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Promoting Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems

Past Initiatives

Youth and Financial Services Working Group

The Youth and Financial Services Working Group engaged practitioners to share experiences with the goal of identifying the successes, challenges, and trends in offering financial and non-financial services for youth. The working group focused specifically on access, usage, and sustainability of products and services.


Responsible Finance Program in Colombia

Although the microfinance industry in Colombia has been operating for more than 40 years, the market is still largely underdeveloped. As the industry grows, new challenges are arising, such as the need for a comprehensive regulatory framework for the industry. The objective of the Responsible Finance Program in Colombia was to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Colombian Association of Financial Institutions - Asomicrofinanzas, as a means to increase transparency and promote growth of a local, pro-poor, inclusive microfinance sector.


 Brazil Network Strengthening Program

The principal objective of the Brazil Network Stregnthening Program was to improve the effectiveness and strengthen the capacity of two Brazilian microfinance associations, and to promote financial inclusion in the markets served by their member organizations. The two association partners were Associação Brasileira de Entidades Operadoras de Microcrédito e Microfinanças (ABCRED) and the Associação Brasileira de Sociedade de Crédito ao Microempreendedor e à Empresa de Pequeno Porte (ABSCM), important organizations in the Brazilian microfinance sector. 


 Health and Market Development Working Group (HAMED)

The Health and Market Development Working Group (HAMED) was formed to address the challenge of health access among vulnerable populations, including HIV and AIDS-affected communities. This group linked microenterprise development practitioners, public health professionals, and policymakers to create strategies to integrate programs for microenterprise development and economic strengthening.


Housing Implementation Grant Program Learning Network

In 2009, USAID awarded three new Implementation Grant Programs (IGPs) to promote housing microfinance for poor households. As a part of the program, the grantees tested different models of financing and assisting housing improvements and micro-mortgages. The objective of these IGPs was to allow grantees to develop and implement viable business models and roll out products to a greater number of clients, and to document and share their learning with the program and the industry. The Housing IGP Learning Network, facilitated by SEEP, ensured high quality outcomes with respect to the learning processes of the grantees along with the creation of highly relevant learning products for wide-scale dissemination.  


Strengthening the Economic Potential of the Ultra Poor

Strengthening The Economic Potential of the Ultra Poor (STEP UP) was a SEEP learning community which sought to expand and improve opportunities for the poor to prosper with the help of appropriate financial services and improved access to markets. STEP UP emerged from work done over several years by SEEP’s Poverty Outreach Working Group (POWG), which supported microfinance and enterprise development practitioners in their quest to expand, share and apply effective economic strengthening practices for those living in extreme poverty. 


 The Value Initiative (2007-2012)

Active from 2007-2012 and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the SEEP Network's Value Initiative aimed to advance the knowledge and practice of urban value chain development to stimulate pro-poor economic growth while focusing on vulnerable populations. Participating institutions included ACCESS Development Services (India), AMPATH (Kenya), Jamaica Exporters' Association (Jamaica), and Mercy Corps (Indonesia).


 Network Strengthening for Client Protection (2011-2012)

Funded by the USAID Microenterprise Development Office, the Network Strengthening for Client Protection initiative was a joint effort between SEEP and the Smart Campaign to build the capacity of 20 microfinance networks to train their member institutions on client protection best practices. Partners included AMFA (Azerbaijan), AMIR (Rwanda), AMSOFIPO (Asociación Mexicana de Sociedades Financieras Populares A.C.), CAM (China), CMF- Nepal (Nepal), Copeme (Peru), Emprender (Colombia), Finrural (Bolivia), MCPI (The Philippines), MFC (Central and Eastern Europe), PMN (Pakistan), Prodesarrollo (Mexico), RADIM (Argentina), Red Paraguaya, REDCAMIF (Central America), RFR (Ecuador), RMC (Russia), Sanabel (Arab Countries), YMN (Yemen).


Reaching Scale in Youth Financial Services (2009- 2012)

This initiative works with stakeholders to explore innovations in Youth Financial Services in order to better respond to the growing need for appropriate and accessible products for young people. It focused on reaching scale with youth financial services by exploring viable models as well as seeking to understand critical stages organizations must move through to achieve scale. This PLP was implemented in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, and participating institutions included Catholic Relief Services El Salvador, Hatton National Bank of Sri Lanka, FINCA Uganda, and XacBank Mongolia


Citi Regional Network Strengthening Program (2010 – 2011) 

This program worked with regional microfinance networks on enhancing their members' operational, technical, and financial capacities. Partners included Sanabel (Arab Countries), REDCAMIF (Central America), MFC (Central and Eastern Europe), BWTP (The Banking with the Poor Network, East Asia) and AFMIN (Africa).


The Rural Agriculture Finance and Food Security Practitioner Learning Program (2009-2010)

The RAFFS PLP focuses on the relationship between rural and agricultural finance and household well-being, including food security, with the aim of increasing rural finance options to contribute to a vibrant rural economy. Participating institutions included Catholic Relief Services (Sierra Leone), Floresta Tanzania, Food for the Hungry (Kenya), Khazi Kadaimadai Farmers Federation of India, and Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, India.


Citi Network Strengthening Program (2007 – 2010) 

This program aimed to increase the capacity and scale of the microfinance sector by strengthening the operational, technical, and financial capacities of 12 national and regional microfinance associations. The participating associations added 300 members, 18 million clients and $13 billion in portfolio over the course of the program. Partners included Sanabel (Arab Countries), REDCAMIF (Central America), PMN (Pakistan), MFC (Central and Eastern Europe), RFR (Ecuador), Prodesarrollo (Mexico), RMC (Russia), CAM (China), MCPI (The Philippines), BWTP (The Banking with the Poor Network, East Asia), Sa-Dhan (India), AMFIU (Uganda).


Ford Foundation Social Indicators Project (2007 – 2010)

This initiative served to develop social indicators that the microfinance industry could use to provide greater transparency on the social performance bottom line. Through workshops and publications, SEEP shared the project's findings, including sampling techniques, practical aspects of implementing a social indicators program, and arguments for why MFIs should collect data on social indicators.


Building Alliances to Serve HIV & AIDS Impacted Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa (BASICS) (2008 – 2009)

This initiative sought to empower microfinance and enterprise development practitioners through peer learning to build and strengthen strategic alliances with partner organizations and to document and disseminate the most effective models for developing these alliances for maximizing impact. Participants included Global Communities (formerly CHF International), the Emerging Markets Group, Catholic Relief Services Rwanda, Fantsuan Foundation, Mercy Corps (Ethiopia) and its partner WISE, and Sinapi Aba Trust(Ghana).


Youth and Workforce Development (2008 – 2009)

This PLP used peer learning among actors to identify and disseminate effective strategies for market-driven programs. It intended to incorporate understanding of, and response to, market needs and opportunities, and to develop the range of skills that youth need in order to achieve success in finding employment or starting and developing their own enterprises. The objective of this PLP was to identify, encourage, and disseminate replicable strategies for market-driven programs that improve youth employment success and measure the effectives of these strategies. Participants included the Education Development Center’s Haitian Out-of-School Youth Livelihoods Initiative (IDEJEN), Save the Children Egypt’s Rural Youth Livelihoods Program, IRC’s Liberia’s Legacy Initiative, Mercy Corps and its partner Partner Microcredit Foundation, Partners of the America’s A Ganar/Vencer program, and Fundacion Paraguaya’s Agricultural School.


Learning Network for Enterprise Development Implementation Grant Program (2006 – 2009)

This program encouraged learning, discussion, and publication on issues in value chain development, including constraints, social and environmental objectives, and standards.


Learning Network for Financial Services Implementation Grant Program (2007 – 2009)

This program encouraged learning, discussion, and publication on offering financial services to poor and other vulnerable populations. The network produced 12 learning products over the course of the program.


Local Tourism: Creating Employment based on the Development of Local Tourism in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (2006 – 2008)

Creating Employment based on the Development of Local Tourism in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, funded by the Argidius Foundation, examined strategies to promote sustainable job creation and increased incomes for small enterprises in the growing ecotourism industries. The emphasis of this PLP was on small enterprises as a vehicle for increased employment, since globally the tourism industry is dominated by small enterprises. Participating institutions included the Rainforest Alliance, Mesoamerica Travel (Honduras), Vivamos Mejor (Guatemala), Finca Esperanza Verde (Nicaragua), and La Ruta Moskitia (Honduras). 


Using Microfinance and Consumer Lending to Improve Access to Energy Services (2005 – 2007)

This initiative aimed to better understand the linkage between microfinance and access to energy services. Participating institutions included the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Bank (INDIA), Sarvodaya Economic Enterprise Development Services (Guarantee) Ltd (SEEDS- Sri Lanka), Nirdhan Utthan Bank Limited, Amret Microfinance Institution, Faulu Kenya Ltd, and the Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives.


Strategic Alliances for Financial Services and Market Linkages in Rural Areas (2005 – 2007)

This PLP explored and tested strategic alliances in rural areas to facilitate access to financial and nonfinancial services and solutions to help microenterprises integrate into growing markets, creating economic growth and wealth in poor, rural communities. Participating institutions included ACCION Paraguay, American Refugee Committee (Sierra Leone),Caja Nor, EDA Rural Systems, IDEI, Kenya BDS, and MEDA and ABW of Tajikistan.


Improving Efficiency—Maximizing Human and Physical Resources (2004 – 2006)

This program examined strategies, tools and technologies that MFIs use to maximize resources, with a focus on low-technology solutions to increase staff productivity, decrease personnel or administrative costs, and increase outreach and client retention.. Participants included the Covenant Center for Development, Fundo de Credito Comunitario, Micro Credit Organization “MI-BOSPO” Tuzla, MicroFind for Women  (Jordan), and Pro Mujer.


Putting Client Assessment to Work (2003 – 2004)

This PLP examined MFI strategies, tools, and technologies for becoming more client-focused and market led when providing products and services and facilitating internal management operations. Participating institutions were the Association for Social Advancement, Freedom from Hunger, CRECER, ACLAM, the Micro Development Fund, the Microfinance Center for Central and Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States, Pro Mujer, and URWEGO.


Poverty Assessment Tools Field Testing (2003 – 2004)

This PLP tested tools that held promise for replication in a range of settings and institutions. These field tests complemented USAID’s Accelerated Microenterprise Advancement Project (AMAP) effort to test rigorous, practitioner-oriented client poverty assessment tools and criteria for certifying them. Participating institutions were ACCION International (Haiti and Peru), FINCA, Freedom from Hunger, and Opportunity International.


BDS Market Assessment (2003 – 2004)

This program supported facilitators from institutions such as EDA Rural Systems Pvt. LtdPractical Action (formerly Intermediate Technology Development Group), International Development EnterprisesMEDAEntrepreneurs and Career Development Institute, PKPEK, SwisscontactTriple Trust Organization, and World Education and Jigiyaso Ba Credit Union Federation (Mali) as they used market assessments to design innovative strategies and targeted interventions to create wealth in poor communities.

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