As ASSIST, the ACCESS strategy of engaging in sector building activities have been further consolidated and refined under The Responsible Finance Initiative. Given the current meltdown that the Indian microfinance sector is witnessing, this initiative has become more significant than the work in other tiers of ASSIST microfinance strategy. Through a clutch of well knit sub strategies, ASSIST undertakes to promote responsible finance within the practice of microfinance sector in India. Key Responsible Finance sub initiatives include:
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The following new initiatives are being undertaken by ASSIST for supporting Responsible finance:
- Microfinance India Social Performance Report
ASSIST launched the Microfinance India Social Performance Report in 2011, an annual publication that collates and presents comprehensive research based analysis and documentation of data and initiatives on social performance undertaken by microfinance stakeholders in the country. ASSIST seeks to collect evidence on the ground and showcase these initiatives, their expected impacts as well as document learning on possible gaps and shortcomings. This documentation also supports dissemination and further adoption of the ongoing SPM efforts and best practices as many MFIs are not aware of the possible impact of SPM, and perceive the agenda as complicated and difficult to implement.
- Pricing Transparency
In the midst of high growth and high profitability, there have been concerns about the quality of growth and the protection of the clients. With a large proportion of clients having low level of literacy and long history of vulnerability, it was observed that MFIs do not put out quality information that would provide a basis to clients for making informed choices. It is in this context that MFTransparency (MFT) launched operations in India in 2010 to facilitate the sector’s move towards greater transparency. MFT’s India operations were housed within ACCESS for one year, during which the pricing data from 80 MFIs was collected and presented through a rigorous process of validation of supporting document, cleaning, analysis and hosting.
Click here to access the India Data Report for Transparent Pricing Initiative in India.
- Client Protection
Initiated by ACCION and C-GAP, the Smart Campaign focuses of raising awareness on the need and significance for client protection. Given the large-scale concerns on coercive practices that MFIs employ with clients, ACCESS is spearheading to bring together key stakeholders to draw attention on the issue on the need for respect to clients. While ASSIST Trustee, Vipin Sharma is represented on the Steering Committee of the Smart Campaign, within India ASSIST has organized a Round Table on Client Protection, and is working to bring together a Forum that will play the role of a watchdog on client protection principles related compliance. Towards this, it has already undertaken a few Smart Assessments of MFIs.
From time to time, ACCESS-ASSIST brings out important knowledge products that help in informing and influencing perspectives on key issues in the sector. While Microscan is a document that captures the financial ratios of smaller NGO-MFIs and helps to attract supply side players to provide on-lending fund support to these smaller institutions, other studies have drawn attention of the sector on broader sector issues. In the past two studies were undertaken to look at some best practices in SHG federations, as also their financial viability. For 2011, the ambitious “two Decades of the SHG Movement” is being undertaken to bring to the attention of promoters and policy makers the need to learn from the past experiences and make appropriate future investments for the movement’s growth.