Acumen Blog

My day with a MicroLoan Officer

Am on my way to one of the clients centre meetings to discuss health insurance. The streets of Lahore are very busy and all the cars are hooting; everybody is in a hurry and some cars have occupied the footpath and there is no space even for pedestrians to walk as the shop corridors are also lined up with food stalls and donkey carts displaying their wares.

As we approach the branch; it’s nothing close to what I had in mind; the dusty wall displays the signboard and we make our way through a narrow lane to get to the office. The offices and staff are very simple and also simple dressing is encouraged due to the nature of the clients they work with.I am introduced to Imran, a loan officer who will take us to his centre meeting; not far from the office. Each of the loan officers will normally attend 3 meetings in a day which translates to reaching 75 clients every day per loan officer. A typical branch will have serviced 375 clients for the day.

We arrive at the client’s house; a one roomed house; most of the clients live in one or two roomed house with an average family size of seven due to the kinship system. The furniture has been moved to the side and the women are seated on the mat on the floor and we join them. A typical centre comprises 25 women who are further broken down into groups of five which are led by group leaders and the lager group by a centre manager.

The loan officer will start by recording attendance and if quorum is achieved will have a discussion on a general topic and then will manually record their payments and wind up.
The clients are excited as there is a foreigner who has come to visit them and after a long fight which started because we have turned down a glass of juice which did not go down well with them and we ask about how the loans have empowered them.

This particular centre is from the second largest muslim sect and women are not allowed to work. One woman even emphasized that their men have sworn that the families would rather die of hunger than have their women working and fending for the family. So all the women here have accessed the loans and given the money to their husbands for business. Most of them would want to run a business but they would be viewed as almost next to prostitutes if they will go out of their homes and interact with men.

Back in my room in the evening and am wondering how do you help such women with such drive and zeal to move forward but are held back by their culture? The women are happy that even though they still have cultural restrictions and are still fighting for women’s rights; they have a social identity; they belong to a certain group. They are happy that they can now afford to by nice clothes and attend weddings and other social gatherings. They can finally become normal members of society; and it finally dawns on me that the social exclusion aspect plays major role in the definition of poverty.

Comments

Reflections on the India Fellows Seminar

Each year, the India Fellows Program brings together up to 20 emerging leaders from different regions, sectors, and socio-economic backgrounds in India. During the fellowship year, Fellows remain in their jobs and meet every 6-8 weeks throughout the year for 4 seminars and 2 collaborative projects, each about a week long. As the India Fellows Associate, Jacqui is responsible for supporting all aspects of the program recruitment, logistics, marketing and strategic planning. Below, Jacqui reflects on the first seminar, Foundations of Leadership. You can read more about the fellowship program here[Read More]

Adaptive Leadership in Action: Addressing Cultural Norms & Giving Women a Voice

In the fall of 2013, +Acumen launched the course Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change in partnership with the Cambridge Leadership Associates. This course is for anyone who wants to become more effective at leading their organization through change. Below, one of the course participants shared her story about how this course impacted her work and ability to affect change. [Read More]

Making Sense of Social Impact in Action: The Value of Educating Our Youth

At Acumen, one of the most common questions we get is how we measure social impact. Our newest +Acumen course – Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis. – will provide an entry point for how to think about impact and we’ll share frameworks that help us define what to measure and why. Makoto Matsuura, founder of cobon a not-for-profit focused on youth education in Jakarta, Indonesia and Osaka, Japan, took a pilot version of this course and shared his reflections with us. [Read More]

Good news for philanthropists in the U.K. and Europe

We are excited to announce that Acumen now holds a CAF Charitable Trust in the United Kingdom. CAF, the Charities Aid Foundation, is a registered U.K. charity. By donating to Acumen through CAF, you can use Gift Aid if the amount of Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax you’ve paid for the tax year in which you make your donation is at least equal to the amount of basic rate tax  [the charity or Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) and any other charities or CASCs] you donate to will reclaim on your gift. CAF will reclaim 25% Gift Aid from HM Revenue & Customs and pass this through to Acumen.  The donor can claim higher rate tax relief (for more information, please refer to CAF’s online resource, What Is Gift Aid?). [Read More]

d.light Leaders Named 2014 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year

We are thrilled for our portfolio company d.light and Donn Tice, Chairman and CEO, along with cofounders Ned Tozun, President, and Sam Goldman, Chief Customer Officer, for being named Social Entrepreneurs of the year 2014 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. d.light is a for-profit social enterprise that manufactures and distributes solar lighting and power products with primary markets in the developing world, today announced that d.light, along with 37 other individuals and organizations in the 2014 class, will be fully integrated into the events and initiatives of the World Economic Forum. [Read More]