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Notes from the Field: Image is Important >


“Pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat” - the sound of heavy rain on a zinc rooftop. “Image is important,” I hear Alou Sidibe’s* words in my head.

“Pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat,” the rain continues. “Kafo is serious,” says Bourama, the first client interviewed with the PPI in the field test**, as we converse in his sitting room and he sweeps away the water that seeps in from the heavy rain outside.

“Pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat,” continues the rain. “Kafo is safe,” say Mamadou, the second client interviewed in the field test, as he explains that his family was robbed of all their savings which they kept in their home, and he had a good experience with Kafo a very long time ago when he lived in the village.

“Pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat,” the rain beats down on the truck window as we journey on rough pathways that are supposed to be roads to our last interview. During our trip, I reflect on the comments of the client which whom we’ve spoken and realize that Mr. Sidibe’s comment, “Image is important,” is so simple, but encapsulates so much of what social performance is about.

Social performance is about image – that of the microfinance sector, the MFI players, and the clients of those institutions. In essence, it is about how the sector and its actors, microfinance institutions, are perceived by a variety of stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly it is about how clients perceive these institutions and the potential value MFIs bring into their lives.

Ultimately, as participants in and observers of the microfinance sector, reaching the poor and unserved and improving their lives is the image of microfinance that we equate with success. To solidify this image, the sector and its actors must have strong data…and PPI data can get us there.

*Alou Sidibe is director general of Kafo Jiginew based in Bamako, Mali. Kafo Jiginew is a partner of Oikocredit, a member of the PPI Users Collaborative in Africa (PUCA).

**A field test is the application of the PPI questionnaire (scorecard) to a handful of clients by loan officers. It provides loan officers with the opportunity to conduct a few interviews, raise questions or issues they have around any of the indicators, and assess clients’ reactions to the questions.

Sharlene Brown is a Program Officer with the Grameen Foundation Social Performance Management Center, handling trainings for MFIs in Sub-Saharan Africa and Middle-East/North Africa. Sharlene is based out of Washington, DC.