Social impact in the pandemic: how Oikocredit is helping partners fight back [blog]

Social impact in the pandemic: how Oikocredit is helping partners fight back [blog]

Ging Ledesma

Ging Ledesma, Director of Social Performance Innovation

09 April 2020

As the coronavirus crisis continues to spread across the globe, Ging Ledesma, Oikocredit’s Director of Social Performance Innovation, is helping lead Oikocredit’s rapid response to the evolving needs of our partners, going beyond the financial support we offer them. Here Ging shares the steps Oikocredit has already taken to support our partners at this critical moment, and why innovation and community are crucial in these extremely challenging times.

"The coronavirus (Covid-19) has many of us glued to the news, concerned for loved ones and adapting our routines to deal with the changes the pandemic is necessitating. We’re told the virus doesn’t discriminate, that it can affect any one of us.

Yet it’s clear that low-income people – the daily wage earners, the thousands of marketplace vendors, the contractual labourers, the millions crammed into slums, people already struggling to put food on the table – will be hardest hit by the adverse effects of Covid-19.[1]

This systemic inequality has been laid bare by Covid-19. And many of these vulnerable people are the clients of Oikocredit’s partners.

So what can Oikocredit do? What does Oikocredit's mission statement mean in this extraordinary situation? What does ‘social impact’ mean right now?

For us, social impact in this pandemic means helping partners develop their response to the challenges of our new reality.

Because I think we can all agree that these times call for solidarity, faith and perseverance in the face of great uncertainty.

I’m therefore pleased to report that even under these new and extremely challenging circumstances, the staff of Oikocredit are working hard to pursue new ways of maximising social impact.

In addition to talking to all our partners about the situations they’re facing, to understand their financial needs and assess what support we can offer, we’ve launched initiatives that showcase the important role Oikocredit has to play as a catalyst for strengthening and enabling our partners in the face of the coronavirus. 

Extra support for partners most in need of guidance

Especially for small and medium-sized financial institutions, we’ve launched a two-part webinar series entitled Staying Ahead of Corona: Scenario Building and Stress Testing. The first two webinars were held in early April, attended by around 80 representatives from about 20 partners from across Southeast Asia and English-speaking Africa. A similar session is being rolled out for our partners in French-speaking Africa and Latin America.

We’re designing the second part of the webinar series based on feedback from participants so far. We’re also in discussion with peer organisations to make the mentoring approach developed for this webinar series more widely available.

Having taken part in the webinars myself, it’s clear our partners appreciate this intensive level of support at this uncertain time. Even via video conference, it’s important our partners can connect with Oikocredit staff who are close to or even part of their local community.

Practical tools for partners and staff

To help our partners navigate through the vast sea of information available on how to handle the coronavirus, we’ve carefully selected the third-party resources we believe provide practical, actionable guidance of value to all our partners.

As well as being available on Oikocredit’s website, we’ve shared these materials directly with our partners.

We’ve also expanded the tools available to Oikocredit’s staff for supporting our partners in these uncertain times, going beyond the financial support we provide. We’ve used webinars and created e-learning resources to help colleagues guide partners on topics such as business continuity and stress testing.

Breaking the isolation and building community

Now more than ever we need to come together as a community and work closely with one another. To fuel innovation in the face of new challenges, dialogue and knowledge sharing must intensify.

That’s why Oikocredit is creating a virtual network of partners, bringing them together online to share experiences and inspire each other. In the first of these virtual events, a successful Nigerian microfinance partner shared what they’ve learned from responding to the crisis so far.

We also continue to work alongside our peers and networks, such as the Dutch Platform for Inclusive Finance (NpM) and the Social Performance Task Force, because together we’re stronger.

Let’s keep pushing ahead together

And it doesn’t stop there. Across the whole Oikocredit network, from our investors to our offices across Africa, Asia and Latin America, we’ll continue to focus on supporting our partners as best we can to reduce the negative effects of this pandemic on the world’s most vulnerable.

Because fighting the inequalities laid bare by Covid-19 is at the core of Oikocredit’s existence. With our mission more important now than ever, we remain grateful that our loyal investors share our aim of improving the lives of low-income people.

So let’s stay strong in our joint commitment to this goal, and find strength in solidarity. Let’s find inspiration in knowing that the work each of us does, and the support we’re able to offer, contributes towards helping those, in this period of uncertainty, who are likely to be hardest hit."

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