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Working Groups FAQs Image

Promoting Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems

Working Groups FAQs

What is a working group?
SEEP members form working groups around topics to address issues they face in the field. With SEEP's facilitation, members conduct research to better understand the issue, form a consensus on what practices or tools are needed, and develop learning products such as analytical tools, case studies, papers, or workshops to disseminate their findings.
How do working groups form?
Working groups form in several different ways, and their formation has varied depending on the topic. Typically, member organizations approach SEEP staff with topics that are important to practitioners. SEEP then gauges interest among other members and seeks a qualified consultant to facilitate the working group. Some working group topics, such as Financial Services, have existed since before SEEP was even an official institution. Others have formed because of industry changes that forced SEEP members and other practitioners to re-think their methodology or programming. For example, the Poverty Outreach Working Group was prompted by the Microenterprise for Self-Reliance Act, which mandated that half of all USAID microenterprise funds reach the very poor. What is essential to the start-up of a working group is that the topic is introduced by members and driven by their needs.
How do you join a working group and who can join?

Staff members at any level within a member organization can join a working group. We also encourage staff from field offices to join when feasible. During membership renewal (January through March), official representatives collect staff interest in the various working group topics and notify SEEP's Member Services Coordinator to have their staff added to the online workspaces. However, at any time of the year anyone from the member organization can contact the Member Services Coordinator, or the working group facilitator, and request to be added to the working group's workspace and listserv.

Sometimes individuals from non-member institutions or experts on the working group topic will be invited to join the working group. These invitations are determined on a case-by-case basis and must be agreed upon by the other SEEP members in the group. In these cases, the expertise of a non-member may be necessary to add value to the learning, as well as the tools and publications being produced by the working group.

What is my expected time commitment to the working group?

SEEP does not currently require any specific time commitment; as a result, levels of commitment vary, and are typically based on how the participating organizations view the working group as adding value to their work. Below are examples of common levels of participation for individuals in SEEP's working groups:

  • Facilitator
    In some cases an organization will find a working group topic so integral to its own programs and research that the organization will offer a staff person's time to facilitate the working group (MEDA, Practical Action, and CARE USA have all done this in the past). Often the organization will build these responsibilities into the staff person's job description. SEEP will either pay the organization for the individual's time or share the cost with the organization.
  • Very active participant
    For the same reason described above, a member organization may commit a staff person's time to be actively involved in working group activities, which also serve as professional development opportunities for the individual. SEEP does not pay these individuals, but usually they are helping to write, research, or engage others in the working group. These participants play an integral role in advancing working group learning and relevant products.
  • Active participant
    People often find working groups useful, but they cannot take time out of their current job to focus on working group activities; however they are as involved as possible and participate and contribute when they can (this could include editing a publication or participating in online conferences).
  • Observer
    Many people will sign up for working groups just to be on the listserv or to be able to peek in when something exciting is happening. They want to stay in the loop, but they decide when and how they want to actually engage.

It is common for an individual to sign up for three or four working groups, but only actively participate in one.

Can more than one person from the same organization be involved in the same working group?
The more the merrier! There is no limit.
When can I join a working group?
During membership renewal season (January through March), official representatives collect staff interest in the various working group topics and the Member Services Coordinator adds those individuals to the online workspaces. However, at any time of the year anyone from the member organization can contact the Member Services Coordinator, or the working group facilitator, and request to be added to the working group's workspace and listserv.
What is the forum for working groups? Do they meet online or in person?

Each working group collaborates in various ways throughout their project's life span. Facilitators use a combination of forums to be as inclusive as possible for all members, especially those not located in Washington, DC.

At a minimum, working groups have one in-person meeting per year during the SEEP Annual Conference. SEEP also encourages member organizations to host meetings when they can. However, with members located all over the world, sometimes in-person meetings are not the best forum for discussion, so facilitators rely on conference calls and online discussions. SEEP provides all working groups an online workspace in which they can store relevant documents, have discussions, and post news for the working group. Apart from the online workspace, SEEP also supports the frequent use of conference calls and web meetings. When Skype is not sufficient, SEEP provides facilitators with conference call numbers for working group meetings and the use of our GoToMeeting account so that participants can share documents and presentations.

Are there network-specific working groups?
Although most working group topics are of interest to both microfinance networks and their members, SEEP's Association Development Community of Practice focuses specifically on building the internal capacity of international and regional microfinance networks. Working groups and initiatives under this Community of Practice investigate topics and produce tools and publications specifically for network consumption.
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