Promoting Innovation in Financial Inclusion: Evaluating Kiva and Mastercard Foundation’s Partnership
In 2016, Kiva and the Mastercard Foundation launched a five-year partnership to test, develop, and scale high-impact loans serving the unique needs of smallholder farmers and rural populations across Africa. The partnership enabled Kiva Labs to push the boundaries of microcredit by supporting non-traditional lending organizations and products, enabling social enterprises to grow their impact, and deepening our commitment to impact measurement and management.
The partnership also paired Kiva’s patient, risk-tolerant capital with technical assistance to improve partners’ operational capacity, in most cases through new or enhanced digital solutions that streamline services, extend reach to marginalized borrower segments, and center clients’ voices.
Kiva and the Mastercard Foundation commissioned The Research Base to conduct an external evaluation to understand the impact of the partnership, as well as to identify lessons learned and best practices. The evaluation sought to identify the approaches and products developed and tested throughout the program that are suitable to be replicated and expanded at scale.
The evaluation focused on measuring and analyzing program outcomes and impact through document and data review, as well as interviews with 20 lending partners, 11 Labs Social Enterprise (LSE) partners and staff from both Kiva and the Mastercard Foundation. Key findings are summarized below.
Separate case studies highlight learnings about central features of the partnership’s approach to promoting – financial inclusion:
- Loan innovation to expand financial access for women, refugees, and smallholder farmers
- Incubating innovative social enterprises
- Centering borrowers’ voices in loan design
- Impact measurement and management
Spurring Loan Innovation
Kiva has been proactive in working with lending partners to develop innovative loan products and has succeeded in establishing a culture of innovation across organizations. During the course of the partnership, at least 18 new loan products have been developed in partnership with 11 different lending partners. Just as importantly, the partnership scaled evidence-based loans across the portfolio, with all partners. Program documentation and interviews indicated that innovative loan products and features have been adopted more widely across lending partners.
- Increased quantity of innovative finance: There has been an increase in evidence-based loan volume of 67% between 2016 and 2020, and the average loan amount per partner increased by 34%. Lending partners identified access to zero-interest, risk-tolerant capital and a willingness to innovate to reach new target groups as key drives in this growth.
- Quality of agricultural loan products: Lending partners felt that the Labs program had improved the quality of rural agricultural finance through tailored, high quality loan products; professionalization of partners’ organizational standards and capacity; and improved agricultural outputs for borrowers.
- Growing the Labs Social Enterprise program: Loans to social enterprises have been a key area of growth, expanding from $728,000 in 2016 compared to $2.4 million in 2020, along with 33 new social enterprise partners.
- Holistic approaches to financial inclusion: Providing borrowers with businesses training and mentoring alongside loans increased the impact on their lives.
- Risk Tolerance: A key positive component of Kiva’s model, as perceived by lending partners, is a willingness to take risks–including its risk-tolerant capital, the social focus of its investments and its focus on borrowers’ voices–which has led to innovation and greater impact across the program.
Building the Capacity of Partners
The technical assistance and capacity building support for lending partners has been very effective. Successful aspects include the relevance of support provided; the skills and experience of the consultants involved; and the opportunity to directly mitigate the challenges partners faced during COVID-19 in a way that may otherwise not have been possible.
- Digitization: Investments in more robust digital systems for loan management have enabled some partners to process a higher volume of loans, as well as to improve staff capacity and productivity.
- Meeting the needs of underserved populations: Technical assistance improved partners’ ability to gather a wider range of data on borrowers and better understand their needs. In some cases this resulted in adaptations such as new training programs.
- Raising borrower voices: Funding for research and evaluation, along with technical support, has encouraged partners to incorporate client feedback in product design. Find out more in this case study on centering borrower voices.
- Technical assistance for social enterprise partners: There is mixed evidence for the impact of the “lighter-touch” technical assistance support for social enterprises. While some feedback was positive, others suggested that offerings could be better curated for suitability.
- Opportunities to expand technical assistance: Some partners suggested that Kiva could play a stronger role in identifying and managing third-party technical assistance providers, as well as extending the amount of technical assistance provided generally. Kiva could explore how to scale up the availability of technical assistance for partners while also achieving the greatest possible cost efficiency. Technical assistance around technology and digitization–specifically API integration and MIS improvements–could be key to rapidly scaling impactful, inclusive, and responsible lending.
Learn more about key learnings on capacity-building in this case study.
Helping to Strengthen Communities and the Ecosystem
Kiva is considered by partners to be a “unique player” in the financial inclusion sector, not only for its model of risk-tolerant crowdfunded finance, but also for its consultative, innovative, and mission-driven approach, as well as its willingness to work with smaller organizations.
- Access to funding: Kiva Labs has successfully provided access to capital to lending partners that would otherwise struggle to access funding as non-traditional lending organizations. Kiva Labs also successfully provided access to capital for non-traditional lending products or borrowers. Lending partners and social enterprise partners highlighted significant advantages associated with Kiva funding, including low costs and longer repayment terms, as well as greater access to follow-on funding from other investors who value Kiva’s “stamp of approval.”
- Addressing the “Missing Middle”: Social enterprise partners felt that Kiva was effective at addressing the challenges of the “missing middle” by providing financial support at a “sweet spot” for SMEs that are otherwise underserved and by proving organizations’ creditworthiness.
- Impact on underserved populations: While there is a lack of comparable borrower outcome data given Kiva’s model of working through local organizations, the evidence available suggests that the impact of Kiva’s investments on underserved populations’ economic mobility was positive. For example, some lending partners reported improvements in borrower asserts, household spending and saving, as well as the positive impact of loans allowing for the maturation of harvests, which then command greater prices.
- Community welfare: Kiva’s investments have generated benefits for communities by ensuring fair and guaranteed income for often exploited groups, extending the reach of social enterprises, and ensuring the economic stability needed to send children to school.
- Systems change: All stakeholders were positive about Kiva’s role and impact in generating systems change, including financial inclusion for underserved populations and addressing the challenges of the “missing middle” for social enterprises.
- Replicability: Stakeholders reported a widespread need for the Kiva Labs model across sectors and regions, particularly its technical assistance, patient and flexible loan terms, and support of partners to “unleash” potential.
- Opportunities for increased thought leadership and learning: Kiva could maximize its impact across the wider ecosystem by creating tools and networks, as well as leveraging existing platforms, to facilitate greater knowledge sharing among organizations in the ecosystem.
Deepening Impact Management and Measurement
Understanding, developing and learning from innovation in impact management has been a critical part of the Kiva Labs and Mastercard Foundation partnership. The partnership itself is considered an instrumental component in Kiva’s development of an innovative impact framework to assess, evaluate and effectively support its portfolio of partners.
- Impact scorecards: Kiva Labs impact scorecards have allowed for incisive predictions of a partner’s potential impact for Kiva’s investment strategy. Partners have benefited financially from higher impact scores, and Kiva has been better able to determine where funds should be invested for maximum impact.
- Opportunities to strengthen impact measurement: While the introduction of the impact scorecards have ensured a more robust and evidence-based process for loan investments, it is recommended that Kiva builds on this current model of predicting impact towards including a more detailed impact measurement approach that also includes assessment of actual results. Initial findings suggest that supporting partners in their impact measurement efforts may be the scalable approach toward collected and comparable outcome measures across the portfolio.
Access to comparable data for loan outcomes across partners would not only better inform Kiva of the quantifiable impact of its investments, but may also encourage the development of improved MEL systems for partners, in turn spurring impactful, inclusive and responsible lending that is informed by data and lessons learned.
Learn more about key learnings on impact measurement and management in this case study.