Truelift has defined four milestones on the journey to better serve clients living in poverty. Below are descriptions with hypothetical profiles of institutions at each milestone. Each profile presents just one example of pro-poor practices that are associated with each marker of the pro-poor journey.


An Aspirant institution is committed to improving its practices in all three Pro-Poor Principles. This is the first step on the pathway for an institution to easily demonstrate its commitment and intent to reach, provide services for, and create positive results for clients living in poverty. Serving the poor and tracking outcomes of these clients are central to the institution’s mission. A hypothetical profile of an Aspirant Milestone Institution follows –

 The Aspirant is beginning to implement the systems to meet Truelift’s Pro-Poor Principles: 1) purposeful outreach, 2) quality of services, and 3) tracking outcomes of clients living in poverty. Its poverty outreach is targeted to a percentage at or below the National Poverty Line for the country. Its data shows positive change for clients, but the information may come from ad hoc case studies rather than a systematic, representative survey. The MFI understands the importance of learning, improving, and innovating its services. It uses the results from the completed Truelift Indicators tool to learn where it can improve, and gains insights from other institutions through active involvement in the Community of Practice.

To begin its journey to the Aspirant milestone, an institution downloads the Truelift Indicators tool. With help from the Guidelines Wiki, the person responsible for the assessment responds to all the indicators. The self-assessment allows the institution to identify its strengths and weaknesses in reaching poor clients. The completed tool is sent to the Truelift Secretariat to demonstrate the institution’s commitment to applying the Pro-Poor Principles to its operations. The institution joins the Truelift Community of Practice, where it actively shares its best practices, asks questions to improve its work, and learns from the Emerging, Achiever, and Leader members of the community.


An Emerging institution acts on its commitment to pro-poor microfinance by first completing the Indicators self-assessment tool. The institution learns that it performs reasonably well but has also identifies areas for improvement. From these areas, the institution seeks to enhance its practices for clients living in poverty and reach the next milestone on the pro-poor pathway. Through active involvement in the Community of Practice and by demonstrating some of the best practices in serving poor clients, the institution displays client-centric actions. A hypothetical profile of an Emerging Milestone Institution follows –

The Emerging institution is taking steps towards poverty-focused practices, and its mission statement clearly states its desired impact and target market. Its loan portfolio includes borrowers living in regions with poverty rates equal to the national average, and has a high client retention rate. The institution has data showing that the percentage of clients below the National Poverty Line is decreasing, but its Board of Directors is not using the data in decision-making. Its completed Truelift Indicators tool has been validated by a Truelift-approved third party entity.

To reach the Emerging milestone, an institution demonstrates its intent to meet requirements in all six Truelift categories: Sustainability and responsible financial performance; Compliance with the Client Protection Principles; Compliance with the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management; and adherence to each of the three Pro-Poor Principles (outreach, services and tracking.) Beyond its pro-poor microfinance intent, at this milestone the Emerging institution successfully meets Truelift requirements in at least four of the six categories. For the Emerging milestone, an approved third-party verifier must validate the results of the Truelift Indicators tool.



An Achiever institution demonstrates that it meets expectations in all three areas of outreach, adapted services, and tracking of client progress. Itsresults show a significant positive impact on many of its clients’ lives. A hypothetical profile of an Achiever Milestone Institution follows –

The Achiever shows a positive poverty gap, which means its percentage of new clients below the poverty line is greater than the regional incidence of poverty. The institution reports its poverty outreach results to a Social Performance Committee of its Board of Directors. The Achiever’s clients rank the institution’s non-financial services highly, and management responds to this by increasing the business trainings offered to clients. The institution systematically utilizes a poverty-tracking tool, such as the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI). By using the tracking tool for annual client surveys on a proper sampling, the institution confidently measures the changes in poor clients’ level of poverty over time.

To reach the Achiever milestone, an institution undergoes a Truelift Assessment by an approved Truelift evaluator. The institution has good performance and earns a minimum appropriate score in all three Pro-Poor Principles. The institution also receives a Smart Assessment (or an equivalent) to examine its implementation of the Client Protection Principles. It demonstrates its financial sustainability and strength, and sufficiently complies with the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management. An Achiever institution’s actions indicate quality pro-poor microfinance practice. Now and in the future, the Truelift Achiever is an active member of the Community of Practice and shares its wealth of knowledge.


The Leader milestone is the most significant and prestigious of the Truelift milestones. Its Truelift Assessment has validated the evidence and finds excellence in all three of the Pro-Poor Principles. A hypothetical profile of a Leader Milestone Institution follows –

The Leader aims for and reaches a high percentage of poor clients. In a rural region where 45% of the population lives below $1.50 a day, 55% of its new clients live below that line. It conducts annual client feedback surveys that display high client satisfaction and the perception of significant benefits. In addition, it collects data for the same borrowers over multiple loan cycles, and the findings show that 50% of its clients have seen their income rise from below to above $1.50 a day. Its overall excellence in all three Pro-Poor Principles demonstrates that this Leader subscribes to (if not creates) many of the best practices in providing services to those living in poverty.

To attain the Leader milestone, an institution is financially sustainable and fully adheres to the standards of responsible financial performance. It surpasses minimum requirements, excelling in all three Pro-Poor Principles. The institution has audited financial statements, an appropriate Return on Assets and Portfolio-at-Risk, and has undergone a sustainability assessment. It has a clear theory of change for its clients that may focus on employment, quality of life, education, and enterprise skills. A Leader has Smart Certification and fully meets the USSPM Dimension on balanced financial and social returns. As a Leader in the Community of Practice, the institution actively mentors other community members looking for guidance on earning the Pro-Poor Seal of Excellence.

2 thoughts on “Milestones

  1. Pingback: Milestones on the Journey to Better Service Clients Living in Poverty | Truelift

  2. Pingback: Two Aspirant Milestone Institutions progress to the Emerging Practitioner Milestone | Truelift

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