FinDev Guide to the 2020 SEEP Annual Conference
As is the case for all other major financial inclusion events this season, the SEEP Annual Conference has gone virtual for 2020. This means it is more accessible to more people from around the world than ever before. The organizers even made sure to take into account different time zones, scheduling sessions in two time zone blocks to facilitate engagement from different parts of the world: 9 am - 1 pm CEST (Central European Standard time) and 11 am - 3 pm EST (US Eastern Standard Time). The online platform they are using will give you access to:
- Dynamic learning spaces across four Technical Streams.
- One-on-one networking opportunities.
- An exclusive conference hub and community.
- Recordings and learning space materials.
- Savings Groups Technology Fair.
Based on the overall theme of "Disruptive Collaboration," this year there are two tracks which are directly relevant to the financial inclusion and microfinance sectors: Financial Inclusion: COVID-19 & Risks to Four Decades of Progress and Savings Groups in the Age of COVID-19. At FinDev, we aim to attend as many sessions in these tracks as possible, and in this guide, we share with you some of the sessions which caught our attention the most. We hope to see you there!
This session will unpack learnings from four practical, client-centric approaches to financial inclusion from four organizations - FSD Uganda, The Response Innovation Lab, Danish Church Aid and Opportunity International. Each organization is leveraging accessible technological solutions to financially include refugees.
The COVID-19 lockdown has tremendously affected the microfinance sector in Rwanda. To help MFIs mitigate these effects, MFIs need better risk management tools and strategies. In this session, ICCO Cooperation will share learnings from the STARS (Strengthening African Rural Smallholders) program, which has developed sectoral tools and strategies to help MFIs manage risks in agricultural financing.
In this session, participants will get to learn and apply an innovative new tool for understanding the impact of the crisis on MSMEs' access to and usage of financial services and other supporting services. MarketShare Associates in partnership with CGAP and Jouri Consulting have developed a social norms diagnostic tool tested in Turkey and currently being adapted in Egypt.
This session will explore the opportunities and constraints of shifting to digital for program delivery, sharing concrete examples, lessons learned and tangible recommendations from the presenting organizations' experience with digitization - both planned and forced. Presenters and participants will be asked to consider:
- What does the move to digital mean for those already at risk of being excluded?
- What steps can implementers take to ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups and individuals?
- Do the answers depend on specific vulnerabilities and how prepared a project was to digitize pre-COVID-19?
In a one-hour design sprint, participants will examine current challenges to expanding financial access for marginalized populations and work together to rapidly design solutions. These will be presented through user journeys and experience maps based on IRC's Finance in Displacement research and data on early COVID-19 recovery efforts by MFIs. Following the session, IRC will share the solutions in a discussion forum for further testing and debate by conference attendees.
The Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) will present an overall snapshot of the country's microfinance industry, along with headlines related to COVID-19, including research carried out by University of Oxford and a survey conducted by PMN which assesses the impact of COVID-19 on medium and small enterprises. PMN will also share how apex handled the liquidity crisis faced by the microfinance industry in Pakistan.
This session will feature the experience of two financial service providers – one from Zambia who is partnering with Savings at the Frontier and one from Kenya who is partnering with Scale2Save. They will share supply side approaches and the complexities of designing and implementing digital technologies for savings groups and other low income customers as well as the intricacies of the partnerships needed to bring these products to market.
World Vision, DreamStart Labs, and VisionFund will present compelling evidence from new strategies and technologies that are changing the game, creating a new generation of SGs with the potential to be stronger, better, and more resilient than ever before. They will present new data on how digital SGs build better trust, transparency, and cohesion in the midst of crisis and disruption, as well as five practical steps every implementor should do today to prepare savings groups for the post-pandemic "new normal".
- Mthunzi in South Africa distributes emergency assistance as digital vouchers through basic mobile phones.
- Tearfund Rwanda is implementing a rotating loan system to recapitalize SHGs at low cost.
- The Tearfund WASH team suggests ways in which SHGs can potentially strengthen WASH responses to COVID 19 through Community Health Clubs, tippy taps, and behavioral change programs like Wash'Em.
Because they are informal and decentralized, Savings Groups can adapt more quickly than formal institutions to crises such as COVID-19, providing a means for members to withstand adverse economic effects. The speakers in this session will share how SG members and groups adapt their practices and adopt innovative strategies to improve their resilience during crises, and how SG members with MFI relationships work with their MFIs to secure financing and ensure they can repay their loans and continue to benefit from other services.
In the midst of a pandemic, many organizations are charged with the task of forming and beginning trainings of new groups. But how can we introduce an opportunity for savings in the middle of an economic crisis? How can we begin working in a community where we cannot be physically present? How can we navigate the current context with communities and members with very limited access to technology? This session will reflect on these challenges and share recent experiences from rural Guatemala, including the ideas and strategies that worked well, as well as those that failed.
In the wake of COVID-19, adaptive mechanisms and creative partnerships have been needed to ensure that Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) run by marginalized women facing tremendous challenges exacerbated by the health and related economic crises continue to flourish. In this session, Women for Women International will share their newest randomized controlled trial data from DRC, as well as first-hand experiences of learning and adaptation of VSLAs during COVID-19.
This session will explore the role of timely and intentional listening in cultivating a savings group member-centered, data-informed response to this global crisis. The speakers will examine insights from HOPE International's experience listening and responding to SGs across 6 different countries during the early days of COVID-19, and will highlight key findings from over 6,400 unique savings group survey responses and how these findings shaped HOPE's support of groups and their members.