And the winner is….!
European Best Practices Award 2009
The European Best Practices Microfinance Award run jointly by Giordano Dell’Amore Foundation and the European Microfinance Network aims at raising awareness of microfinance as tool to assist the economic initiative of excluded persons in Europe, sharing good and transferable practices in the field of microfinance, innovation and sustainability and promoting and spreading those good practices to other microfinance agencies in Europe. It is open for all European institutions or organizations involved in the delivery of microfinance and related services in the European Union Member, candidate and EFTA/EEA States, for at least 12 months from the date of application. The Award is endowed with 50,000 euros. The funds must be reinvested for the realisation of new projects or towards core costs of the existing services.
In 2009, 14 organisations submitted their proposals describing microfinance experiences in seven European countries. After having read, analysed and discussed each single proposal, the award committee selected five finalist candidates. Each of the five selected experiences offers an interesting approach and idea that could be transferred to similar situations. The five finalist institutions were:
- ACAF for its innovative approach using Self Financed Communities in Spain;
- Adie for piloting its microinsurance product for entrepreneurs in France;
- FAER for its excellent rural-based integrated credit approach in Romania;
- FEA for its creative internet-based microfinance management system in Hungary;
- PerMicro for its efficient newly-established microfinance institution in Italy.
Among the five candidates short-listed by the Scientific Committee, with the collaboration of a leading expert in microfinance, ACAF was chosen as the winner.
Founded in 2004 the Association for Self Financed Communities (ACAF) supports the creation of SFCs among poor people (mainly immigrants) and gives them technical assistance until they can operate autonomously. SFCs follow the “village bank” methodology: 10-40 members, self-managed, where members are owners and customers. ACAF works mainly in Catalonia and in four years has created 22 SFCs with more than 1,000 indirect beneficiaries.
- Innovation: ACAF presents its “village bank” approach which is an innovative methodology in the European context. The SFCs show that poor immigrant people are self-bankable; social integration is enhanced. In addition, SFCs are bridging elements to more formal microfinance; small SFC loans are a way to later access larger loans for which it is necessary to have a credit and savings history (i.e. Foundacio’ Caixa Catalunya). SFCs also undertake other initiatives (i.e. emergency funds, taking SFCs to their country of origin, etc.).
- Sustainability: SFCs are self-sustaining as they use members’ shares funding for on-lending. However the model involves ACAF’s activity which, in the last few years, has been funded by private and public partners and based on volunteers. ACAF faces three main challenges: the need to expand the number of SFCs, training new SFC promoters, and the need for new funding to guarantee ACAF’s sustainability. Strategies to overcome these challenges are: ACAF providing consultants for the SFC methodology to social networks, the creation of a training and certificate for SFC promoters, funding ACAF by involving the public sector (40%), private companies (40%), and SFC’s member payment for TA offered (20%).
- Impact: The main impact of SCFs is that of creating social cohesion and social inclusion thus enhancing immigrants’ progress towards full citizenship. SFCs create useful social networks, a sense of ownership, responsibility and self-confidence. - Outreach: From Dec; 2006 to Dec. 2007 the number of SFCs in Spain increased from 15 to 22 SFCs and the number of members more than doubled (from 210 to 431 members). Loan portfolio grew from € 81,000 to € 132,000 with an average loan amount of €460 (up from €300 end of 2006.
Giordano Dell’Amore Foundation has published a document containing the summaries of the experiences of all the short-listed institutions (download the publication here).