Truelift Recognizes the Pro-Poor Performance of Enlace (El Salvador), Espoir (Ecuador), Fundenuse (Nicaragua), Prisma (Peru), and Pro Mujer Nicaragua

Truelift has recognized the pro-poor performance of five more financial service providers, all in Latin America.  They bring to 31 the number of practitioner institutions recognized at the four Milestones along the Truelift Pro-Poor Pathway.  What unites all the recognized institutions is their commitment to serving the needs of people living in poverty.  Their degree of adherence to the three Pro-Poor Principles shows how far they have progressed along the pathway toward fully pro-poor management of their institutions.

Servicios Financieros Enlace S.A. de C.V. (Enlace) in El Salvador started as a Catholic Relief Services project in 1997 and now has branches throughout the country, offering mainly to women and primarily group lending services (communal banks, mini-communal banks, and solidarity groups) but increasingly individual lending as well (for housing, consumption, agriculture, etc.).  Enlace also offers its clients mandatory debt insurance and voluntary life insurance, as well as financial education during the group meetings.  In June 2017, Enlace had 47,045 active borrowers in 9 departments of the country through its 11 agencies and 3 satellite offices.

Based on the results of a Truelift-licensed assessment conducted in November 2017 by MicroFinanza Rating (MFR), Enlace is recognized as having achieved the Achiever Milestone, the second most advanced along the Truelift Pro-Poor Pathway. Despite considerable room to improve, Enlace is well on its way toward the Leader Milestone.

Fundación para el Desarrollo Integral Espoir (Espoir) in Ecuador started in 1992 as a program of Project HOPE and is now fully independent as a private non-profit organization (NGO).  Espoir was one of the first programs globally to integrate village/communal banking with education, especially health education and now health services as well, in cooperation with local health service providers.  While most of the credit is through communal banks, Espoir also offers individual loans, especially for agriculture.  The coastal provinces north of Guayaquil still represent a major part of Espoir’s credit with education portfolio, 94 percent of the portfolio at the end of 2016, in spite of the devastating earthquake of 2016.  Nationwide, Espoir was serving 42,702 clients.

Based on the results of a Truelift-licensed assessment conducted in November 2017 by MicroFinanza Rating (MFR), Espoir is recognized as having achieved the Emerging Practitioner Milestone. Just a few pro-poor improvements would take Espoir over the threshold to the Achiever Milestone.

Fundenuse S.A. is a non-bank financial institution (NBFI) in Nicaragua specializing in microfinance.  Fundenuse started operations in 1993 as an NGO, and since 2012 as an NBFI.  Fundenuse has branches throughout northern, central and western Nicaragua, mainly in rural areas.  Its services are aimed at micro and small entrepreneurs not already served by other financial service providers. Fundenuse offers both solidarity group and individual loans, along with a range of appropriate insurance products plus well-designed and free financial education.  In June 2017, Fundenuse served 29,084 active clients.

Based on the results of a Truelift-licensed assessment conducted in October 2017 by MicroFinanza Rating (MFR), Fundenuse is recognized as having achieved the Emerging Practitioner Milestone.  The assessment by MFR was negatively affected by Fundenuse’s recent decision to suspend direct assessment of the poverty status of its clients. Reinstating an effective poverty assessment tool could move this institution well along the Pro-Poor Pathway.

Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito (COOPAC) Microfinanzas PRISMA started operations in Perú in 1994 as an NGO – Dirección de Microfinanzas de la Asociación Benéfica Prisma. It became a savings and credit cooperative (COOPAC) in 2014 and currently serves five of Perú’s 25 provinces, four of them among the country’s poorest. Prisma gives priority to rural women entrepreneurs Almost two-thirds of the loan portfolio is devoted to communal banking, but individual lending is increasing (particularly agricultural and housing loans). Prisma facilitates access to compulsory debt insurance and voluntary life insurance provided by local insurance companies.  Thanks to an alliance with  a national education NGO (CEDRO), Primsa provides its communal banking clients with free financial education and training in cooperativism and in health.  In September 2017, Prisma served 6,490 active borrowers and many more savings-only members.

Based on the results of a Truelift-licensed assessment conducted in November 2017 by MicroFinanza Rating (MFR), Prisma is recognized as having achieved the Emerging Practitioner Milestone.  Just a few pro-poor improvements would take Prisma over the threshold to the Achiever Milestone.

Pro Mujer Nicaragua (PMN) was created in 1996 in the city of León, Nicaragua, as a non-profit institution, becoming a Limited Liability Company in 2012, as a branch of Pro Mujer Nicaragua LLC Dalawew, New York – United States. This was the first replication of the Pro Mujer model pioneered in Bolivia, providing credit, training, and health services to poor women. The credit portfolio is predominantly loans to village/communal banks, but individual agricultural loans have been successfully piloted.  PMN is strategically committed to offering non-financial services along with credit and insurance services.  PMN’s staff includes specialists who provide financial education, business counseling, education for better health and prevention of gender violence, and health services provided by PMN health professionals – all targeted to low-income women. In September 2017, PMN was serving 55,229 women in 10 of Nicaragua’s 15 departments, all in the western half of the country.

Based on the results of a Truelift-licensed assessment conducted in December 2017 by MicroFinanza Rating (MFR), Pro Mujer Nicaragua is recognized as having achieved the Achiever Milestone, the second most advanced along the Truelift Pro-Poor Pathway. Despite considerable room to improve, PMN is well on its way toward the Leader Milestone.

Several certification initiatives have arisen independently in response to lack of transparency and accountability regarding the social purpose of microfinance. The Smart Campaign attempts to identify providers that “do no harm” to clients by complying with the Client Protection Principles (CPP); even providers with no social objectives are included. For those with social objectives, the Social Performance Task Force has developed the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management (USSPM) without being specific about the social objectives of the provider. Social rating agencies offer assessments that can certify compliance with the CPP and the USSPM. But such compliance certification does not address how well the provider is achieving its chosen social objective. There are many social objectives to choose from, and some providers pursue more than one at a time. Truelift responds to the most common objective, poverty alleviation. A Truelift assessment is a logical extension to a social rating of compliance with the CPP and the USSPM by a provider focusing on poverty alleviation. Recently, these various global initiatives have been brought together by CERISE on the social performance assessment platform SPI4. Truelift is the poverty “module” of SPI4 along with modules for other specific social objectives. These modules can be used for institutional self-assessment or by rating agencies for external assessment of an institution.

In concept and structure, the Truelift Pro-Poor Principles and the assessment process are relevant and applicable to any poverty-focused (“pro-poor”) social business or service agency, whether private or public. For additional information, please contact the co-chairs of Truelift’s Steering Committee, Chris Dunford at christopher.j.dunford at gmail.com (English and French) or Carmen Velasco at carmenvelascolmk at gmail.com (Spanish and English).

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