UNCDF participated in a panel of funders and recipient partners at European Microfinance Week 2012 to answer questions on how funders could coordinate better.
Renee Chao-Beroff of Pamiga and Michael Knaute fo Oxus Development Network started the session by sharing their perspective of working with multiple funders, including UNCDF. Funders were give high marks for promoting knowledge sharing and learning opportunities for partners. Both noted that while inconvenient, they were able to manage multiple funders. They encouraged funders to avoid "micro-grants" for very specific purposes as a small grant often require as much time to manage as larger grants. Alternatively they could consider pooled funds so that funding would be better coordinated and ideally, common reporting.
Ivana Damjanov of UNCDF noted that the Mix Market was an obvious solution to common financial performance reporting and UNCDF now requires its partners to report to the Mix rather than provide separate financial reports. However, programme activity reporting would be difficult to coordinate. Knowledge sharing both before and after funding decisions was highlighted as a great need. Several attendees commented that funders would do well to conduct a common analysis of the market so that it was clear to all what the market needed to develop and which donor's "products" were the best fit. Emmanuel Moyart of the EU/ACP Microfinance Programme noted that the EU confidentiality rules made it particularly difficult for them to share information during the selection process--they are unable to consult other donors on an institution with an application under consideration. He noted that an ideal approach might be like "speed dating" in which donor in a certain country meet together with interested partners and determine the best fit. However, Phiippe Serres of AFD noted that funders can't escape competitive calls for proposals -- a common requirement to ensure fair and transparent in selecting partners. One option could be for a applicants and funders to agree that applications could be shared with other donors, enabling interested funders to benefit from one funder's call for proposals.
Partners noted that most funders want "guaranteed" success and what is needed is at least one or two donors in a project that can take some risk. One panelist noted that The MasterCard Foundation had played that role in several countries in sub-saharan Africa. It was noted that Making Finance Work for Africa was a good example of information sharing among funders and more such efforts were needed.
The panel was organized by the EU/ACP Microfinance Programme and facilitated by Antonique Koning of CGAP.