Remixing Microfinance with the Client at the Center

From the onset, a fundamental part of our product vision for Mifos X has been to be a flexible platform agnostic of any one microfinance methodology. During the Mifos Summit (more takeaways to come in a future post), a key finding that emerged was the centrality of the relationship with the client in both the data model and the platform architecture.  Regardless of whatever methodology supported, relationships can be defined between the client and whatever account, entity, or structure you would like.

Gripped by a comment made by Rupal Patel on the importance of client data during our Setting the Mifos X vision, Craig came up with a quick sketch that is a good first pass at our vision for Mifos X.  Client Data is at the center and the various flows of money or information that are coming in and out of the platform are clearly visualized.

summit-vision

This week this vision is starting to come to life for me after seeing a few posts and conversations on the topic.

Remixing Microfinance

Ignacio Mas wrote a great article that provides some excellent food for thought on the topic. In this blog post to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, he explores how the sector can explore hybrid models for the delivery of financial services to the poor.

By blurring the line between lending methodologies and incorporating informal the social aspects of informal financial services into their product portfolio, MFIs can offer products that are more responsive to their immediate needs.

“Innovation rarely comes by inventing a radical new thing or even a radical new way of doing something. Innovation is generally about re-mixing known elements in a creative way. Innovation means eroding the boundaries between all these financial models until something emerges that has aspects of each.”

In Mifos X we must not only be methodology-agnostic, we must also make the blending of the various methodologies seamless for the end user such that they have the power and the flexibility to create these innovative hybrid delivery models.

To quote Ignacio, “We need to search for all of the models in between, and in doing so, we will come closer to striking the right balance between flexibility for the customer and complexity in delivery.”

Mifos X can’t just stop at the flexibility to create and deliver these services, it must also help the MFI strike the right balance by enabling the analysis to design and develop these services. On that topic, CGAP and Microsave have been holding a stimulating virtual conference on the theme, Client Insights: How Can Providers Listen and Learn from Their Clients?:

“Discussions will explore ways in which organizations can listen and learn from their clients and the implications this has for decision-making, product design, delivery, branding, marketing and communication in the efforts to offer financial inclusion for all.”

Day 1 was full of interesting commentary on the quantitative and qualitative methods to capture and analyze all these client insights. Day 2 (October 31) will bring these discussions full circle to look at combining these methods and making client insight part of an organization’s DNA.

With client data at the center, Mifos X must provide the tools to capture whatever data in whatever form through whatever medium at any stage in the lifecycle of a client. Once that data is in, Mifos X must provide the tools to analyze that data and make the critical decisions in designing these client-centered products.

We know where we wan to get to. That leaves us at the question of what is the path we’ll take to create this open platform – 1) a platform that allows MFIs to remix microfinance and deliver a blended variety of informal and formal financial products and services and 2) a platform that puts the client at the center allowing the data capture and analysis to design these “hybrid models that bring together the best features of each [methodology].”

Help us lay that path. Tell us how.

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