“MFToT: Reaching, Growing Out – To Make A Difference”
Filling the massive gap between demand and supply in microfinance training poses a major development challenge. However, when taught effectively, microfinance can lead to sustainable development interventions that help low-income individuals gain access to financial services.
Since February 2005, the World Bank’s Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC), in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), has been offering a very successful Microfinance Training of Trainers (MFToT) course targeting, among others, development practitioners, microfinance professionals, policy and decision makers, donor staff and socially responsible investors in the Asia Pacific region.
Designed as a tool to help more people learn about sustainable microfinance in order to strengthen their institutional capacity, the course teaches the principles and best practices applied by other institutions worldwide. Participants learn through a blended-learning approach including:
- Self-paced study using textbooks and CD-ROMs, provided by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and interaction with practitioners and institutions in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, for advice and guidance
- Online tutoring and e-discussions by tutors who are top graduates from previous programs
- Lectures via videoconference by internationally-recognized experts in the field of microfinance, conducted at local GDLN Centers featuring presentations and discussions on current issues and best practices
Since its launch, the MFToT course has reached over 2000 participants, among whom 893 people in 55 countries have become fully accredited as certified trainers. Materials for the course have also been “localized” and translated from English into Chinese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, Mongolian and Indonesian in order to improve accessibility. The ADBI and TDLC, joined by a new partner China Development Bank (CDB) in 2011, have supported participants in Africa and have reached out to more than 400 individuals in Africa, of which over 300 are certified trainers as of 2013. The ninth delivery of the course kicked off on 11 July, 2013 with approximately 400 participants from 46 different countries. (To read more about the launch of MFToT9 in Japan, click here).
A distinct feature of the MFToT course has been the establishment of ‘Communities of Practice’ locally in each country. A Community of Practice is on track to be established in Japan, plus there are plans in the works for the network of local communities to be linked up cross-regionally to form a global MFToT community.
Since microfinance has grown in recognition as the cornerstone for poverty reduction, the TDLC has been interviewing some past participants who have lauded its content and delivery mode and provided testimony on its impact on their careers.
In rural Pakistan, 29-year-old Muhammad Hassan talks about how he can now help change the lives of others as a result of the knowledge acquired through the course. The former college basketball player first discovered microfinance after joining Khushhali Bank Limited as a customer service officer in June 2004. The bank was founded in 2000 as a microfinance development program of Pakistan’s poverty reduction strategy.
To expand his knowledge in microfinance, Hassan enrolled in the course in 2007. After receiving his certification, he was soon promoted, with a salary increase of about 30 percent. He soon began training others at his bank, who are all now posted in front line positions at Khushhali Bank branch offices.
“Different microfinance products address different needs,” he says with confidence. He often recalls his own grandfather, who was a poor farmer. “I could have helped my grandfather with microfinance expertise, if he had been alive today. I want to help small farmers, shopkeepers, and skilled people with no businesses, willing to try, for their families.”
With the help of MFToT, Hassan has helped people reach for their dreams, and to make better lives. “I want to do as much as I can to distribute this knowledge. I want it to play a vital role in poverty alleviation. Microfinance changes people’s lives. There are millions of very poor people in Pakistan, and millions living on a dollar a day. Microfinance has great effects on living standards, to move up. I try to create a product especially for the very poor, without interest.” (To read more about Hassan Muhammad’s story, click here).
In Mongolia, home of Genghis Khan, the Gobi desert, and mountains and plains, microfinance has a different meaning, in particular for Nergui Sandagjav. In fact, in a country where over one fifth of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day, she has played an active role in paving the way for other Mongolians to reach out for their dreams as well.
She began her career as a microcredit specialist for the National Poverty Alleviation Program of Mongolia, funded by the World Bank, in 1996. Since then, she has worked in the area of credit policy development and has trained government officials as well as representatives from central and commercial banks in microcredit policy and program implementation. To expand her knowledge in microfinance, she enrolled in the MFToT course in 2005.
“I am so glad to have taken this course. It met my expectation, and it was my first experience with online education.” To her, the most valuable impact of the course has been the extension of her professional worldwide network, and the increased opportunities for cooperation on various microfinance initiatives. She also says that MFToT has helped expand her knowledge of distance learning and blended teaching.
That is why in February 2009, she has entered into partnership with some of her colleagues, and founded an NGO called “TERI: Training, Evaluation, Research Institute”. “We need high quality training, evaluation and research in the areas of poverty reduction and sustainable development,” she said. “We need to contribute to the deeper understanding of the causes of inequality and poverty, and disseminate knowledge on successful strategies.”
Her team has been busy localizing the MFToT course material into Mongolian. They have just completed the voice recordings for an interactive CD-ROM for the next course, MFToT6. Once the learning package is ready, they will promote it as an elective course for Mongolian universities. “I hope we can reach out to more people in the local language, to microfinance practitioners and academic students, and enable them to study the materials in their own language.” (To read more about Nergui Sandagjav’ s story, click here).