SPTF Newsletter

September 2020 Edition                                                                          

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A digital solution in Dominica assists customers in the aftermath of COVID and beyondby Phoenix Belfield
The SPTF-led Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility for Central America and the Caribbean co-finances customer centric projects across the LAC region. One project in Dominica is particularly significant for helping customers access financial services and deal with the effects of COVID. 

In our country, Dominica, many people are excluded from financial services. Take the indigenous Kalinago population, for example. They are not able to access loans simply because the collateral requirements are too high. Budding start-ups and microbusinesses are looked at unfavorably because they lack financial and tech savvy and do not have a credit history to fall back on.

It is not that Dominica can't support digital financial services. In fact, in 2019, many banks and financial institutions launched mobile banking services. However, this progress did little to support inclusion of the unbanked, as the new services were designed, priced, and marketed toward existing bank customers. 

In light of this continued challenge, the Dominica Cooperative Societies League Ltd., (DCSLL) an apex body for credit unions in Dominica, has embarked on a special project to launch a digital, bank agnostic, mobile wallet called MLajan. Keep reading below.


SPTF Announcements 

Closure of the Smart Campaign: What does this mean for me?

Since the July announcement of the closure of the Smart Campaign, SPTF and CERISE have received many questions from our partners on the effects of this change. We welcome these questions as they help us to understand how our industry is affected, how we can be most useful moving forward, and what our members need from us. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions--keep them coming! For more information, check out our FAQ pages in English, French, and Spanish

Q. Are the Client Protection Standards still available? Who will maintain them going forward?
A. Yes, they are still alive and well. SPTF will maintain the Client Protection Standards as part of the Universal Standards for SPM.

Dimension 4 of the Universal StandardsTreat Clients Responsibly—has always contained all of the Client Protection Standards and is a central part of our work. As time passes, SPTF and CERISE will steward the evolution of this client protection content. When revisions to the standards are necessary, we will continue to use our highly collaborative standard setting process, consulting a broad range of industry experts and testing new standards in the field.

Q. Is there still a Client Protection Assessment product? Who will conduct these assessments in the future?
A. Yes, Client Protection Assessments still exist and qualified assessors continue to offer this service. 

FSPs and investors derive significant value from assessments. The assessment tool continues to be available for use by experts in client protection assessment include rating agencies, SPI4 qualified auditors, and those formerly trained by the Smart Campaign. In the immediate term, these experts can still evaluate a FSP’s client protection practices using the existing Getting Started Questionnaire. SPTF and CERISE will continue to develop plans for future assessment tools and processes.

Similarly, a social rating provides external validation of practice and a grade that indicates progress toward outstanding social performance management. The specialized microfinance rating agencies already include the Client Protection Principles in their social rating methodologies. The SPTF-run Responsible
Inclusive Finance Facilities will continue to offer co-funding for SPI4 assessments, social ratings, and client protection assessments. 

Q. Who will maintain Client Protection Certification? If I have a Client Protection Certification, is it still valid?
A. Client Protection Certification in its current form will draw to a close, but the specialized rating agencies will offer new client protection products. Existing certificates are still valid and will remain so until their original expiration date.

The Smart Campaign was an international accreditation body for certification--neither SPTF nor CERISE are structured in this way. However, given the demand for client protection evaluations, rating agencies will continue to offer products that serve this purpose. Our ongoing conversations with the rating agencies indicate that they are committed to providing client protection evaluation products and are excited to bring more flexible options to the market. SPTF and CERISE are eager to assist rating agencies as they make this transition and we will also communicate these new options to the market and ensure that all products continue to align with the Universal Standards.

Q. What does this mean for “Smart accredited” assessors and trainers?
A. Your expertise is as relevant and necessary as ever. We urge you to join the SPM Experts Network.

Many Smart-accredited assessors and trainers have spent years building their client protection expertise. T
he Smart Campaign’s closure does nothing to diminish the skills or relevancy of the experts who have been trained on the Client Protection Standards. However, since the Smart “brand” will no longer be used, these experts will no longer carry the label “Smart accredited.” SPTF invites all formerly accredited assessors and trainers who have not already done so to join the SPTF TA Database. Here, experts will be able to identify their previous client protection training and qualifications.

CERISE and SPTF are also launching an SPM Experts Network to unite the community of professionals who are trained in and working with any of the following: the Universal Standards for SPM, the Client Protection Standards, and the SPI. All Smart accredited assessors and trainers are welcome to join the SPM Experts Network. You can also contact CERISE if you are interested in becoming an SPI4 qualified auditor.

Q. Where do I go to access tools and guidance on client protection?
A. SPTF and CERISE will maintain the Smart Campaign’s extensive library of resources—guides, templates, case studies, and more—in the SPTF Resource Center.

Social media is another great way to get updates on events and publications. Twitter: SPTF Twitter and CERISE Twitter and LinkedIn: SPTF LinkedIn and CERISE

Are you a great employer? Share your ideas with SPTF.

In 2020, SPTF is exploring the topic of social responsibility to employees. We want to deepen our library of resources and our field examples on this topic--can you help?

We would love to hear from you if your organization (or one of your investees) has any of the following in place:
+ Policies and/or procedures in place related to gender equality in the workplace (e.g., equal pay for women)
+ Policies in place related to freedom of association (e.g., the right to participate in a union)
+ Employee satisfaction surveys or other means of gathering employee feedback

+ Other ways of protecting your workers' rights

SPTF Events

September 10, 2020

Spanish webinar: Líderes resilientes evento #3
WebEx, 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EDT 

Haga clic aquí para unirse!
Número de reunión (código de acceso): 160 391 5073 Contraseña de reunión: lideres

La resiliencia nos permite transformar obstáculos en oportunidades - es la habilidad de avanzar a pesar de la adversidad. Hoy en día, los líderes de las instituciones de finanzas inclusivas se enfrentan a desafíos sin precedentes. Requieren de conocimientos y herramientas que les permitan superarlos exitosamente. 

En esta tercera y última entrega de la serie, la facilitadora compartirá estrategias para fortalecer la tenacidad y la colaboración. La tenacidad es la combinación de perseverancia y optimismo realista, mientras que la colaboración está relacionada con el trabajo en equipo y la sinergia. Ambas son competencias claves de la resiliencia y elementos indispensables para superar los tiempos dificiles exitosamente.
¡Le invitamos a asistir al evento incluso si se perdió el evento # 1 y # 2! Escuche el evento # 1 y el evento # 2

October and November, 2020

Virtual Roundtables: Using Client Insights to Drive Your Crisis Response and Recovery
Dates to be announced--stay tuned!

This multi-session event in English, Spanish, and French will bring together practitioners, investors, regulators and others who want to improve their use of client data insights. Speakers will discuss how they are collecting, using, and benefiting from customer data during this time of crisis, and how these insights are essential for their recovery strategies. 

More information will be available here soon!

September 24th 

Virtual training: Training on Digital Transformation for Financial Institutions 
11:30- 14:30 IST/ 9 – 12 EAT

The tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-lasting implications on the global economy. Many financial institutions need to accelerate digital innovation and transformation to remain sustainable. Through its training arm The Helix Institute of Digital Finance, MSC (MicroSave Consulting) is delighted to invite you to its free virtual interactive training on “Digital Transformation for Financial Institutions in the backdrop of COVID-19.” 

MSC’s expert consultants will cover the following key topics through a three-hour interactive session:

• Digital transformation, importance, and relevance amid COVID-19
• Strategic choices and options for digital transformation 
• Implementation of digital transformation

Register and join here

September 29th and 30th

Webinar: Demonstration of the SPI by CERISE

September 29th--Spanish and French
Spanish: 11:30 CEST (Paris)
French: 15:00 CEST (Paris)
September 30th--English
English: 10:00 CEST (Paris) and 17:00 CEST

The SPI4 is free, but in order to ensure high quality results and widespread use of the tool and social performance assessment, CERISE strongly encourages SPI4 users to get trained on how to use the tool efficiently!

Register and join here.


                     News from our Members

MFC's Borrow Wisely Campaign is Back! #2020BWC

For the seventh year in a row, Microfinance Centre (MFC) is running the Borrow Wisely Campaign (BWC)--a resource to help financial institutions educate their clients on the importance of prudent financial habits.

The campaign targets clients and potential clients of microfinance institutions. Campaign partners’ field staff use posters, leaflets brochures, videos, and other virtual communication to teach the importance of borrowing wisely. MFC developed a simple checklist of questions that clients should ask themselves before taking out a loan, to ensure that they borrow safe and responsible levels of debt. These questions are:

  • How much can I afford to borrow?
  • Do I know how much I will pay?
  • Do I fully understand the contract?
  • What should I do if I am not satisfied?

This year, most of the BWC activities will be moved into the online space. The BWC team has prepared a communications guide to help financial institutions digitalize their campaign activities, but guidance and materials for in-person campaigns are also available. MFC also offers an MFI learning group for sharing good practices, experiences, and preparing recommendations.

Questions? Contact Aleksandra Karabon, Borrow Wisely Campaign coordinator.

Client Protection Certification: Congratulations to Maha Agriculture Finance!

SPTF congratulates member Maha Agriculture Public Co., Ltd. on earning our industry's highest recognition for consumer protection. CEO Matteo Marinelli called this one of the accomplishments he's most proud of in his career--and rightly so. Achieving excellence in client protection is an enormous undertaking, especially during a crisis. 

The majority of Maha's clients are rural farmers, which means the institution faces some particular consumer protection challenges related to getting full and transparent information to consumers, designing products appropriate to their seasonal income steams, and protecting customers from fraud.  Open and frequent communication with clients is one of the cornerstone's of Maha's model, and is achieved through a combination of digital services
and field agent visits. The social media post at right is an example
of how Maha uses digital channels to deliver consumer protection information to distant customers.

(Continued from top) A digital solution in Dominica assists customers in the aftermath of COVID and into the future by Phoenix Belfield

MLajan is the first of its kind in the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) region, allowing just about anyone owning a phone to become financially included. Through a partnership-based approach, DCSLL is introducing  an integrated payment ecosystem to enable financial linkages with all critical sectors of the economy while enabling financial inclusion for the unbanked, at-risk groups and small business entrepreneurs. Initially, MLanjan will serve Dominica and subsequently other countries of the OECS region.

The uniqueness of MLajan is its level of integration with all economic players. These integrations will support the government of Dominica to reach a wide range of the population--including vulnerable/poor people--for financial relief programs and emergencies situations, without requesting people to visit a formal financial institution. In this way, MLanjan will ease government payments and aids.

More particularly, in response to the socio-economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, MLajan will have the capability to implement an emergency cash transfer program, targeting the most vulnerable households in selected urban and peri-urban areas, who have been classified as the most vulnerable. Beneficiaries can receive cash deliveries through the mobile money delivery mechanism, using the MLajan platform. Beneficiary households can also receive social and behavioural change communication focusing on COVID-19 prevention as well as general health and nutrition best practices through virtual means--via texts or robocalls.

As a developing country with a very low digital infrastructure footprint, our industry will not be able to develop financial and economic resilience if its players are unable to tap into modern scalable technologies that offers them virtual market spaces for local produce. MLajan, with the support of its strategic partners like the SPT,F is leading the charge as a truly inclusive mobile wallet. This solution will introduce to Dominica new use cases of digital payments that will facilitate accessibility, flexibility, reliability, and affordability for our people.


SPTF Social Investor Working Group

Investors: Join our monthly calls throughout 2020

Based on demand from our Social Investor Working Group members, we will be hosting monthly calls to keep the conversation going. Check our investor webpage to find information for our upcoming calls, as well as to catch up on briefs from our previous calls.  We'll be focusing on a variety of issues through the end of the year, including:

Catch up on our previous calls by reading the briefs and listening to the recordings on the SIWG webpage. If you have any other questions, please email Katie Hoffmann

SPTF Members: Responsibility in Action

Financial support from our sustaining members ensures our ongoing operations. We are proud of the ways that our members are responding to COVID-19. 

* BRAC Microfinance used SPTF’s Crisis Checklist, which lists the top 15 Essential Practices of the Universal Standards that financial service providers can focus on during the pandemic, to assess its COVID-19 response and to design a client-centered, social response to the crisis. Based on the assessment, BRAC designed a strategy for two phases – response and recovery – and identified activities, outputs, and outcomes to achieve in each of those phases, as well as indicators to measure its progress toward those goals. Read BRAC's checklist assessment and plan here.

* Grameen Foundation's "unconditional cash" initiative is providing crucial immediate relief to thousands of their most vulnerable clients in Southeast Asia, India, and Uganda. 

* With an eye toward preventing food insecurity (a growing concern during the pandemic), Incofin is providing 200,000 Euros to help Fairtrade International to scale up their support of farmers, workers, and their communities.


      The Responsible Inclusive Finance Facilities

SPTF's co-financing facilities are adapting to the crisis

SPTF's three responsible inclusive finance facilities are open and accepting applications for regular projects during the crisis. We are also adapting the facilities' policies to offer extra help to financial service providers during these trying times: 

  • We have simplified the application forms to help FSPs apply more quickly.
  • In addition to our usual topics, we are accepting applications for projects focused on helping FSPs weather the crisis, such as projects that build institutional resilience or develop digital channels to better connect with clients and staff. 

  • To accommodate time-sensitive projects related to the crisis, the facilities are reviewing applications with increased frequency.

If you're interested in applying for co-financing from one of SPTF's regional responsible inclusive finance facilities, see the respective regions below: 

The facilities are co-financing non-traditional projects in response to the crisis
Over the past five months, our projects represent innovative strategies to help clients in their hour of greatest need, support FSP staff, and aid management in building more resilient institutions, better equipped to whether this crisis and the next. 

Two financial institutions in the DRC--Institution de Microfinance Programme d’Appui au Développement Rural et Urbain (IMF PADERU SAR) and Mutuelles de Solidarites/EP--received co-financing to install handwashing stations in their branches and distribute masks to employees and clients. 


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