> Posted by Robin Ratcliffe
I’ve been thinking a lot about the enormous challenge we are undertaking at the Center – leading the development of the Campaign for Client Protection in Microfinance. As the Campaign Director, taking on the leadership of a worldwide Campaign for anything is a huge opportunity and challenge. Taking it on for something as important as the ultimate welfare of microfinance clients and their families is an enormous responsibility! So I knew from the start that we needed to rally strong support from microfinance leaders to guide our work and to help us spread the word about the Campaign.
Recruiting the members of the Campaign Steering Committee has been a really rewarding experience – and one that points to an industry-wide shared commitment to the clients we serve. Not a single nominee declined to serve, highlighting, I think, the interest globally in setting high standards for client service and treatment. In fact, how about making the microfinance industry the standard bearer for consumer protection and an example for the mainstream financial services sector? We now have 28 members on the Committee, all well-regarded leaders, selected from around the world. They represent individual MFIs, country and regional associations, international networks, investors, donors, and regulators.
The Committee’s role is to advise the Campaign staff on the Campaign planning, structure and outreach. Their first and biggest piece of advice? Tools, tools, tools. Just as the more than 400 endorsers of the Campaign have told us, it’s easy to sign on the Campaign and to embrace the Six Principles that govern client treatment. It’s a lot harder to actually imbed these principles into every aspect of MFI operations and organizational culture. We agree. We’re envisioning a range of tools to help MFIs train staff, assess their lending and collections practices, adjust salary structuring to appropriately incent employees, and establish a grievance process that welcomes and resolves client complaints. Finally, the tool box will be filled with ways to educate clients financially so that they can ask the right questions and fully understand the benefits, responsibilities, terms, and conditions of any financial product they are utilizing. It will take several years for us to compile the toolkit, but we know that it’s the key to the success of the Campaign. Stay tuned.
Robin Ratcliffe has worked at ACCION International for 12 years, first as VP Communications and later as Senior Advisor to the President and Director of the Campaign for Client Protection in Microfinance.