"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella
Micro-Finance Opportunities (MFO) develops ideas and solutions that help the financial community better serve the low-income consumer. MFO (www.microfinance.org) partners with financial service providers globally to reach low-income households throughout the developing world. Years ago, MFO teamed with Freedom from Hunger, Int’l (FFH) to create and implement a global financial education program (GFEP). FFH had worked years earlier with Global Learning Partners, Inc. (GLP) to learn and adopt a dialogue-based approach to their materials. What emerged was a powerful set of dialogue-based manuals on financial issues such as budgeting, debt management, savings, and negotiations. GFEP produces new manuals on critical topics as they emerge. As of 2011, the program was being implemented by a network of trainers in an estimated 55 countries primarily in Latin America, Africa and Asia. For copies of the guides and manuals, visit: http://microfinanceopportunities.org/resources/.
MFO came to GLP because they discovered that the GFEP trainers were strong in the financial content but could benefit from greater skills and sensibilities when it comes to adapting the manuals to the context of each training and group of learners. Their hope was for trainers to deviate as needed from the written materials so that what they teach is relevant to each group (while staying accountable to the learning objectives and overall structure of each session).
GLP began by analysing the current situation, and provide recommendations on how to best build the skills and sensibilities of their trainer network. From our joint discovery process, MFO’s vision got clearer and fuller. They crafted an application for Financial Education (FE) Agents candidates which defined mutual expectations for MFO’s relationship with new agents. Together, we created a capacity map with criteria to guide the selection of FE candidates, with landmarks to illustrate the expected evolution of their competencies over time. We also laid out a phased process that would ensure the growth of an FE network. The first phase of this process would involve a core course designed especially for MFO FE agents. GLP drafted a full design for that course using a blended approach. The course begins with individualized learning tasks to be completed by selected candidates in their home countries followed by a week-long face-to-face workshop, and culminating with practical application tasks back in their home regions. The workshop is full of practical opportunities to grow their content expertise, their ability to translate complex market research into community-based work, and their facilitation skills. A learning-centered approach is demonstrated along with every topic in the course. In other words, a critical way that financial agents learn about the approach is by seeing it modelled throughout.
Presently, MFO has not yet launched the training of its new FE agent network. However, the value of this early work is already evident. By thoughtfully stepping back from the recruitment of trainers, MFO discovered more fully what they hope to achieve through the establishment of this network, to expand their vision for what these trainers could offer in the world of MFO, and to solidify a process that would help them achieve that vision.