Link between Women's Assets and Rights 
Thursday, July 16, 2009, 01:20 PM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance
In May, I worked with FARM Africa, Ethiopia to develop a base-line for their Rural Women's Empowerment Project. The project uses savings and loan associations, livestock groups and women's rights awareness including community-based legal trainers. In past work, they have found a link between women's own income and assets and her ability to have voice in the household and in the community. We did base-line analysis combining quantitative indicators (eg. # cases brought to social court, women's land title, poverty score of household) with qualitative indicators (focus groups, life-stories, most significant change reported by women themselves). Men in the community were also interviewed. FARM will revisit these indicators in two years and four years to see what changes have occurred and if, indeed, there is a link between women's assets and her ability to contribute and assert her rights.

A draft report is available. Contact me for an electronic copy.

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Listen to some Poetry  
Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 10:19 AM - Poetry and Writing
Congrats to Randy Dover from Newfoundland! He won the national CBC poetry face-off. Nice to see that it has gone to a fellow maritimer.

I won for Halifax. Thanks to all of you who took the time to write me a note about the poem. That was the real flight for me.

Have a listen below...
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Group Governance in Kenya 
Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 09:57 AM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance

The Decentralized Financial Service Project began in 2003. Phase II aimed to develop and test simple and effective tools and training to strengthen self-governance in community/rural based financial organisations (CBFOs). Through financing of Financial Sector Deepening Trust, I reviewed DFS Phase II with Angela Wambugu from Microsave (Kenya).

The project took a creative approach to training with a focus on accountability and transparency. By the end, members were much better able to hold leaders accountable. In all 225 groups were trained, approximately 5,000 members. DFS used a unique approach to group capacity building focused on member responsibilities and rights. They were able to demonstrate that built capacity in groups to self-manage and self-govern improves the performance of both groups and the institutions that support them.

Even though the results were promising, scale overall was limited and potential to improve upon that really depended on the type of association. The managed ASCA model proved to be the strongest demonstration of lowered costs that resulted in both broadened and deepened outreach (up to 70 km from the outlets). Financial Service Associations (FSA) were largely successful at decentralising services and increasing ownership at the group level. Built group capacity allowed the FSAs to reduce contact time thereby reaching more groups as well as creating groups in areas that would otherwise be too costly to reach. While the methodology shows promise, potential for scale is limited by institutional weaknesses and product rigidities. The Savings and Credit Cooperative was the least successful due largely to a limited ability or mandate to work on the group methodology and other institutional constraints.

Does training groups to be self-managed maximize rural outreach? Yes, particularly for the managed ASCA model. In the other cases, institutional limitations meant that efficiency gains at both group and institutional limit potential for broad outreach. Electronic copies of the report are available on request.

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Different Ways to Learn 
Monday, January 26, 2009, 02:01 PM - Inspiring
My friend Natasha's son Samuel asked her how long he would have to be in school. She told him plus or minus 15 yrs and more if he wanted to go to university. He said, "I'm not going to university, mom, I'm going to space."

Social Rating in Mali Namibia and Algeria 
Monday, October 6, 2008, 10:19 AM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance
painting- Adelino Timoteo

FIDES is a microfinance organization (and investor) that supports rural microfinance organizations in Africa and Eastern Europe. While many microfinance programs consider aspects of poverty they rarely look at the households in terms of their coping and asset strategies. How families use animals, jewelry as forms of savings and insurance. How they use social networks and groups. I worked with FIDES to develop a monitoring system that tracks these areas combining the quantitative data that donors & investors demand with qualitative methods for capturing the messiness of coping and asset building strategies.

Three types of analyses are used:

I. Client Poverty Measurement e.g. As of Dec. 2008 22% of Mali clients were likely below the poverty line. This data is generated through a 5 minute survey that uses the same questions from the national household expense surveys.

II. Client Profiling e.g. 42% of female Namibian clients have business assets in their own name. This data describes (in %s) and segments (in quartiles or sections) the client base in terms of social data: gender, poverty, rurality and the nature of their enterprise. Key portfolio data is also included that is relevant to social: retention rate; distribution of savings balances and distribution of loans disbursed as % GNI p.c. This data provides a springboard for further analysis.

III. In-Depth Analysis. Here aspects of household strategies, gender issues are explored in more depth. Due to lack of inheritance property rights, for example, widowhood or divorce can leave women in Namibia and Algeria and their children destitute despite income wealth and position. So we track women's personal assets as well.

In Mali, based on poverty segmentation of the client base, coping and asset-building strategies were explored for different households according to risk profile as the basis for a drought insurance scheme. For a recent paper on the process or for copies of the score-cards for FIDESí Social Performance Monitoring system contact:

For a copy of a paper on this social performance system presented at the European Conference on Microfinance (Brussels) go to the link below and search "Complex Enough to Capture: Simple Enough to Use: Early Lessons from FIDES' Cross-Country Social Performance System"

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