The Programmatic interventions of INAFI Asia are clustered in six groups: capacity building, research & development, advocacy & communication, member services, product development, and institutional and administration. Below these will be briefly introduced.
INAFI Asia believes that human capital development is a prerequisite condition for effective and efficient service delivery. We believe that the most important precondition for further sustained growth of the sector is not, as is often suggested, more capital and grant input to boost portfolio growth but rather human resources development. Quite some member organisations have difficulties retaining their senior staff and attracting young professionals.
INAFI Asia is, therefore, considerably investing in capacity building and staff training. On the one hand these efforts are geared towards further professionalization of microfinance programmes to meet agreed standards of organisational efficiency and prudent portfolio management, on the other these aim to strengthen commitment and capabilities to make financial services available to the most deserving clients and users: the vulnerable and hard-core poor.
A typical feature of INAFI capacity building activities is the linking and learning methodology. Lateral learning and exchange visits have proven the best tools to meet the twin aims of professionalism and commitment. Practitioners learn best from one another. With a view to enhance the effectiveness of member practitioners in alleviating poverty and expanding outreach, INAFI Asia pursues the following capacity building initiatives for its members’ organisations:
Research & Development:
- Microfinance Professional Training programme
- Socialized Training sessions and Workshops
- Microfinance Lateral Learning Programme (MLLP)
- Theme based Workshop/Conference/Seminar
- Resource Publications
The microfinance sector has been growing significantly for the past three decades, and has recently attracted international attention as a successful development tool. However, attempts to validate the claim that microfinance promotes poverty alleviation have remained a peripheral concern. Rather, practitioners have tended to take a market approach to this question, and assume that if an expanding client base is repaying their loans and subsequently taking out greater loans, then their economic situation is improving and microfinance is doing its job. Such an assumption not only ignores the complex juggling of priorities practiced by many of the poor, but also places sole importance on their financial well-being. Rather, successful development is a result of backward and forward linkages between increased education, better health, financial success, and empowerment. Social well-being is therefore essential to the objective of poverty alleviation, and must be included in any efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of microfinance. INAFI Asia’s member organisations have expressed their interest through the Board meeting and the Regional General Assembly, and agreed that there is a continuous need to take stock of member performance in a more systematic way. This may include the members’ financial performance as well as outreach related issues and both technical and social topics. Undertaking research and development is furthermore needed to establish a clear picture of what is going on in the microfinance sector at large, the current state of affairs, as well as to support INAFI’s own advocacy programme.
INAFI Asia is devoted to focus on challenges and new frontiers in microfinance. It will encourage member institutions to undertake research on topics and concepts relevant to the members to generate new knowledge on best practices leading to develop new products and services. At the level of the Asia Regional Secretariat an R&D senior staff member has been appointed to monitor the data and quality of the work and distribute as well as publish the research work undertaken by members.
INAFI Asia’s research agenda aims at identifying new products and services, and improve the performance of existing best practices. Impacting on poverty, social development, mainstreaming gender across the programmatic interventions and product innovation leading to develop demand driven and client responsive services for different cliental groups are the priority research areas of INAFI Asia. Broadly, these priorities of research are grouped in the following heads:
- Issue-Based thematic research
- Action research
- Policy research
- Product development
- Explorative study
Advocacy & Communications:
INAFI Asia recognizes the need to lobby the microfinance sector as a whole. The network will have to lobby like-minded microfinance practitioner institutions, other networks, as well as donors and policymakers to build alliances for effective policy advocacy. Government agencies, central banks, multilateral agencies, regional development banks, commercial banks, and private institutions need to be sensitised, educated, and lobbied to ensure broad-based sector development. As a global network with regional focus, INAFI is well positioned to influence policymakers within donor and government agencies at a global, regional, and local level. Hence, INAFI Asia is seeking to strengthen and fortify its position in the global, regional and national debate on microfinance. To do this, it maintains concrete and firm advocacy strategy and programme.
To sustain its advocacy programme, INAFI Asia invites position papers from the national chapters and from its member organisations keeping in particular focus on the issues confronted in the sector. This position paper is prepared with a view to educating, motivating, pursuing the donors, policy makers and concerned stakeholders. In addition, INAFI Asia organises thematic public seminars for all stakeholders in microfinance to present its ideas, suggestions, and research findings. Themes to be addresses will include the need for locally inspired diversity in service delivery, utilisation of donor grants and assistance, the promotion of holistic poverty eradication strategies, and linking financial and social service delivery. INAFI Asia pursues following strategies for carrying out its advocacy agenda:
- Position papers
- Participation in national, regional and international events
- Publishing INAFI promotional materials
- Relationship building with concerned stakeholders
- Develop an interactive website that will be fuelled through the Regional Secretariats. The site will have public as well as extra-net features for members. Through the site INAFI publications and studies will be made public.
Whereas the capacity building programme is aimed at the twin aims of strengthening professionalism and commitment, the member services are more focussed to presenting achieved quality to the outside world. Credit rating will become an important activity throughout the continents. INAFI Asia intends to work with other stakeholders to come forward with:
- Develop local initiative of microfinance rating and up-gradate rating methodologies and processes that could also take into account a number of crucial social impact indicators.
- Enhance self-regulation in the countries that are already inroads to develop self or peer rating systems.
- Facilitating microfinance rating
- Measuring social impact
- Provide knowledge of best practices: Particularly for emerging and aspiring microfinance institutions, INAFI Asia aims to compile basic manuals that combine both a financial and social focus as well as to present reference sources to facilitate the linking and learning methodology for capacity building
INAFI Asia is not going to directly undertake the development of new products itself. It will, however, encourage the national chapters and its member Organisations to pursue new ideas that can prove useful for the member organisations in the country-specific context and extend any support it can lend to the members organisations and national chapters. The INAFI Asia Regional Secretariat is furthermore going to indirectly support product development through its research and development activities as well as by creating environments for its member institutions, such as international workshops and seminars that are conducive for members to exchange and develop ideas, discuss potential benefits, and share experiences.
At regional and national level INAFI Asia plans to assist a number of selected member organisations to pioneer product innovations beyond the traditional scope of financial service delivery. All are aimed at the inclusion of clients and users who until now face serious obstacles accessing financial mediation.
At the network’s fourth Global Assembly, the member institutions unanimously expressed their desire for the network’s secretariats to become more professional. In compliance with the resolutions adopter at the 4th Global Assembly of INAFI International INAFI Asia has established a permanent secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh and equipped its professional staff. All national secretariats, are handling increasing workloads. INAFI Asia Regional Secretariat has a full-time Executive Director with vast experience in the development sector including the microfinance, a part-time consultant who is handling its research and development, a Programme Officer, responsible for administration and member service, and a finance officer.
Both at regional and national level management have been professionalised. That is to say that its office is with high tech communication system, conference room, and a resource centre. As per Specific programme needs INAFI Asia also recruits part-time consultant.