Client-Centered Impact Analysis

Both of these readings are extremely applicable to my particular aspect of La Ceiba this semester, impact.   Which is why I’m interested to hear what you all are going to say: I’ve been thinking about what impact analysis is about, and what would be the best ways to do impact analysis for La Ceiba. Because these readings force us to confront the impacts of our actions on our clients and how we are to measure this, I hope to get a lot of ideas from everyone else.

So I guess I’ll just go through the readings and discuss some of the points that really struck me, if that’s all right.  From the piece by Datar, I really found the contrasting models of MFIs to be illuminating.  But where does La Ceiba fall?  We definitely are an MFI, but I don’t think we see that as our real purpose or goal; rather, it’s a tool that we are using as well as we can to help improve our clients’ lives.  So we are immediately, explicitly not institution-centered: we aren’t trying to have a successful MFI as our endgame.  But that doesn’t automatically mean that we are client-centered.  In my limited experience with La Ceiba, I would argue that we are client-centered in that we are constantly trying different methods of development assistance, and do ask ourselves continually what else we can do for the women and their families.  We need to continue this, as it’s one of our strengths.  It uses our penchant for self-doubt (as we all demonstrated so well in last week’s posts) for good.  However, we need to be aware that we could be considered institution centered in that we are concerned with our roles as student administrators.  The fact that many of us are here because it’s good for us doesn’t automatically make us less effective, as many have argued; in fact, it could provide enough incentive for us to really do our best work, as several people argued persuasively last week.  We just can’t let our glow of self-satisfaction that we aren’t institution-centered in one respect eclipse our awareness of our other aspects.

Though the provision of health care was only briefly touched on in this article, research has shown that illness is the single largest factor in putting a family in poverty.  Essentially, a family that is barely making it cannot afford medical bills and the loss of income from having an otherwise working member stay at home, either ill or caring for someone who is, pushing them over the edge into poverty, from which it is hard to recover.  The example of BRAC, which provided health seminars and services to clients, was a great example of innovative methods to help reduce this impact, but makes me wonder why they limit these services to clients.  Why not keep the health services separate from the loans and open them to the community?  Also, I wonder at the ability of an organization to prove that health care is linked to credit rates, but even more so, wonder whether it matters.  Isn’t it missing the point to worry about if better health for the poor increases their repayment rates rather than seeing better health as an independent, significant impact on the lives of the poor?

The other point in this article that really jumped out at me was the emphasis on the costs for the clients of participating.  Microloans assume poor individuals are entrepreneurs, but as the authors point out, they are “in business by necessity, rather than by choice.”  This leads me at least to question our fundamental assumption of microfinance, or whether it would be better to concentrate our resources on services that are better tailored to our clients.  It may well be that if the clients could choose any service that we can conceivably provide, they would choose microloans; but we need to constantly evaluate this assumption and ask our clients about it.  It is essential to remember that these women are actors in the situation, not merely subjects, and we must always treat them as such.

3 Responses to “Client-Centered Impact Analysis

  • I too found that these readings were very tailored to the ‘impact team’, and stress the increasing role the team will play in the future. I think you make a very interesting point about the issue of healthcare, especially because many of the women in La Ceiba who default or are late in payment cite the poor health of themselves or their family members as the reason why. Perhaps there should be some discussion amongst the other teams on this issue. I do, however, find your early argument about the purpose of La Ceiba somewhat confusing. The article stresses that most MFI’s have the common goal to ‘”alleviate poverty” which I WOULD argue is also, our goal. La Ceiba needs to be a combination of the institutional-microfinance model and client-centered model if we want to move towards sustainability as an organization and also create a real, measurable impact on alleviating poverty amongst our clients.

  • My reading of Datar doesn’t exclude having an MFI from the client-centered model. In fact, he explicitly states that client-centered is a model of an MFI– one form that these institutions can take. It’s the focus that matters. And if, as Ben suggests above, we should take as our goal to “make friends” (or to put it in more mainstream development language, “build relationships”), then that is client-centered microfinance. But to be client-centered, our primary concern has to be with alleviating poverty, not with being a successful institution.

  • I think that we should create a health and nutrition education program within La Ceiba for our clients. I have done research in the past on the education of women in developing countries and most of the literature states that not only will it help the woman, but it will help her children and the community on a whole. It is the custom of many cultures for the women to take care of the children. Therefore, if women are educated in health and nutrition, her knowledge will be passed down to the next generation. It is important to increase the social well-being of our clients as I feel that it is an important step in alleviating poverty.

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