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The Origins of Making Microfinance Work

In 2000, the International Labour Organization (ILO) began providing management training courses to MFIs, both at its International Training Centre in Turin and in developing and transition countries. However, it soon became evident that the demand for this type of training far exceeded what could be supplied by the ILO itself. MFIs were growing and were typically staffing their growth by promoting their best loan officers into middle management positions. Very few received training or systematic coaching on how to manage before assuming their management responsibilities, and this was increasing MFIs’ risk exposure as well as limiting their growth. Weak middle managers were liable not only to make poor decisions, but also to be ineffective at empowering others to implement wise decisions. Institutions needed a quick and cost-effective mechanism for strengthening their middle management capacity.

Although numerous training curricula existed for microfinance managers, they tended to focus on specific technical areas, were delivered only in one country, or were available only in one or two languages. To quickly and massively build capacity at the middle management level, the industry needed a holistic curriculum that could be delivered with quality by local trainers in many locations and in many languages with adaptations that were appropriate for the local environment.

Between 2003 and 2006, the ILO re-packaged its microfinance management training materials into a format that could be rolled out to training providers in developing and transition countries, and it created a rigorous three-phase certification process for building the capacity of local resource persons to deliver the content with specific quality standards.

The first volume of training materials was published as Making Microfinance Work: Managing for Improved Performance in 2006. The second volume was published as Making Microfinance Work: Managing Product Diversification in 2011. Originally designed as a sixth section of the first volume, the content of the second volume was removed and elaborated after participants in the Volume I pilot tests asked for more information on product options and more time to discuss issues related to product diversification.