Microfinance really does matter. Neither charity, nor for immediate financial return, microfinance is about enabling real strength-based community development where the client is in control.
Just ask any of the 100,000 people and families Good Shepherd Microfinance has reached through its provider network or through the Good Money community finance stores. This work is having a positive impact, enabled by the way in which we work with people without judgement, offering compassion, understanding and hope that might result from both the access to a small loan as well as the dignity and human connectedness that occurs between borrower and microfinance worker through their contact.
However we know that fair and affordable microfinance only reaches around one per cent of those who need it. In 2013, three million adults, or 17 per cent of adults, are deemed completely or severely financially excluded. One in eight families is officially recognised as living in poverty. All of us will know someone, a family member, friend or a person we know in our daily lives, who is struggling to make ends meet and in a difficult situation.
Good Shepherd Microfinance was established last year after the success and growth of the microfinance programs of Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service warranted a new organisation. A highly respected and experienced Board was appointed under the leadership of Christine Nixon APM, Good Shepherd Microfinance’s inaugural Chair. Count Me In, our five year strategic direction, was launched in December 2012 with over 200 of our closest friends and supporters at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, with addresses by the Honourable Minister Jenny Macklin, Christine Nixon and Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Di Kerr available on the Good Shepherd Microfinance YouTube Channel. This event, mirroring our focus, began and ended with the voices of our clients, as will always be the case.
2012 was a busy year with the opening of three new Good Money Community Finance Hubs in Victoria, the start of several new programs including Aboriginal Financial Inclusion, Energy Inclusion and the building of a strong research capability. The National NILS conference in Sydney was a hit with evaluations from over 300 attendees deeming it the best ever. Setting up our new organisation including a new entity, governance frameworks, organisational development and recruitment and extending upstairs in Northcote were all highlights.
In 2013 we aim to consolidate our flagship NILS and StepUP programs. This means that we will continue to grow these programs but reorganise ourselves to better listen to, understand and act to more fully meet the needs of our valued provider network. This starts this month with a ‘Community-led program development survey: Valuing and supporting NILS providers’ to inform our actions.
This year will see the start to operations in our Energy Inclusion programs to support households to move to benefit from more energy efficient appliances, reducing energy costs and enabling clients to a contribute to reduced carbon emissions.
Through the Aboriginal Financial Inclusion program, new providers have been appointed in each of our four regions to take NILS to remote communities where we know there will be positive lasting impact.
Good Shepherd Microfinance has been invited by the New Zealand Government to provide advice on establishing scalable microfinance activities in New Zealand – see link here – working in partnership with Good Shepherd New Zealand. This flows from a recommendation in an Expert Advisory report into Child Poverty, released in December 2012.
There will be challenging times ahead as the global economy slows, potentially leading to greater underemployment and less certainty. Nevertheless the economic case for Good Shepherd Microfinance’s work is compelling. We enable ‘economic mobility’ for large numbers of people on low and limited incomes. By economic mobility, I mean the ability to progress away from financial crisis and hardship, towards stability, control, income generation, growth and consolidation and ultimately confidence and peace of mind in becoming personally and economically resilient. In short, moving to a position of strength in which the fullness of life is available.
We are working with Ernst & Young’s economics team to articulate and quantify the national economic benefit (in income and GDP terms) of the three million financially excluded adults moving over time, towards stability, income generation and resilience. Our preliminary modeling shows that this is compelling and should drive significant investment in economic inclusion activites. This, together with evidence of impact from NILS, StepUP, Good Money and other activities will be our key message and our platform for growth.
None of what has been achieved could have been done without our foundational financial inclusion partner of the last decade, NAB. Last year, NAB – the leader in the developed world through its $130 million commitment to microfinance – celebrated writing over 50,000 loans to people and families living on low incomes.
Good Shepherd Microfinance will focus on finding new innovative ways to reach more people yet retain the essence of community finance, that what comes around goes around. A Federal election in Australia on 14 September 2013 will cause some uncertainty and we will continue lobbying all side of politics, asserting and knowing that the principles of microfinance accord with most political ideologies.
I know we are all up for this exciting challenge and look forward to working with and getting to know everyone in our network this year. You can count me in.
Written by Good Shepherd Microfinance’s CEO, Adam Mooney