We were fortunate enough to attend the Global Microcredit Summit 2011 in Valladolid, Spain just a week ago. A beautiful venue, one of the largest microfinance gatherings of the decade and the presence of Muhammad Yunus as well as Queen Sofia of Spain made for a truly memorable occasion. Being immersed in the discussions about organization transparency, client protection and best practices for organizations brought light to the many ways we are contributing to these goals and what we can do to become an even stronger member of the microfinance community.
As was to be expected, there were strong discussions and debates about the recent troubles facing microfinance from over-indebtedness to a surplus of rapid investment capital. Yet, out of this also emerged a positive outlook for the future, and not only for purely financial services but a more holistic service which integrates the right combination of loans and savings, of insurance and health and of MFIs not becoming like the big-banks but instead becoming a valued social business integrated into their communities. The word ‘microfinance’ itself may be in need of redefinition as to exactly which services it includes and which goals it’s trying to achieve.
A key takeaway was that for the need for microfinance to truly see itself as a social business. One expressed most eloquently by Franck Riboud (of Danone) in his collaboration with Muhammad Yunus: that a viable, self-sustaining business which aims at providing a beneficial social service is the only long term solution to a problem. This is the approach we’ve taken at Mambu from the beginning as well: creating a product and a service which benefits all microfinance organizations regardless of their financial means or objectives and building a self-sustaining business around it to support it. We’ve been thrilled at the positive reaction this approach and our current product have received from those in the microfinance ecosystem: from organizations like Mix Market to Grameen Foundation to investors, researchers and consultants, there is buzz in the air about finally having a global platform with the goals and ambitions of the microfinance community clearly in focus.