Promoting Participation: Client Experience Interviews with MiCrédito
One of the projects that I am currently working on here in Nicaragua is a case study of MiCrédito’s social products. In the world of microfinance, these include products that are designed to meet the needs of clients belonging to specific social groups. MiCrédito targets women, youth, and rural communities through three innovative products: Women Entrepreneurship Loans, MiCrédiEstudios (Student Loans), and Sanitation Loans. Women Entrepreneurship loans support women who have a business idea, but not the capital, to build their first business. The MiCrédiEstudios product offers financing for the final two years of university education as well as funding options for youth entrepreneurship, equipment purchase, language courses, and further education through Masters and PhD programs. Finally, through its Sanitation product, MiCrédito provides low-interest loans designed to allow families to replace latrines with high-efficiency toilets, improving family health and hygiene. You can learn more about MiCrédito’s social products here.
As part of my work as a MEDA Rural Microfinance Intern, I am travelling to each of MiCrédito’s 11 branches in order to speak to clients that are accessing these products. Since MiCrédito’s mission is to create business solutions that include both social and financial support to micro and small entrepreneurs, it is crucial that the organization consider social indicators, as well as financial results. My qualitative case study involves speaking with clients about their experiences and credit needs in order to determine which elements of our product design have been successful and where there are areas for improvement.
Taking the time to speak to clients provides a number of benefits, both to MiCrédito and to our clients! Through integrating client comments and recommendations into our product design, we can provide more product choices, better customer service, and increased flexibility to encourage client loyalty and satisfaction. We can retain clients and attract new ones through offering product services that are in demand among our target groups. We can also offer an empowering and participatory forum to our clients so that they feel that their voices are valued and considered by the institution
My first interview stop was Rivas, a picturesque city in the south of Nicaragua close to the famous beaches of San Juan del Sur and the island of Ometepe. This was a great first branch to visit, since Rivas offers all three social products. I got the chance to chat with clients using Sanitation, MiCrédiEstudios, and Women Entrepreneurship loans. In having the opportunity to speak with each of these clients, I was able to see the tremendous impact that MiCrédito’s social products have had on their lives.
For example, I spoke to Daniela, who recently graduated with a degree in psychology. She told me that if it weren’t for her MiCrédiEstudios loan, she would not have been able to finish her studies. She hopes to be able to take out another loan in order to continue investing in her education. I also had the chance to see Martha’s new bathroom, which she built thanks to the Sanitation loan program. She said that she wanted to build the bathroom to protect the health of her young daughters and was able to do so because of the accessible interest rates offered by MiCrédito. Finally, Cristhel, a Women Entrepreneurship client, excitedly outlined her plans to expand her small business selling clothing and shoes by investing in more merchandise and a glass showcase. “As soon as I got my loan disbursement, I headed straight to Managua to buy merchandise,” she said. “The loan has helped me a lot. We are trying to make payments more quickly so that we can take out another.”
As I continue travelling Nicaragua interviewing clients, I hope to better understand their experiences and credit needs in order to make recommendations to MiCrédito’s management team.