eyes and ears on the ground, and the entrepreneurial force that will help us sustainably scale. We’d love to recognize your partner organization in this monthly spotlight so please reach out if you’d like to be featured.

Flexibility was one of our first Mifos partners in Latin America. They have championed Mifos all throughout South and Central America. They have been an active part of our online and local community, speaking at regional events and participating at our first Latam Partner Summit. We look forward to working with them and their highly professional team as they take on new opportunities throughout the region.

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Mifos at the Aciamericas Summit in Uruguay

The Aciamericas event started Tuesday morning. It was powerful to see the gathering of 1200 people from the cooperatives and credit unions sector.

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The day began with an opening ceremony in which Ramón Imperial Zuñiga, Aciamericas president, shared his objectives and points of view on which the cooperative movement should move forward in the next years; the Sustainable Development Goals are at the foundation of the Aciamericas program.

Mifos had its own booth there. The Latam team, along with Argentinian technological partner Flexibility+Ideas, had the chance to spread the Mifos word, explaining what our community is, networking and sharing experiences. Our booth featured the captivating message: “The system banks envy, free in your co-op”

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In the afternoon, we continued the Latam Partners Summit, in which our Community Director, Edward Cable, did a workshop about the community, resources and showcases.

The partners were very interested in this topics, but most especially the showcases with lots of questions coming up and the assurance of some grand new opportunities will come in the future.

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Mifos Latam Partner Summit, First Edition @Montevideo

Throughout this week, Montevideo will host two major events regarding financial inclusion.

The first one is the Latam Cooperatives Summit, organized by Aciamericas: The International Cooperative Alliance, an independent non-governmental organization that brings together, represents and serves cooperative organizations around the world. Mifos is sponsoring the event but we’ll speak to more of that tomorrow.

The second major event is the First-ever Mifos Latam Partner Summit. For the first time, all technological partners from Latam are gathering in the same place for a time to learn and engage more with our Community, and to discuss and share experiences about themselves and their own projects.

Mifos, Flexibility, iOU FinTech, and Jala Group - attendees of Mifos Latam Partner Summit Read more

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ThitsaWorks Takes Mifos to Myanmar

The following is a guest post from May Thu Myint, Communications Officer of ThitsaWorks, Inc.

Hello Mifos community!

We’d like to take this moment to introduce ourselves. We are ThitsaWorks, the first Mifos partner to be based in Myanmar. We are delighted to be a part of this great community. We’d like to take this moment to tell you about what we’ve been up to lately.

October was a busy month for ThitsaWorks as we began meeting with various organizations to begin formally introducing ourselves to the MFI community here.

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Embracing Electronic Money with the Central Bank of Ecuador

Between the 10th and 15th October, our Latam Team was in Ecuador where many things happened.

Quito’s Chapter is taking form and is preparing to host its first meeting. Ma. Luisa Martínez, our Account Manager for Latin America, worked on this throughout the week with Jorge Moncayo, Central Bank of Ecuador’s Financial Inclusion Director and Chairman of Quito’s Chapter.

They started to set the objectives and mission of the Chapter itself and also invited some potential members.

This Chapter not only will develop and discuss about our platform, but it will be a Social Innovation and Technology Hub, where fintechs, developers, innovators, Academia, and subject matter experts can have a seat at the table to discuss, share experiences, work on solutions, and create papers and case studies about Financial Inclusion, Social Innovation and Technology.

Our Strategic Initiatives Director for Latin America, Javier Borkenztain, was a speaker at the International Seminar “Central Bank challenges in the XXI century” hosted and organized by the Central Bank of Ecuador.

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Partner Spotlight – Singo Africa

This regular blog series will shine the light on some of our top Partners. Not only do we want to recognize them for their accomplishments, we want others to learn from the approach they’ve taken to promote and implement Mifos.

Mifos Partners are one of the most crucial links in our community – they are the driving force that is promoting and supporting Mifos worldwide.  Aside from championing our product and bringing the Mifos technology to new markets, they act as the fundamental bridge feeding in MFI requirements to be developed by the community. Partners don’t stop there as many are also developing and localizing the product to fit their local market.  For all these reasons, we focus our full energy on making Partners successful – they are the primary channel to market, the eyes and ears on the ground, and the entrepreneurial force that will help us sustainably scale. We’d love to recognize your partner organization in this monthly spotlight so please reach out if you’d like to be featured.

Singo Africa Limited has been a Mifos partner since August of 2015, bringing their experience deploying IT solutions in the banking and manufacturing industries to the microfinance and SACCO sector. In that time, they’ve quickly made Mifos a recognizable name in Tanzania, promoting the system to more than 70% of the market. They were recently certified by the Registrar of Cooperatives as a Certified Service Provider to the Cooperative Societies with Mifos as the audited solution.

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On the Road in Indonesia …

While in Indonesia for a series of meetings, I had the chance to do my very first site visit for Mifos.

Our host, the Koperasi Kasih Indonesia, welcomed us at their head office in northern Jakarta nearby the container port.

We spent some time with the team to talk about the Koperasi and the procedures and tools they are currently using. Their goal to grow comes with a need to scale their business procedures and make them more efficient, which leads to better support by a back office solution, and the need to eliminate most of the paper intensive work in the field and the inefficient  manual data transfer in the office. By then just words to me.

KKI invited us to take part in a group meeting held at a member’s house … so we hopped on a scooter and off we went.

20160921_130003As we arrived, the group already has gathered and was waiting for us. You could feel happiness and tension all around as the purpose of the meeting was to start a new cycle and disburse loans. The meeting started with a prayer and the KKI pledge shouted by all attendees (including us) in unison.

20160921_132134Then some rustling noise appeared … paper magically came out of nowhere. For me it was hard to believe: attendance lists, application forms (of every member), ID card copies, disbursement sheets, and agreement forms. Given that the meeting was a joint meeting of two groups, there were over 50! pages of paper, at least.

The formal meeting started with an attendance check, followed by an educational training session. After the training, four members were tested to verify that they have understood the purpose of the Koperasi and the meaning of group liability and their own responsibility for the group and all other members.

One group welcomed a new member; she recited the policies aloud, and showed her “Fra20160921_135818me of Dreams” to all. What is a “Frame of Dream” you may ask. It is a blank surface that every member needs to fill with the goals she wants to reach, e.g. education for her children, better housing, or growth of her small enterprise.

This frame is shown to every member of the group because they are now all responsible for these goals (shared liability taken to the next level). The frame serves two purposes, (1) a self-motivation for the member, and (2) an agreement that everybody cares about the dream of all other group members.

Suddenly action entered the room and all attendees started to move around and lined up: disbursement time was here. Every member, one by 20160921_140904one, was sitting in front of KKI’s employee, the loan amount was stated out loud, and then cash was counted and handed over. Every member then signed off the payment in the disbursement sheet and the agreement form.

20160921_140926The closing of the meeting included a prayer and the KKI pledge again.

My take away after that experience is two-fold. There are two ingredients that make this kind of business work, (1) a social component where everybody is responsible for each other and (2) and the technology that allows a broader outreach by easing the pain of handling paper.

Cash, even if we Westerners are moving away from it, still has some value. It is something you can feel, which is more than simply the money itself. There is some hidden message in cash that could not be erased by electronic money, a transition needs to be made to distinguish between money and expectations/feelings.  

As a techie, my first reaction was that we can solve all this with decent technology. After seeing what really happens, I realized that technology can not replace a group meeting, rather technology needs to assist the social bonding by providing a solution that allows the employee to focus more on the group, instead of handling large amounts of paper, and other mundane details and error checking.

Technology needs to enhance the social experience, not replace it.

-Markus Geiss, Chief Architect

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Thank you to Drew Fass!

Some of the unsung heroes in our community are the community development interns who have been helping our community grow over the past several years. Often their contributions go unrecognized so we wanted to give Drew Fass a proper farewell after an amazing year. He’s completed his year-long internship and is now back to full-time studies at the University of Washington.  You might not know but we’ve created a program of bringing on community development interns through the Chi Psi fraternity at the University of Washington that is now in its fifth generation.

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Along the way they’ve helped to formalize the procedures and programs to effectively engage with all members of our community. Starting with Braden Timm who compiled all of our contacts into Insightly, our first CRM. Ollie Janders then led the transition over to Salesforce for our CRM and contact management, while famously fighting poverty with financial inclusion with a lightsaber! Next came Andrew Mottet who streamlined and perfected the communications cycle and systematized into Google Drive templates and playbook that he used to smoothly on board Drew. Over the past six months, Drew Fass has now worked hand in hand with Jacob Kobzi as he passed over the torch.

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Amazon Vs. Open Source

“We strongly believe that the world needs a mechanism to write cloud applications. We don’t want the cloud to be like the bad old days of the mainframe computer. There’s potentially some tension between  people who want the cloud to be closed and proprietary and folks like us who want it to be an option for developers to write cloud applications. History teaches us that every time there’s a major wave of technology and a major new category or platform, then new players emerge. The world went from the mainframe computer, in which IBM was the big winner, to the PC and productivity software, where Microsoft and Oracle were the big winners. Now, we’re going to the cloud as a new category and platform. We know that Amazon is a big winner there but it operates a closed platform and history teaches us that in every major shift, there’s at least one closed winner and at least one open winner. We know that the closed winner is going to be Amazon but we don’t know yet who the open winner is going to be.”

Check out what else Paul Maritz, Executive Chairman of Pivotal and Mifos Chairman of the Board has to say about the future of Open Source and cloud computing in the Forbes article:

Paul Maritz’s Vision For Pivotal And The Battle With Amazon Over Open Source Cloud Computing

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern