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Fintech Forum – “A Complete Guide to SHGs”

Here at the Mifos Initiative we are going to begin posting a rundown of the most pressing topics and trends in fintech for financial inclusion providing you a place to follow the latest news and a forum to openly discuss what’s happening with other members of our open source community. This is the second article of this campaign. Expect to see these on our blog on a weekly basis.

Typically we’ll post snippets from several announcements or articles on a topic but this week, we’re lucky enough to have one of our partners, Habile Technologies, share a post from their blog on Self-Help Groups:

Self-help groups. Sound familiar? Perhaps you recognize the name, but do you truly understand what a self-help group is? Well, thanks to Shivasankari Bhuvaneswaran, now you can truly grasp the origination, concepts, and practices of a SHG.

Shivasankari dives into the topic of self-help groups and presents them in a detailed manner so the reader can realize their dramatic impact. Read the blog post here to learn how SHGs are playing a crucial role in “promoting gender-equality, economic independence, political participation, shared responsibility, and social development”.

Learn more about Habile Technologies by visiting their website at www.habiletechnologies.com. They’re always posting insightful information on financial inclusion and fintech.

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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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

Mifos in Indonesia

Hello Mifos Community!

This past week, the Indonesia Fintech Festival and Conference 2016 took place in Tangerang, Banten, Indonesia. The conference is a joint event between the Financial Services Authority (OJK) and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin). Although the conference is based on fintech, there was a special focus on Financial Inclusion this year, as technology continues to transform Financial Inclusion.

The conference was two days and covered topics including “Improving Financial Inclusion Through Fintech”, “Accelerate Financial Sector With Fintech”, “Digital Currencies”, and many more.

Mifos had an exciting presence at the Indonesia Fintech Festival and Conference this year.

Steven Hodgson, Director of Kanopi, was present at the conference. Kanopi has been a partner with Mifos for a long time and is working on deploying the Mifos platform within Indonesia.

Mifos was also present through BTPN. BTPN is a financial institution in Indonesia that has been using Mifos since we were a project with the Grameen Foundation (roughly 5 years ago). They are still using Mifos and have around 2 million clients processing around 630,000 transactions per day.

In a country with significant mobile adoption and devotion to financial technology, there is a great opportunity to reach the unbanked. It’s amazing to see the Mifos community come together like it has in Indonesia, joining partners, financial institutions, and ordinary people together to promote Financial Inclusion for everybody.

 
-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Welcome to Seattle – SolDevelo!

Hello Everyone!

This past weekend, one of our premier early partners, SolDevelo (http://www.soldevelo.com), opened their Seattle office, expanding all the way from Poland. To celebrate the event, they were kind enough to invite some former members from the Grameen Foundation and the Mifos team to attend their opening celebration. I, Drew Fass, was lucky enough to be the Mifos guest of honor.

The Mifos Initiative began as an open source project under the Grameen Foundation. The Grameen Foundation was formed by Alex Counts, to further the mission of Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering efforts in microfinance. HiIMG_0063s method of Grameen Joint Style Liability lending, in which all the women in a community were jointly responsible for everyone else paying off their loan, is what our first generation of Mifos software supported. SolDevelo was a key contributor in our shift out of the Grameen Foundation into our own non-profit. They were also pivotal players in the ongoing evolution of Mifos 2, our first generation of our open source platform. Since then, they’ve continued to work closely with the Grameen Foundation and other international development NGOs on the West Coast.

After arriving at their office, I was welcomed by a group of other SolDevelo supporters, including some key Mifos contributors from back when the project was under the tutelage of the Grameen Foundation. These members included Adam Monsen, Software Engineer and Kay Chau, Technical Program Manager. It was great to see that even 5 years from our departure from the Grameen Foundation that it’s original members are still able to connect over common ground.

All in all, it was a wonderful day at SolDevelo’s new headquarters. We would like to thank Krystian and Jakub for their hospitality and we wish them the best of luck in future endeavors.  

Welcome to Seattle!

Luisa’s Extended Stay in Ecuador


After the Mifos Innovation Team finished their week in Ecuador, Luisa had the opportunity to stay in Pindal to hold a couple more meetings. Pindal is a small town in Ecuador that borders Peru. Even though it is composed of just 6000 people, it produces 90% of the corn in Ecuador. Luisa was joined by the Assistant Director of Banco Desarrollo, Juan Carlos Aguirre, to experience first-hand the effect that the Electronic Money system wo20160719_125711uld have on these rural areas.

Luisa and Juan first met with Pablo Saritama, the manager of Banco Desarrollo in Pindal. They discussed the various types of loans that would be implemented using Mifos, similar to the conversation that the team had at the Banco Desarrollo headquarters.

After the meeting with Banco Desarrollo, Luisa and Juan then met with the Corn Producers Association. They were able to answer questions and gain valuable insight from the corn producers regarding what kind of loans were needed and which loans work best. Luisa and Juan were able to explain Mifos and the Electronic Money System and everyone there seemed excited and willing to embrace this new system.

Signing off,

Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Specialist Spotlight – SolDevelo

We like to focus in on our Specialists every once a while, recognizing their contributions and providing a more personal glimpse into their organization and team. This time around we’re taking a closer look at SolDevelo. SolDevelo has been playing a crucial role as the technical stewards of the Mifos 2.0 codebase. Head over to the COSM blog to read about each member of the team and what their plans are for Mifos in 2013 including continued expansion of their hosted service, MifCloud.

FINA and MFC launch Mifos in Laos

fina_mfcAnother one of the markets where Mifos has gone untouched is Laos.  FINA in coordination with the Microfinance Center of Laos is setting out to change that.  As of the Mifos 2.3 release, the software has been fully translated into Lao by FinA and MFC. Localizing Mifos into Lao is only one of the barriers that must be overcome. Kakhaber and his team are working to address the gaps to support the various forms of microfinance practiced by the MFIs, village banks, projects, and associations throughout Lao.  FINA is strongly committed to providing this region access to open source software and open access to financing resources for the poor.

To promote Mifos and help MFIs learn about the services available to them, the Mifos Lao language website has been launched at http://lao.mifos.biz. The website was designed by FINA and translated into Lao by MFC. Please visit the Mifos Lao portal for a tailored experience to learn about how FINA can support your Mifos needs in Laos.

Outreach on the Ground – May 2012

Head over to the COSM blog for this past month’s Outreach on the Ground blog series. For May, we’re featuring stories exploring the theme of product and service development.  MFIs have a myriad ways towards delivering financial services to the poor.  We’d like to share details on the approaches of various Mifos users:

  • Housing and Water Purifier Loans at Grameen Koota
  • Transitioning to the MwaK program at Nuru
  • A Closer Look at Lumana – Rainmakers interview with Sammie Rayner
  • Missions of Hope International funding entrepreneurship through coffee