Grameen Foundation Announces New Guidelines To Help Socially-Focused Investors Better Evaluate Microfinance Investment Options

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These are the first investing guidelines designed to help institutional and individual investors rigorously evaluate the social returns on their microfinance investments. Until recently, there were few tools to help them track how well their investments were achieving their goal of improving the lives of microfinance clients and how those "returns" compared to industry-wide performance benchmarks.

As more investors looking for social impact turn to microfinance, they need to ask the right questions about how well the microfinance institutions are meeting their social mission, which has traditionally been more difficult to measure and benchmark than their financial performance

Grameen Foundation today released the first ever guidelines designed to help institutional and individual investors rigorously evaluate the social returns on their microfinance investments. As of 2006, socially-focused investors in the U.S. had channeled more than $663 million into microfinance. Most of these investors choose microfinance because they expect financial as well as social returns related to reducing poverty. Until recently, however, there were few tools to help them track how well their investments were achieving their goal of improving the lives of microfinance clients and how those "returns" compared to industry-wide performance benchmarks.

The new guidelines are available at http://www.grameenfoundation.org/resource_center/newsroom/press_kit/. Additional information on social investing in microfinance is also available on Grameen Foundation's Progress out of Poverty website at http://www.progressoutofpoverty.org/social-investors.

"As more investors looking for social impact turn to microfinance, they need to ask the right questions about how well the microfinance institutions are meeting their social mission, which has traditionally been more difficult to measure and benchmark than their financial performance," said Alex Counts, president and CEO of Grameen Foundation. "Using this new microfinance investing checklist, investors can better ensure that their investments are reaching the poorest people and helping them to escape poverty."

The guideline criteria were developed based on Grameen Foundation's ongoing work with Oikocredit, a leading social investor in microfinance, other fund managers, and microfinance institutions. For the past two years, Grameen Foundation has been working with microfinance fund managers to better educate them on the value of balancing both the social and financial performance of institutions. To help microfinance institutions collect and analyze this social data, the foundation, together with the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Ford Foundation, commissioned the development of the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI™) which allows MFIs to better understand their clients' needs, evaluate the effectiveness of programs and products, benchmark their performance against other microfinance institutions, and track how quickly clients leave poverty.

Oikocredit was seeking a process to assess how its investment network was promoting social goals. "Investors choose Oikocredit expecting an investment with a strong social effect and a modest financial return," said Ging Ledesma, Manager, Monitoring and Administration Unit of Oikocredit's Department of Credit Operations. "They want to know if we are fulfilling our social
goals of reaching the poor and helping to bring about positive change in their lives and we need to be able to demonstrate that."

With a portfolio of more than $300 million from institutional and individual investors, Oikocredit is among the top five social investors in microfinance and a leader among those focused on the social outcomes of the work of microfinance institutions. In 2007, it became the first social investor to adopt the PPI for evaluating the social returns on its microfinance investments. Oikocredit's investees are now implementing the PPI in the Philippines and Peru and will begin implementations in Ecuador and Cambodia this year.

Grameen Foundation and Oikocredit's work with the PPI will benefit the entire microfinance investment industry as social investors and other funders will be able to obtain data from MFIs in either portfolio on clients' outreach and progress in the near future. As the partnership deepens, best practices and case studies highlighting how social and financial performance is balanced will be shared.

Each PPI is country-specific and is based on that country's best nationally representative household survey on income and expenditure. Fifteen have already been developed and there will be more than 30 PPIs at the end of 2009. Additional information is available at http://www.progressoutofpoverty.org.

About Grameen Foundation
Grameen Foundation is a global non-profit organization that combines microfinance, technology, and innovation to empower the world's poorest people to escape poverty. Its global microfinance network and technology initiatives reach an estimated 45 million people in 28 countries across Asia, Africa, the Americas, and, through Grameen-Jameel Pan-Arab Microfinance, Ltd., in the Arab World. Based in Washington, D.C., Grameen Foundation was founded in 1997 by Alex Counts, who began his work in microfinance with 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank. Dr. Yunus is a founding and current member of Grameen Foundation's board of directors. For more information on Grameen Foundation, please visit http://www.grameenfoundation.org.

About Oikocredit
Oikocredit is a co-operative financial institution providing loans and investment capital for microfinance institutions, co-operatives and small and medium sized enterprises in developing countries. Oikocredit is privately financed: individuals and organisations invest in Oikocredit shares and are paid a modest dividend. Oikocredit promotes global justice by converting investments into credit for sustainable projects and enterprises with high social impact in over 60 countries. Worldwide, Oikocredit's 478 partners in microfinance reach some 15 million people. With approximately € 365 million invested in microfinance, cooperatives, fair trade and other businesses, Oikocredit makes a real difference in the lives of the world's poor and underprivilieged every day. For more information: http://www.oikocredit.org.

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Liselle Yorke
Grameen Foundation
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