Recent microfinance crises and debate over the practices of microfinance institutions (MFIs) have made it more apparent than ever that financial performance should not be the only standard by which MFIs should be evaluated. To measure an MFI's overall performance, social performance management -- the process of ensuring that an MFI acts in a socially responsible manner -- has emerged as a critical factor.
Thanks to the support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Ford Foundation, the Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX), the industry's leading source for financial and social performance data, now offers funders and other stakeholders easy access to social performance information in conjunction with financial performance information. As part of its ongoing mission to enhance transparency in the microfinance industry, MIX has taken major steps both to integrate social performance reporting with standard financial reporting and to enhance data access.
"The integration of social performance data with financial and operational data highlights MIX's commitment and efforts to institute a higher level of transparency and accountability into the social performance and responsible practices of microfinance institutions globally," stated Geeta Goel, Microfinance Program Director at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
For the first time, MIX Market now provides an all-encompassing view of an MFI's performance by integrating social performance data into its online display. This makes social performance data more accessible to MIX Market users, underscores the importance of social performance management, increases the visibility of MFIs' social performance practices, and makes it easier for users to analyze an institution's performance across both financial and social indicators.
Noted Frank DeGiovanni, Director of Financial Assets at the Ford Foundation: "A wealth of financial and social performance data is now available at our fingertips and practitioners, donors, investors, and researchers alike should find this information very helpful in making informed decisions about the performance of the microfinance field and individual organizations."
In tandem with this new display and in coordination with the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF), MIX has revised the list of indicators used to measure the social performance of MFIs. Incorporating feedback from MFIs, funders, and networks with 2 years of MIX data analysis, the new set of 11 core indicators will help simplify the process of social performance reporting, encourage greater industry analysis, and enable grand scale social performance benchmarking.
"The data collected from more than 400 MFIs across the past two years have already yielded deep insights into the practice and performance of MFIs across social indicators. For example, the implementation of consumer protection policies are increasingly recognized as important areas by MFIs. However they need to be expanded and improved, especially given the high levels of multiple lending in certain sub-regions, which has created serious problems of over-indebtedness and delinquency," noted Micol Pistelli, Social Performance Program Manager at MIX.
Social performance management continues to be a work in progress. Nevertheless, MIX's efforts to report on this information are already influencing the daily operations of many microfinance institutions.
Today, the global commitment to ethical behavior in microfinance and effort to measure social performance results helps to ensure the sector continues to grow in a healthy manner and that an increasing number of clients' needs are met.