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The SEEP Network 
Annual Conference

October 1-3, 2018

2013 Workshop and Plenary Agenda


 Wednesday Morning · Wednesday Afternoon

 Thursday Morning · Thursday Afternoon Session 1 · Thursday Afternoon Session 2


Wednesday, November 6th


Morning Plenary Session: Impact Investing for Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems

 The development of sectors and systems requires collaboration across a range of partners – civil society organizations, development practitioners, businesses and business associations, government agencies and financiers from microfinance institutions to commercial investors. Whether initiatives relate to an economic sector such as manufacturing that integrates small-scale suppliers into value chains, or a social sector like education that provides affordable quality alternatives to inadequate public systems, partnerships are needed to strengthen both the sector and the larger system within which it exists.  Read more >>

 Wednesday MORNING workshops

 What happens when partnerships that begin with good intentions, head south? Thinking critically about our partnerships and conducting thorough due diligence are first steps to ensuring positive relationships. This panel seeks to identify what we can know about structuring and maintaining good financial service partnerships. Drawing from real project examples, MEDA, FFH, and Save the Children will present case studies of private-nonprofit partnerships to deliver sustainable financial services. Facilitators will give participants a partnership checklist, and then challenge participants to practice structuring and re-structuring partnerships to avoid and resolve challenges, and to offer the best financial services to the underserved.

                                  Download PowerPoint


Practitioners increasingly work across sectors to assess household poverty status, vulnerability, and food security. They often wonder: “What indicators or method should I use? Will I get what I need to successfully implement and monitor?” Rather than offering a “best tool” this session will offer a range of valuable, practical tools. FHI 360, DAI and Self Help Africa will share experiences using three tools in Malawi, Uganda, and Tanzania. They will cover the tools’ distinguishing elements, cost-effectiveness, scalability and innovations, including adaptions to consider women’s empowerment and child development. Practitioners who work across sectors will find the session particularly useful.

                                 Download PowerPoint


This session explores how investment capital can be used to spark, nurture, and scale new sectors. Three practitioners seeking to advance more vibrant sectors for Affordable Housing, Higher Education, and Agriculture at the base of the pyramid share initiatives that have been used to attract and deploy investment capital for early-stage investment in innovation, and analyze success measures, transferability, cost effectiveness, and scale.

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 Successful partnerships between private corporations and NGOs can produce results for the benefit of local economies, local producers and their communities. These partnerships become innovative and successful when they find new ways to work together over a long period of time. Mars and ACDI/VOCA have partnered for the past decade in Ecuador, Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia reaching 100,000+ cocoa producers. CRS’ partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters began in 2009 in Guatemala and expanded to Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda, benefiting 40,000 vulnerable people. This session will discuss criteria for such successful partnerships between private corporations and NGOs.

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Rigorous research has its place in understanding the financial lives of the poor and in designing better services to suit their needs. It also has a role in evaluating the success of a given experiment, market development project, or financial service.  However, in our search for evidence, we often underplay the enterprise of collecting that information. Unwittingly, the research process may present negative effects on the human subjects we are seeking to understand. The creation of false expectations, burdens of time, and intrusive and sometimes culturally insensitive forms of inquiry have consequences – both for the subjects and for our practice. This roundtable session will draw from the experience of veteran researchers from both the academic and practitioner communities and will prompt reflection on how financial information on disadvantaged populations is collected, analyzed, presented, used and shared.   


Wednesday Afternoon

 Using mobile technology to extend product or service delivery demands the development of key partnerships—bringing diverse sectors and industries into new partnerships. Yet these players have inherently different interests and are not always natural partners. Grameen Foundation, Dimagi (a tech solution vendor), and ShoreBank International will engage participants in exploring the various –and sometimes unexpected—partnerships in programs providing mobile phone-based financial and information services. Through images, stories, numbers, and roundtable sessions, participants will learn about different relationships that can be built to deliver financial and information services; successful, yet unconventional, partnerships; and how to identify/develop future partnerships.

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 HIV continues to remain a global challenge; and the link between HIV and poverty is undisputable. The deaths of adults of child bearing age and adults who are parents have inevitably taken a great toll on children, leaving most of them vulnerable. The biggest challenge faced by most of the vulnerable households is inability to generate income to meet their livelihood needs. The Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda will present its pilot program aimed at promoting HIV and AIDS awareness among MFIs and their clients in order to reduce the economic vulnerability of PLHIV by enhancing access to microfinance services. Pact Tanzania will share its WORTH Economic Empowerment program, which enables vulnerable households develop a sustainable system for the care and protection of orphans and vulnerable children through literacy training, community banking, and microbusiness development. This session will include small group discussions to better help pratictioners understand how to use partnerships in addressing economic vulnerability of  people and households affected by HIV.

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Challenges exist for both impact investors and market system developers - the former requiring sector strengthening to reduce investment risk; and the latter needing investment at the SME level to develop the overall market system. As a result, combining the efforts of market development agencies and investment funds can result in high impact returns on social and financial goals. This success is dependent on understanding the challenges each faces and the creation of incentive mechanisms and robust measurement systems for investors, businesses, practitioners, as well as employees and consumers.

                    Download PowerPoint


 Despite a robust microfinance environment, accessing agricultural credit remains a key constraint to improved productivity and food security for smallholders in Bangladesh. Yet emerging evidence indicates that developing experimental partnerships with non-traditional providers can generate disruptive new product offerings that generate unexpected financing strategies. Drawing on the findings of the recent FIELD Support-LWA-supported Firm to Farm Finance research project implemented by iDE, Save the Children and the United Leasing Company, Ltd. this workshop will discuss how Human-Centered Design has contributed to stronger partnerships and greater impacts.


The outcomes of recently completed randomized control trials (RCTs) on savings groups (SGs) provide valuable opportunities for learning. Practitioners now face the twin tasks of interpreting the outcomes identified by the RCTs and using the evidence to improve practice. The discussion will be anchored in the new SEEP publication, “The Evidence-Based Story of Savings Groups,” which summarizes the results of RCTs across seven countries and places them within the broader body of evidence about the role of savings groups in the lives of their members. Key questions to be addressed include: Why were observable changes in social capital and individual empowerment not well captured by the RCTs? The RCTs found very little impact around health and education outcomes―why are these outcomes so limited and how can the findings inform efforts to improve these results? What are important lessons about fee-for-service models for the industry? What are areas of future research on SGs and what methodologies are appropriate for addressing them?

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Afternoon Plenary Session:  MFIs in a Changing Landscape: Survival of the Fittest?

New technology is altering the financial landscape. New entrants seeking large scale deployment are entering into the traditionally reserved market segment for microfinance institutions. A more complex and competitive environment requires new strategies, services, and partnerships. Microfinance providers need to become more sophisticated to stay relevant. Stagnation and reluctance to adopt new technology have been noted as dominant concerns in the most recent Microfinance Banana Skins survey. There is a perceived risk that faster-moving rivals will gain market share from MFIs if the industry does not evolve at a quick enough pace. “New, innovative players are rapidly entering and have potential to eclipse MFIs’ relevance, especially in Africa with mobile network operators”- remarked one global investor. In order to face these challenges, a greater understanding of the pros and cons of different partnership models is required. This includes a careful look at both incentives and risks along with the compatibility of underlying business models. Read more >>

Thursday, November 7th


Plenary Session: Panel Debate on Financial Services for Smallholder Farmers

Despite improvements in general access to finance, considerably less progress has been made to advance services for the 500 million smallholder farmers who live in low and middle income countries. There are a number of gaps that create challenges in financial service delivery to smallholder farmers: poor infrastructure - for example, inconsistent or non-existent electricity, poor roads and transportation networks, lack of water sources and delivery systems, and underdeveloped information and communication systems; a regulatory environment that has not defined or enforced property and other rights (with impacts on collateral and other issues); and frequently disorganized agricultural value chains that do not function to the benefit of smallholders. These challenges, among others, increase the costs of financial services for smallholder farmers and create risks for financial institutions thereby demanding greater attention and innovation. Read more >>

thursday MORNING workshop sessions

  MFIs report that illness is a key factor in loan arrears and default and that often ill health causes clients to slip back into poverty. An integrated program of microfinance and health protection services is a means to create lasting improvement in the economic and social welfare of MFI clients and their families. Freedom from Hunger, Oikocredit and five MFIs across Peru and Ecuador have implemented and evaluated such projects. Here, they will lead a discussion on integrating health services with financial services from the perspective of the MFI, a social investor, and a global technical service provider.

                Download PowerPoint


  Saving Groups (SGs) have become an exceedingly popular community savings program. As of 2013, there are estimated to be about eight million Savings Group members in 360,000 groups across five continents.  Different facilitating agencies use a diverse array of delivery channels, ranging from project driven approaches to community driven approaches that also include independent village agents and spontaneous self-replication. Initial research and experience shows that self-replicated groups are becoming numerous and perform similarly to project groups and those formed by independent village agents, with some differences that are worth studying further. This session will be an opportunity for practitioners and researchers to discuss these issues by drawing from implementation experience and a research study conducted by  Datu research.

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“Green microfinance” is being advanced by investors, microfinance institutions and the social performance community. Expectations, implementation and reporting are all areas under discussion, and about which there is growing interest among SEEP members. This panel provides the perspectives of investors, practitioners and social performance advocates with regard to green microfinance: what is its definition, how can it be put into practice, and what needs to be monitored and reported? 


 Tools often need to be adapted before they are adopted. ACDI/VOCA expanded its value chain finance approach with new tools and models to promote investment staple food investments in Northern Ghana. Their approach encourages informal intermediaries to recognize incentives and develop the capacity to extend finance to smallholder farms. Sinapi Aba Trust and MEDA tailored the approach and successfully launched agricultural finance portfolios.  The panel will represent an array of perspectives of the challenges and opportunities of agricultural finance for staple crop production, and participants will be guided through a practical demonstration of the challenges and solutions farmers face.


Evidence-based programs traditionally depend on qualitative and quantitative approaches – but neither is effective alone. This roundtable looks at the theory and practical applications of a narrative approach – providing qualitative material (micro-narratives) from multiple populations in complement with quantitative granular data. The approach – a new form of distributed ethnography – also reduces “expert bias” or “cultural mismatch” by ensuring that participants’ meaning is attached to their individual stories. The methodology, which has been developed by Cognitive Edge, permits near real-time reporting and evaluation of programs and interventions while they are underway. The session will introduce key concepts underpinning narrative research, along with sharing practical experiences of its use.  Representatives of organizations that have used this approach will discuss their experiences implementing it and the actions, strategies, and policies that resulted.

                 Watch video from one of the presenters

Thursday Afternoon Session 1

 Development organizations and funders are recognizing the need to engage multiple stakeholders for broader change. This session will share public-private partnership experiences from the unique perspective of savings group initiatives in Latin America. Panelists will describe their work linking savings groups to other financial and non-financial services, products and programs.  Experiences include leveraging Saving for Change as an advocacy platform to promote Oxfam’s GROW campaign to build a better food system, connecting savings groups with technology to improve income generation (Organización IED-VITAL), expanding savings groups’ access to formal banking (Oxfam and IADB-FOMIN), and linking savings groups to business training and microloans (Namaste Guatemaya).



Partnerships between Youth Serving Organizations (YSOs) and Financial Service Providers (FSPs) have proven to help increase the quality and reach of youth-inclusive financial services. In the area of market research, FSPs often have a particular way of assessing clients’ needs and wants and may overlook opportunities for gathering relevant data from potential youth clients, However partnerships are not always the answer and a number of factors need to be considered while partnering. This in turn could be time consuming and resource intensive forcing organizations to shy away from partnerships. This session will focus the critical issues that need to be considered while making this decision, by bringing in practical experience of both youth serving organizations and youth financial service providers.


 Implementing graduation programs aimed at assisting the extremely poor is complex and costly. Donors, policy-makers, and implementers seek strong, reliable evidence that effective targeting and sustainable results are possible in such programs. Where do we stand in linking the graduation approach to governmental social protection? What is the role of the private sector in including extremely poor in supply or value chains? Using details from real project experiences and evaluations in Burundi and Guatemala as well as pilot research from Haiti, this panel will delve into practitioner, researcher, and funder views of success and challenges in implementing sustainable graduation programs.

                 Download PowerPoint


 The local market system creates barriers to participation for the poor. Through a variety of innovative private sector interventions, the Dfid-funded Market Assistance Programme in Kenya targets benefits to smallholder farmers. Learn from its example to discover how to: redirect supply chain management through farmers clubs and buying agents; drive growth-orientated strategies for agrodealers by adapting modern retailing techniques and implementing innovative SMS promotions and loyalty clubs; and influence farmers’ behavior through traditional media routes and non-traditional village agent strategies. Presenters will share practical examples from the project’s work in sorghum, cotton, aquaculture, dairy, and water, and cross-cutting media and input supply systems.

                 Download PowerPoint

                 Watch message from Michael Field


Agricultural finance is especially challenging because so many factors lie beyond the control of both the lender and the borrower. Opportunity International, in collaboration with the MasterCard Foundation, conducted an impact assessment of their agricultural finance in three African countries utilizing both qualitative and quantitative approaches. A key aspect of the strategy was an understanding that coordinating with all stakeholders in the rural model – farmers groups, extension service providers, input suppliers, and output markets – is essential to the success of rural lending. After a brief summary of the findings, the roundtable will engage in a broader discussion about how practitioner organizations can frame rural and agricultural research to produce knowledge that can effectively inform practice The presenters will examine challenges of rigorously evaluating rural projects, such as accessing data held by other actors in the agricultural value chain and finding appropriate comparison samples. Participants will gain a sense of common challenges and solutions with particular attention to the complexities inherent in examining change in agriculturally-based economies.



For many countries, education funding remains insufficient to match the needs of rapidly growing populations. Is a market-based solution possible? Partnerships in education finance can play a role in driving both quality and access to education at all levels. Opportunity International, Aflatoun and Vittana will draw on their experiences and attendee insights to explore how partnerships in education finance can offer sustainable, high impact, community-driven solutions to facilitate community education initiatives. Presentations will cover all education levels; the needs of parents, students and administrators; financial and enterprise education curricula; teacher training models; and the unique potential and challenges that flow from working with MFIs.

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The Southern African Learning Alliance is identifying ways that can improve the partnership farming model for smallholder farmers. Participants will learn how to improve contractual arrangements for smallholders especially around financing arrangements and with private sector partners. Discussions will center on the role of stakeholders (both private ad public) in making contract farming work to the benefit of smallholders including how to achieve the right balance between voluntary agreements with the private sector and the role of regulation by governments.

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                  Watch Video from SNV 


During the Savings Group conference in March 2013, a goal was set to reach 50 million members by 2020.  This will not be achieved by those currently involved in the Savings Revolution alone.  Major partners are required – not just donors and facilitators but enablers and advocates.  Who are the partners we need? How will we leverage the resources to tackle financial inclusion? By the end of this session, participants will have brainstormed the various partnerships required to achieve 50by20 and discussed the opportunities, challenges and lessons learned from partnerships currently underway with commercial banks, mobile network operators, government and donors.

                 Download PowerPoint

Efforts to promote inclusive markets often yield unexpected results. This is due to the dynamic and unpredictable nature of markets, which create challenges for their monitoring and evaluation (M&E). A recent SEEP publication, Monitoring and measuring change in market systems—rethinking the current paradigm—, proposes seven principles for the design and management of M&E frameworks to improve our understanding of how market systems work and respond to our interventions. Drawing on a just completed case-study examining the use of these principles in the context of the Kenya Market Assistance Program (K-MAP), participants will discuss the concrete implications of systemic thinking in M&E for their work and also propose ideas for a research agenda to improve M&E of inclusive market development programs.

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