1. What is Truelift?
A: Truelift is a trust mark — in microfinance and beyond — to signify commitment to positive and enduring change for people living in poverty. The mark will accomplish this through benchmarking and sharing effective best practices and promoting a learning community among all stakeholders – differentiating those that are truly acting in the service of those living in poverty. Truelift includes several components such as a road map defined by three Pro-Poor Principles, an assessment framework, a recognition system for high achievers in pro-poor microfinance, and a community of practice, co-hosted with the Social Performance Task Force. Truelift casts a poverty lens on other initiatives and advocates strongly for a focus on the pro-poor objective of microfinance.
Click here for more about Truelift
2. What are the benefits of being recognized by Truelift?
A: There are progressive stages of Truelift that reflect both the quality of verifying documentation of the three Pro- Poor Principles and the performance of the MFI.
The Truelift mark recognizes effectively pro-poor MFIs and differentiates them from other microfinance providers. The Truelift mark will substantiate the work of those MFIs able to provide evidence of significant outreach and positive outcomes for people living in poverty, attracting social impact investors and donors seeking to meet poverty reduction goals. As institutions apply for and are recognized by Truelift they become examples to others, encouraging their peers to deepen Purposeful Outreach to People Living in Poverty, expand Services that Meet the needs of People Living in Poverty, and strengthen Tracking Progress for People Living in Poverty.
Any service provider with serious intent can state their commitment by joining the community of practice of pro-poor members that learn from each other and their peers who have already been recognized by Truelift. Click here for more information on the Poverty-focused Microfinance Community of Practice.
For more information on pro-poor performance, click here.
3. What is the Poverty-focused Microfinance Community of Practice? How do I join?
A: The Poverty-focused Microfinance Community of Practice (“PovertyCoP”) is a learning environment hosted by Truelift and the Social Performance Task Force for all those committed to the pro-poor objective of microfinance. The community of practice is a place for practitioners and others to share effective practices and collaborate to solve difficult challenges.
This is the starting point on the pathway to being recognized by Truelift. By joining the community, an MFI publicly demonstrates its commitment to serving poor people.
4. Is membership in the Community of Practice free?
A: Membership in the Community of Practice is free for the first year.
5. How does Truelift define “poverty”?
A: As a simple global benchmark, we reference a poverty line that approximates the bottom ~40% of the population.
In reality, however, we know that defining poverty is anything but simple! Truelift will define specific reference points country by country:
- in low income countries, the benchmark may approach ~60%
- in high-income countries, it may be only ~20%
These are exceptions made for the outliers, but for the majority of developing countries, the “bottom ~40%” seems to most closely approximate how the nations themselves define poverty.
To learn more about how Truelift defines poverty, click here.
6. Does Truelift advocate for the use of a specific poverty measurement tool?
A: No, Truelift does not advocate for the use of a specific poverty measurement tool, instead acknowledging that diverse methods may have equal value and success. Moreover, Truelift seeks evidence of poverty outreach as demonstrated by (for example) the percentage of new clients reached that are above the national % of households living below the selected poverty line (the line that represents approximately the bottom ~40%).
A few examples—Grameen Foundation’s Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI), Participant Wealth Ranking (PWR), Freedom from Hunger’s Food Security Survey (FSS), and Poverty Assessment Tool (PAT)—were featured tools in the 3 April 2013 Community of Practice meeting. Click here for a video of the meeting and additional resources on poverty measurement.
7. Does Truelift offer any resources for tracking progress of clients?
A: Tools for tracking progress of poor clients are still rather rare in the microfinance industry. We welcome submissions of effective tools, and hope to make this a major focus going forward. This is a critical weakness for MFIs working to create positive and enduring change in the lives of poor clients.
8. What is the framework for the Truelift Assessment and the learning program of the community of practice?
A: The Pro-Poor Principles serve as the core of our assessment framework and form the foundation for good practice in reaching and serving poor clients that guide the community of practice. Click here for more information on the Pro-Poor Principles.
9. Who defines the criteria for the Truelift Assessment methodology? How?
A: The Truelift Steering Committee approves the final criteria for the assessment methodology. However, it is based upon the advice of the Truelift Microfinance Technical Review Committee (“MTRC”). The MTRC defined, tested and finalized the indicators on which an MFI is assessed. The indicators and methodology were approved by the Steering Committee in March 2013. The indicators for assessment will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. Both committees are made up of diverse experts from within the microfinance industry.
10. Who composes the Microfinance Technical Review Committee (MTRC)?
A: The Truelift Microfinance Technical Review Committee consists of raters, researchers and others experienced with assessing the performance of MFIs. Click here to see the full membership of the MTRC.
11. How will assessments be conducted? How will you do the assessments? Outsource? Hire a team of experts?
A: There are progressive stages of Truelift that reflect both the quality of verifying documentation of the three Pro-Poor Principles and the performance of the MFIs progress.
The Truelift Achiever and Leader milestones require the specialized rating agencies to conduct full assessments (as an add-on to a standard social rating). The results are submitted to the Truelift Microfinance Technical Review Committee who review and approve the milestone of recognition assigned.
For the Truelift Emerging Practitioner, the Truelift self-assessment can be submitted for verification by an approved third-party. In the future, the Truelift indicators will be incorporated into the CERISE SPI tool, version 4. Until then, a temporary self-assessment tool will be made available here in the near future.
For the Truelift Aspirant, the Truelift self-assessment can be completed by the MFI in order to diagnose its strengths and weaknesses as a pro-poor institution. The self-assessment must be submitted to the Truelift Secretariat for verification of completion and acknowledgment of the Aspirant status..
Click here for more information on the Performance and Verification Requirements for the Truelift milestones.
12. Who will check their implementation? How?
A: The results of a social rating with Truelift add-on (or standalone Truelift Assessment) are submitted to the Truelift Microfinance Technical Review Committee (MTRC) who review and approve the milestone of recognition assigned. The MTRC meets and reviews results quarterly.
Truelift self-assessments are verified by the Truelift Secretariat for the Aspirant milestone or an approved third-party for the Emerging Practitioner milestone.
13. How much do Truelift assessments costs?
A: Truelift assessments will be performed by the participating specialized rating agencies (as an add-on to the standard social rating, or standalone assessment). The participating rating agencies are MicroFinanza Rating, M-CRIL, and Planet Rating. The costs are still being finalized, but it is estimated that the assessment will only be an incremental cost beyond the social rating. The assessment involves interviews, review of documents, and field visits, and lasts approximately one week. Results of the assessment will be available one to two months after the assessment is performed which will then be reviewed and approved by the Truelift Microfinance Technical Review Committee (MTRC).
Truelift self-assessments are free to download for Community of Practice members.
14. Will MFIs that have the mission of serving the ‘very poor’ be recognized as going above and beyond?
A: Yes. Results data is disaggregated by poverty level–poor and very poor.
For example, within Pro-Poor Principle 1 – Purposeful Outreach to People Living in Poverty, for a middle development country – data is disaggregated by the percentage of new clients reached that are above the national % of households living below the selected poverty line that represents the bottom ~40% and also by the percentage of new clients reached that are above the national % of households living below the selected poverty line that represents the bottom ~20%.
15. How does my institution get assessed by Truelift?
A: There are five Truelift Milestones (Stating Commitment, Aspirant, Emerging, Achiever and Leader) from simply participating in the Community of Practice to being recognized for showing strength in each of the Pro-Poor Principles. The latter three milestones represent Truelift recognition for being on the path to excellence in poverty-focused microfinance.
16. How does Truelift fit with other Social Performance Management initiatives?
A: Truelift is an active member of the Responsible Inclusive Finance (RIF) Working Group. The group includes the Smart Campaign, Social Performance Task Force, MIX Market, CERISE, Ford Foundation, UNCDF, UNPRI’s Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance (PIIF), and others. Truelift is aligned with these industry efforts to improve the ecosystem for vulnerable clients.
Unlike the other initiatives, Truelift focuses a poverty lens and serves as a key advocate for the pro-poor objective of microfinance.
For more information on Truelift and SPM, click here.
17. “As an MFI, it seems as though there are a lot of Social Performance Management initiatives to comply with. Why should my institution follow the Truelift framework?”
A: The Truelift framework is intended for institutions with a social objective relating to poverty and people affected by it. Truelift collaborates with the Smart Campaign, SPTF and others working to drive industry-wide change. The Truelift framework is an application of the USSPM against the specific objective of poverty outreach and creating change over time.
18. Do you think Truelift is setting the bar too high? Too low?
A: Truelift is recognizing MFIs against the Pro-Poor Principles based on the current state of the industry. Today, we reference a poverty line that approximates the bottom ~40% of the population. However, as MFIs progress and begin to do better and better against the Pro-Poor principles, the benchmarks will be revised, as well as the poverty definition, to reflect the state of the industry. The Truelift Leader will always be pushing the upper limit of what microfinance can do for people living in poverty.
Regarding client protection: Because Truelift believes a Leader will also have excellent performance against the Client Protection Principles, Smart Certification will be required to be recognized at the Leader milestone.
19. How does Truelift build upon SPTF’s Universal Standards for Social Performance Management (USSPM)?
A: Truelift provides a pro-poor lens on the Universal Standards. Truelift indicators fully cover USSPM sections 1 (Define and Monitor Social Goals) and 4 (Design Products, Services, Delivery Models and Channels that Meet Clients’ Needs and Preferences), as well as much of section 2 (Ensure Board Management, and Employee Commitment to Social Goals). In addition, portions of section 6 (Balancing Financial and Social Returns) are included in the qualifying sections for the Truelift Leader.
The USSPM has six sections, with nearly 100 essential practices; indicators for the essential practices are under development.
In the Truelift assessment, which is an add-on to a standard social rating, the compliance with the USSPM is assessed through the rating grade.
20. What is the difference between Truelift and the USSPM?
A: Truelift focuses on results indicators against the objective of poverty outreach, versus the USSPM which provides management standards against any social objective. Truelift focuses a lens of poverty on the Universal Standards and helps define a road map to pro-poor microfinance.
21. Do you think the cost of the Truelift assessment on top of the Smart Certification puts undue financial burden on the MFI to participate in these initiatives?
A: We understand that MFIs must make important decisions in regards to their operations and sustainability on a daily basis. However, for MFIs with intent to reach people living in poverty, the benefits of the Truelift assessment and recognition outweigh the costs. The Truelift Assessment is an add-on to a standard social rating which keeps costs down by only adding a minimal incremental cost.
Additionally, Smart Certification is only required for those who believe they will achieve the Leader milestone by showing strength is each of the Pro-Poor Principles.
22. How do you take into consideration non-financial services (NFS) if they are provided?
A: Products and services are considered in terms of their intention to meet defined needs of poor clients. An organizations theory of change should explain how their offerings meet the specific needs of their client base. While the provision of non-financial services is not required for success in Truelift’s framework, all offerings whether financial or non-financial in nature must be of sufficient quality and available to a significant number of clients.
23. What is the relationship between Truelift, the Microcredit Summit Campaign and RESULTS Educational Fund?
A: The Truelift Secretariat is administratively housed at the Microcredit Summit Campaign, which is itself a project of RESULTS Educational Fund. All grants for Truelift are managed by RESULTS Education Fund, a Washington-based 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
24. What is the relationship between Truelift and the Seal of Excellence?
A: Truelift was initially conceived as the “Seal of Excellence for Poverty Outreach and Transformation in Microfinance”. The new name and logo represent the initiative’s broader objective (promoting a learning environment for improved products and services in which practitioners and others share effective practices and collaborate to solve difficult challenges) but will still recognize practitioners doing the most for their poor clients.
The MFIs that reach the Truelift Leader will receive the Pro-Poor Seal of Excellence for recognition of their achievements against the Pro-Poor Principles.
25. Why should I move along the different stages of Truelift, instead of waiting to be assessed until I can achieve the greatest milestone, the Pro-Poor Seal of Excellence?
A: The Truelift milestones represent different requirements for performance and verification against the Pro-Poor Principles. Each MFI is different and may be having success against one or all three of the Pro-Poor Principles. After completing a self-assessment (which submission to the secretariat results in the Aspirant milestone) an MFI will be able to determine if undergoing a Social Rating with a Truelift add-on will result in the Leader milestone. If not, it may be advisable to submit the self-assessment for third-party verification and feedback.
26. “So, is Truelift a certification?”
A: We like to think of Truelift as a movement focusing on the ‘development aspects’ of microfinance. Truelift represents a set of standards for pro-poor development interventions, accountability for poverty-focused work, and a collaborative environment for improving the state of practice.
27. Will my organization’s assessment results be made public?
A: No, Truelift and external verifiers and assessors will keep the assessment results confidential. We want to recognize organizations in their achievements adhering to pro-poor objectives but we also understand that reaching those goals is a process. Recognition of Truelift Institutions at each Milestone will not include actual scoring, but will highlight the strengths identified through the assessment process.