Convened by:

#SEEP2020 Learning Spaces

SEEP Members will convene over 30 engaging Learning Spaces, underpinned by the conference theme, Disruptive Collaboration: navigating a radically uncertain world, and four cross-cutting technical streams. These sessions present the experience, adaptations and innovations of diverse organizations and communities striving to counter the existential threats posed by the global pandemic through radically different types of partnerships and responses. Chosen by the CX-Comm through a competitive selection process, #SEEP2020 Learning Spaces were evaluated according to a set of selection parameters emphasizing learner-centric approaches, diversity of perspectives, resiliency, and an emphasis on collective action. 

Member conveners are now locking arms with the CX-Comm to co-create a menu of stimulating and interactive learning spaces that will be presented across two timezone blocks to facilitate live engagement for our global audience.

 All conference content will be hosted between two-time zone blocks: 9 am - 1 pm CET (Central European Time) and 11 am - 3 pm EDT (US Eastern Daylight Time). To see the full conference schedule, view our detailed agenda. Worried you may miss some of the learning spaces? Don't! We are recording each of the sessions and will make them available in the attendee-exclusive Conference Hub and our interactive Discussion Forum.


Stream 1: The Nexus Imperative for Market-Based Programming

COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on livelihoods and employment. Marginalized and highly vulnerable households and fragile, crises-affected environments will be hardest hit. Given the complexity of a truly global crisis, a systems approach to relief and recovery is the key to building back better. Market-based programming holds potential to support local markets to rebound more quickly, restore and rebuild livelihoods, foster sustainable and decent employment, and become more resilient. Equitable and sustainable market-based solutions in the economic aftermath of COVID-19 mandates collaboration, coordination and partnerships between humanitarian, development and peace actors on a scale never seen before. It also requires continuous investment in and support of local leadership at all levels. This technical stream posits that connecting the nexus for market-based programming is no longer an aspiration - it is an imperative. 

MERS in Practice: Using MERS to Work Within the Nexus, During COVID and Beyond

Convened by Danish Refugee Council

Now more than ever, we are seeking guidance on how to work within the nexus of humanitarian and resilience programming to help markets and communities suffering complex crises, now further complicated by COVID19. For over last 13 years, the Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS) have played a critical role supporting organizations to understand, plan and implement market-aware programs in humanitarian contexts. In this set of sessions, organizations will share and compare their use of the MERS in COVID19 and other responses, referencing real-life examples within this nexus. If you have not used the MERS, this is your chance to learn about them, and see them in action. We will ground the MERS in real-world examples. These learning sessions will showcase MERS' practical application in the field - with TED-Style talks from passionate and experienced practitioners and panel discussions addressing your REAL LIFE issues, like how to overcome your organizations resistance to applying the MERS or how to relate them to different sectors. We will discuss their relevance; how they can be and are being applied; the challenges when applying them; how they help bring market-awareness across sectors, and how to tackle any apprehension in using them.

Speakers: Solenne Delga, Danish Refugee Council | Sarah Ward, Independent Consultant 

Market Actors Speak Up 

Convened by International Rescue Committee

COVID-19 has starkly illustrated how crises can affect markets, both positively and negatively. Yet evidence and guidance for what kind of market support is most needed, for which types of market actors, is lacking. If we want to think beyond cash and voucher assistance and pursue complementary or standalone programming that supports market actors - how should we decide whom to support and how? Join IRC, Mercy Corps, and CRS for an interactive session and put yourselves in the shoes of market actors to help tackle some of these questions. Hear from each agency's experience in listening to and working with a range of market actors to support improved market functionality in conflict and disaster-affected contexts, with case studies from Chad and Nigeria.

Speakers: Emily Sloane, International Rescue Committee | Corrie Sissons, Catholic Relief Services | Joseph Ubek, Mercy Corps

Virtual Ecosystem Acceleration Program of the SNA-Action Research Project

Convened by Swisscontact

The Ecosystem Acceleration Program was a six-week virtual gathering and learning experience, that operated as an online laboratory for ecosystem actors, where they shared learnings and worked to build trust by getting to know each other better and co-create solutions that benefit the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem. In the context of Guatemala, it helped to overcome shortcomings early-stage ecosystems by "helping each other out" and creating a bigger pie together. Providing a cooperative platform helps ecosystem stakeholders create new knowledge through collective learning and make new connections on a personal level: all this is key to achieve progress in creating a more collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystem. Participants included ecosystem builders from the public and private sector: government agencies, universities, ESOs (entrepreneurship support organizations), investors, and entrepreneurs, both local and international.

Key learnings from this session:

  1. How to address the impacts of disconnected networks in entrepreneurial ecosystems.
  2. How to work with the community to effectively co-design initiatives with local ownership?
  3. Do's and don'ts of ecosystem community building in virtual settings.

Speakers: Andrea Mazariegos, Swisscontact | Beny Mejer, Swisscontact

Market Systems Development for Nutrition Outcomes: Disrupted Systems & Approaches

Convened by Land O'Lakes Venture37

The panel will draw on the experiences of the team globally through humanitarian and development programming and share learnings from the emerging experience of applying a market systems development approach for nutrition outcomes within
the context of Rwanda -using the first year of Feed the Future Rwanda Orora Wihaze as an example. We will discuss how an approach of this type, drawing flexibility from a mix of experiences, but anchored on solid implementation principles, can be more valuable during times of sudden and protracted crisis, such as COVID-19. We will share how our blend of experiences has enabled us to respond to COVID-19 in Rwanda as an example of a program intervention in supporting the egg market system.

Speakers: Dennis Karamuzi, Land O'Lakes Venture37 | Meredith Stakem, Catholic Relief Services | Adriano Scarampi, MarketShare Associates | Verena Ruzibuka, USAID

Resilient Market Systems Done Differently

Convened by Women for Women International

How has the first wave of COVID-19 exacerbated existing gender inequalities in Middle East market systems? Come and co-design potential innovative approaches for organizations to take in the ìsecond waveî of COVID-19 response. Women for Women International (WfWI) and CARE International practitioners in MENA will share voices from the field, as well as their experiences around how their teams have rapidly gathered data and adapted to the COVID-19 context. This learning session will specifically focus on market engagement, nexus issues around the intersection of development and humanitarian assistance, and how women across MENA are redefining resilience in light of COVID-19 economic challenges. Learning Space participants will divide into interactive design sprint sessions to collectively reflect on pervasive COVID-19 problems women across MENA face while interacting with different market systems, and brainstorm next steps for practitioners to explore in upcoming months.

Speakers: Shan Sherwan Hussein, Women for Women International | Hiba Tibi, CARE International 

COVID-19 in Senegal: Farmer-led Organizations Join the Research Effort

Convened by RTI International

Food security programs have invested in building the capacity of farmer organizations as market service providers to their communities. Digital solutions were introduced to facilitate extension and created more transparent, data-driven trading environments for smallholder farmers. But how are these grassroots aggregators adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic? Can these farmer-owned systems be considered true social capital and be repurposed to actually help communities respond to external shocks?

As part of its COVID-19 response, RTI internally funded research surveying Senegalese farmer organizations during the 2020 cropping season.

The study explored the expectations and experiences of 800 households in Senegal's farming zones: how they cope with disrupted access to critical inputs; their allocation of household resources in the face of the COVID shock; and what resources they may be drawing upon as a result of their membership in their farmer organization.

Speaker: Jean-Michel Voisard, RTI International | Annah Latane, RTI International | Anna Gaye, Kissal Patim

From Facilitation to Participation: Pragmatic Market Systems Development in WASH

Convened by iDE Global

iDE has been building market systems for WASH products and services over the past 25 years. Over that time, we have helped entrepreneurs and local businesses sell over 1 million toilets and 500,000 household water filters in six countries. We're thrilled to bring this experience to the 2020 SEEP Annual Conference. We're especially excited to bring together a diverse group of our talented program managers from Ghana, Bangladesh, and Cambodia to share the context-specific
implementation and business models they have deployed in their respective countries. They will also focus on the practical actions that they have taken on the ground to address disruptions brought on by COVID, while being honest about our failures and learnings along the way.

Our hope is that session attendees will walk away with a greater depth of knowledge on the potential for market-systems models to both drive impact in the WASH space and serve as springboards for addressing novel challenges during crises like
a pandemic. And attendees shouldn't expect to be passive learners! We're hoping our "speed dating" format will allow everyone in the room to ask critical questions, contribute insights from their own experiences, and establish new mental and
personal connections!

Speakers: Greg Lestikow, iDE Global | Sameer Karki, iDE Global | Osei Agyeman, iDE Global

Advancing Collective Impact in Protracted Crisis - Somalia and Northeast Nigeria

Convened by Mercy Corps

The Mercy Corps-led Somalia Resilience Learning Activity (SRLA) and Rural Resilience Activity (RRA) in Northeast Nigeria will demonstrate strategies to build effective learning partnerships, as well as adaptations using digital technology in
response to COVID-19. SRLA responds to the need for greater coherence of international responses by coordinating with development actors to increase the effectiveness of aid.

To foster cooperation among partners, SRLA uses a strategy of three building blocks: 

  1. Building relationships purposefully through early and strategic targeting and networking at a personal level;
  2. Establishing facilitation approaches centered on core teams leading efforts to identify group goals; and
  3. Defining roles and responsibilities clearly within the organizational structure.

Adaptation, flexibility, and the use of digital technology were required to carry-out RRA's recent rapid market assessment, which identified the impacts of COVID-19 on market systems in Northeast Nigeria. Key adaptations are grouped into four

  1. Sample frame: selected participants of previous Mercy Corps programs as representative of the RRA's target population.
  2. Quantitative Survey Instrument: prioritized critical data while shortening the survey for phone interviews.
  3. Quantitative Interviews: provided phone credit and a web-based survey platform to enumerators.
  4. Qualitative Interviews: Conducted interviews with market actors using video.

Speakers: Jaafarsadiq Hassan, Mercy Corps | Chidinma May Ottah, Mercy Corps | Danielle Jolicoeur, Mercy Corps

Stream 2: Financial Inclusion: COVID-19 & Risks to Four Decades of Progress

The global health crisis poses real risks to four decades of progress in financial inclusion. As markets falter and livelihoods are decimated, it is likely that tens of millions of low-income clients will simply be unable to pay back their loans, microfinance institutions will fail, and microfinance investment funds will falter. Moreover, unprecedented capital flight is expected from emerging markets. Some of these cascading effects are already being felt. Where will the bleeding stop? Which clients and institutions will be saved? How, by whom, and who decides? This technical stream will explore early response and recovery efforts at the level of the client, the institution and the financial ecosystem in emerging markets, and provide some suggested avenues to deal with this new reality.

Meeting the COVID-19 Challenge: A Holistic Response

Convened by Pakistan Microfinance Network 

An overall snapshot of the Pakistan Microfinance industry along with headlines related to COVID-19 (this includes sharing of research carried out by University of Oxford and a survey conducted by Pakistan Microfinance Network) will be represented. The research study assesses the impact of COVID-19 on MSEs in order to understand how the pandemic has impacted household incomes and business operations, and how they are coping with the shock. Pakistan Microfinance Network has brought all the stakeholders together to provide support for their rehabilitation. Each stakeholder including the regulator's role, experience and the strategies designed by them in handling the crisis at the policy/regulation and field level will be shared and discussed. Also, PMN will share how apex handled the liquidity crisis faced by the microfinance industry in Pakistan.

Speaker: Syed Mohsin Ahmed, Pakistan Microfinance Network

MFIs Managing COVID-19 Risks

Convened by ICCO Cooperation

The COVID-19 lockdown has tremendously affected the microfinance sector in Rwanda. To help MFIs mitigate these effects, MFIs need better risk management tools and strategies. Strengthening African Rural Smallholders (STARS), is a five-year (2017 - 2021) ICCO Cooperation project in partnership with Mastercard Foundation and ICCO Terrafina. The STARS program is supporting MFIs to mitigate COVID-19 effects by utilizing better risk management tools and strategies. Together with five MFIs, ICCO STARS has developed crop-specific loans, using its own Agri-Credit Assessment Tool (A-CAT) which was later on digitized, also reducing COVID-19 disruptions. This digital tool estimates the expected amount of finance needed to purchase inputs, pay labor costs, and other costs, as well as estimating the total net income from agricultural activities (using estimated crop yields). With this information at hand, MFIs no longer shy away from investing in agriculture. In addition, STARS has developed sectoral tools and strategies to help MFIs manage other risks in agricultural financing. ICCO would like to share learnings from the STARS program as well as explore other innovative alternatives with session participants.

Speakers: Victoire Annabelle Umutesi, ICCO Cooperation | Aimable Nkuranga, Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR)

Linking Social Norms to the Resilient Behaviors of Female Microentrepreneurs during COVID-19

Convened by MarketShare Associates

Globally, the COVID-19 crisis has created a unique set of challenges as well as opportunities for micro and small businesses (MSMEs). In this session, participants will get to learn and apply an innovative new tool for understanding the impact of the crisis on MSMEs access to and usage of financial services and other supporting services. MarketShare Associates in partnership with CGAP and Jouri Consulting have developed a social norms diagnostic tool tested in Turkey and currently being adapted in Egypt. This tool provides a step-by-step guide to support financial inclusion stakeholders to identify the financial and non-financial behaviors of the target group, including during a crisis, and diagnose the role that social norms play in influencing the identified behaviors. Applying a social norms lens to understanding financial inclusion during a crisis can provide practitioners with actionable insights that can guide policy and programmatic responses. This could include tailoring marketing campaigns and agent training related to the design and delivery of strategies, products, and services that better meet the needs of their female clients and help them survive crises periods.

Speakers: Adriano Scarampi, MarketShare Associates | Uloma Ogba, MarketShare Associates | Yasmin Bin Humam, CGAP | Marwa Farid, PHI Group

Think Like a Bank

Convened by International Rescue Committee

COVID-19 has upended the global economy, decimating livelihoods and putting microfinance institutions at risk of failing. Yet, access to financial services will be an essential part of recovery for marginalized populations. If all stakeholders within the
financial ecosystem collaborate can we create solutions that increase both financial sector resilience and resilience of marginalized populations? In this session we aim to do just that.

In a one-hour design sprint, participants will examine current challenges to expanding financial access for marginalized populations and work together to rapid design solutions. These will be presented through user journeys and experience maps based on IRC's Finance in Displacement research and data on early COVID-19 recovery efforts by MFIs. A particular focus will be put on designing solutions that align the incentives of MFIs with the needs of marginalized populations, especially
women. Following the session, IRC will share the solutions in a discussion forum for further testing and debate by conference attendees.

Participants in the session will gain an improved understanding of:

  • COVID's impact on MFIs
  • How to improve public-private collaboration and incentivize MFIs to serve marginalized individuals.
  • Potential solutions to increase financial sector resilience

Speakers: Kelsey Weber, International Rescue Committee | Stefanie Leigh Plant, International Rescue Committee

Going Digital: Deploying Rapid, Responsive, Relief Subsidies in the Philippines

Convened by Chemonics

The effects of COVID-19 on developing economies have been severe. Governments around the world are rushing to provide emergency relief to vulnerable citizens. What happens when there are no efficient mechanisms to disburse that aid in a timely,transparent, and safe way? This learning space will showcase how the disruptive collaboration between the Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Information and Communications Technology, private technology companies, and USAID through the E-PESO program, allowed 4.3 million Filipinos to quickly and securely register to receive their subsidy through the ReliefAgad ("quick relief") web application. Through an SMS-text authentication process, banked beneficiaries can receive the subsidy directly in their e-money accounts or bank accounts. Unbanked beneficiaries can opt to open a virtual limited-feature transaction account with a participating financial institution to receive the subsidy payment and become financially included. Join our panel to hear directly from the financial institutions, government, technology partners, and E-PESO specialists who worked together to co-create the ReliefAgad app.

Speakers: Mamerto Enrique Tangonan, Chemonics | Vice Catudio, USAID E-PESO Project | Irene Dumiao, Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) | Luigi Reyes, Gcash

Refugees: Reimagining "High-Touch" Digital Finance in Times of Physical Distancing

Convened by Opportunity International

Ugandan refugee settlements rely on "high-touch" models for nearly all facets of engagement, including delivery of financial products and education. As an already vulnerable group now largely cut off from economic opportunities in nearby
communities because of the pandemic, refugees run a higher risk of being pushed back into situations of complete dependence. Organizations working in the settlements have pivoted quickly to continue financially empowering the refugees they
serve. During this session, we will unpack learnings from four practical, client-centric approaches to financial inclusion. Each organization is leveraging accessible technological solutions to financially include refugees.

  • FSD Uganda will moderate the discussion, leveraging insights from their work around financial inclusion for refugees with
    various non-profit and financial service partners.
  • The Response Innovation Lab will share their communication tools and approaches (both digital and analog) that support
    financial and digital literacy training for refugees and host communities.
  • Danish Church Aid will share lessons learned from their work scaling the digitization of savings groups with refugees and
    linking groups with formal financial institutions.
  • Opportunity International will show how they use Financial Diaries to design digital financial products suited to refugees' needs and realities in collaboration with financial service providers.

Speakers: Tamsin Scurfield, Opportunity International | Noah Ssempijja, Opportunity International | Charlene Cabot, Response Innovation Lab | Anita Asiimwe, Danish Church Aid | David Darkwa, FSD Uganda

Stream 3: Savings Groups at the Frontlines of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic poses crucial health and economic risks to Savings Groups and their members. It also poses profound risks to the diverse range of programs and institutions that work with Savings Groups. Is the COVID pandemic an existential crisis for a community-based microfinance model based on frequent contact between members? And if it is, what are the implications? 

We are on the cusp of a major disruption; and the near future will undoubtedly be defined by increased experimentation. How stakeholders plan, execute, document, assess and share the results of this period of forced innovation may very well determine what the sector looks like a decade from now.

This stream will explore how best to support Savings Groups and their members during this crisis, and how to effectively engage them in community-level response efforts. We will also explore the emerging plans of sector stakeholders to build back better.

This technical stream is generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Savings Groups in the COVID Era: Creating a Resilient New Normal

Convened by World Vision International

COVID created a "perfect storm" for savings groups (SGs), restricting social gatherings, disrupting income, and making it harder to visit groups in the field. World Vision, DreamStart Labs, and VisionFund will present compelling evidence from new strategies and technologies that are changing the game, creating a new generation of SGs with the potential to be stronger, better, and more resilient than ever before. In this session, you will learn about:

  • New economic data about the financial impact of COVID on SG members, especially vulnerable women.
  • New technologies to rapidly survey large numbers of clients and quickly measure the impact of crisis events.
  • How digital SGs empower vulnerable families to withstand shocks, rebuild incomes, and become more resilient for future
  • New data on how digital SGs build better trust, transparency, and cohesion in the midst of crisis and disruption.
  • How innovations such as cash vouchers, recovery loans, and rescheduled payments build financial and social capital with at-risk groups.
  • Strategies used by SGs in refugee camps and other fragile environments to continue savings throughout the pandemic.
  • Five practical steps every implementor should do today to prepare savings groups for the post-pandemic "new normal".

Speakers: Angeline Munzara, World Vision International | Dr. Kathryn Taetzsch, World Vision International | Martina Crailsheim, VisionFund International | Wes Wasson, DreamStart Labs | Johanna Ryan, VisionFund International

Building Back Equal: Women as Central to COVID Response and Recovery

Convened by CARE 

The COVID 19 pandemic has unleashed a global public health crisis and put decades of progress on women's economic justice and rights at risk. It has exposed and exacerbated existing structural inequalities, disproportionately affecting women
and girls. Unless women are able to take on decision-making and leadership roles in immediate responses and longer-term recovery efforts, COVID 19 could push millions of women and girls into poverty. At the community level, women are organizing and taking the lead in developing innovative solutions, such as the extension of Savings Groups schemes to offer a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable women and girls. This effort is not being replicated at national and international levels. Instead, women are largely absent from decision making on economic recovery. In addition, many governments have been responding to the pandemic primarily through short-term initiatives to mitigate the immediate impacts of the crisis and are missing the opportunity to address the root causes and underlying gender inequalities. This session will look at the immediate response to this crisis, and longer-term economic recovery strategies being planned and the need for governments to bring women and girls into leadership roles and decision-making processes for better gender-transformative recovery.

Speakers: Mareen Buschmann, CARE | Helen Walbey, AFI Global | Juliana Conteh, Local Savings Group Member | Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Central Bank of Rwanda | Francoise Kagoyire, Central Bank of Rwanda 

Listen First: Pursuing an SG Member-centered COVID-19 Response

Convened by Hope International

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced unprecedented disruption and challenges to savings groups and supporting organizations around the world. In our session, we will explore the role of timely and intentional listening in cultivating a savings group member-centered, data-informed response to this global crisis. We'll examine insights from HOPE International's experience listening and responding to SGs across 6 different countries during the early days of COVID-19, and will highlight key findings from over 6,400 unique savings group survey responses and how these findings shaped HOPE's support of groups and their members. Session attendees will be encouraged to contribute to the learning by sharing their own experiences of listening and responding to savings groups during the COVID-19 crisis. Join us for this collaborative session where we explore together how to listen first as we support SGs who are navigating the uncertainty of this global pandemic.

Speakers: Will Kendall, HOPE International | Erin McCurdy, HOPE International | Jieun Lee, HOPE International

New Savings Groups Formation in the Context of a Pandemic

Convened by PCI-Global Communities

In the midst of a pandemic, many organizations are charged with the task of forming and begin trainings of new groups. This challenge forces us to confront questions we had not asked ourselves before, including: How can we introduce an opportunity for savings in the middle of an economic crisis? How can we begin working in a community where we cannot be physically present? How can we navigate the current context with communities and members with very limited access to technology? This session will be an opportunity to reflect on this emerging challenge. We will share recent experiences from rural Guatemala, including the ideas and strategies that worked well, as well as those that failed. Through the presentation and online discussion, we will engage with participants in a highly practical dialogue that will help us prepare for the future that lays ahead of all of us.

Speaker: Mabel Bejarano, PCI-Global Communities 

Scalable and Sustainable Digital Solutions for Savings Groups

Convened by Itad Ltd.

Digital technologies have been essential drivers for financial inclusion. In the current context of a pandemic with severe restrictions on mobility and ability to meet as a group digital technologies have become even more essential in ensuring that groups can continue to operate and that SG members can leverage them to support their resilience.  This session will feature the experience of two financial service providers – one from Zambia who is partnering with Savings at the Frontier and one from Kenya who is partnering with Scale2Save. They will share supply side approaches and the complexities of designing and implementing digital technologies for savings groups and other low income customers as well as the intricacies of the partnerships needed to bring these products to market. Speakers will share successes but also failures on important topics including the selection of partners such as technology providers and MNOs; incentives and pricing strategies; key roles and responsibilities of the different partners, and how have these elements been impacted by the pandemic. The session will also explore the impact of the health crisis on the relationships between Savings Groups and financial institutions and how access to formal financial services affected Savings Groups during the crisis.

Speakers: Diana Dezso, Itad Ltd. | Edwin Ocharo, Postbank Kenya | Marvin Chibuye, VisionFund International

Making Self Help Groups More Resilient: Tools, Adaptation, and Suggestions

Convened by Tearfund

COVID-19 has caused the loss of business, income reduction, and unemployment for members of self-help groups which have also been a vital source of support. We look at three approaches to build the role and resilience of self-help groups:

  1. Mthunzi in South Africa distributes emergency assistance as digital vouchers through basic mobile phones;
  2. Tearfund Rwanda is implementing a rotating loan system to recapitalise SHGs at low cost;
  3. The Tearfund WASH team suggests ways in which SHGs can potentially strengthen WASH responses to COVID 19 through Community Health Clubs, tippy taps, and behavioral change programs like Wash'Em.

In Adama, Ethiopia, urban SHG groups adapted to COVID 19, giving relief on loan repayments, lifting penalty fees, and supplying additional loans allowing members to re-start their businesses. The groups met, shared experiences, and started following all health official's advice.

In South Africa, we hear from those who receive digital vouchers from Mthunzi as they share the impacts these have on their lives.

In Rwanda, rural and urban SHGs dealt with the lockdown differently - they reduced the burden of repayments, they took care of the vulnerable and elderly, keeping them safe being an SHG member provided greater resilience.

Speakers: Paola Castiati, Tearfund UK | Craig Stewart, The Warehouse | Emmanuel Murangira, Tearfund Rwanda | Frank Greaves, Tearfund UK 

The Power and Promise of Women's VSLAs in Fragile Contexts

Convened by Women for Women International

Savings Groups, especially Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), can be an instrumental tool in women's economic empowerment and addressing the intersection of poverty, conflict, and gender inequity. However, in the wake of
COVID-19, adaptive mechanisms and creative partnerships have been needed to ensure that VSLAs run by marginalized women facing tremendous challenges exacerbated by the health and related economic crises continue to flourish. Women for Women International is a long-standing organization serving women survivors of war which integrated VSLAs into its gender-transformative approach to women's economic empowerment five years ago. In this session, we will share our newest RCT data from DRC, as well as first-hand experiences of learning and adaptation of VSLAs during COVID-19. A video will highlight voices from the field through four "vignettes" from DRC, Rwanda, Nigeria, and South Sudan reflecting on the power and resilience of VSLAs on the frontlines of conflict. Come join in a lively online discussion to explore the impact, development, and future of effective VSLAs and women's economic empowerment in fragile settings.

Speakers: Victor Nsunwara, Women for Women International | Clemence Bideri, Women for Women International | Aloys Mateba, Women for Women International | Moses Abure, Women for Women International | Liliana Ascencio, Women for Women International

The Relevance of Informal Financial Inclusion During Crises: Continuity, Adaptations, Investment

Convened by Catholic Relief Services

These Focus 15 talks will give participants greater understanding of how Savings Groups (SGs), because they are informal and decentralized, can adapt more quickly than formal institutions to crises such as Covid-19, providing a means for members
to withstand adverse economic effects. The speakers will show how SG members and groups adapt their practices and adopt innovative strategies to improve their resilience during crises; while SG members with MFI relationships work with their MFIs to secure financing and ensure they can repay their loans and continue to benefit from other services. Finally, the speakers will discuss how their respective organizations are learning from the Covid-19 pandemic to help prepare SGs and their members for future crises.

By joining the session, the participants will learn the following:

  • How SGs grew resilience during COVID-19, drawing lessons from CRS' surveys conducted in Africa and Latin America
  • The experience of South Sudanese Refugees and Ugandan nationals SG members working with Seed Effect
  • Programmatic adaptations required to ensure the resilience of Word Vision's standalone SG members and those affiliated
    with MFIs
  • Key lessons from World Relief's experience incorporating digital and mobile money technology into SGs.

Speakers: Benjamin Allen, Catholic Relief Services | Joel Cox, Seed Effect | Courtney Purvis, World Relief | Angeline Munzara, World Vision International | Johanna Ryan, VisionFund International

Stream 4: The Promise and Perils of Inclusion in a New World

We know that the needs of persons with disabilities, older people, women and girls, youth refugees, LGBTQI persons, and other socio-economically excluded people are severely compromised in crisis and post-crisis settings. The COVID-19 pandemic not only exacerbates existing barriers that exclude people but also introduces new barriers: a potentially fatal health threat, limitation of movement, restricted access to services, disruption to livelihoods, increased discrimination and extreme strain on social safety nets and protection systems. Furthermore, as many services expand digital delivery methods in response to limitations on in-person interaction, lack of access to connectivity (including both hardware and network access) can further accentuate the digital divide and exclude certain groups from the onset. 

This technical stream will explore what considerations an inclusive response should entail under such conditions. As the COVID-19 pandemic exposes vulnerabilities and inequality in existing social, political and economic systems – including the global development system – we ask ourselves: What does building back better mean through an inclusion lens? 

Inclusivity in the Time of COVID-19: Promising Approaches in Practice

Convened by NCBA CLUSA

How has COVID-19 impacted the economic and social activities of women, youth, persons with disabilities, and other members of marginalized populations? What do members of these groups think programs should consider when addressing their needs? Come hear first-person recorded accounts from community members on what their experiences have been and what their ideas are for inclusive programming. Beyond examining common themes for supporting marginalized communities, participants will be presented with a poll of promising approaches for inclusive programming to engage in a discussion on what their experiences have been with these approaches. This session will also explore what the intersectionality of various approaches looks like in practice. Participants will have an opportunity to share their experiences with inclusive programming approaches and learn from colleagues how to apply approaches. The discussion will consider how to adapt approaches during the pandemic, how to address new vulnerabilities, and how to leverage existing systems to build more inclusive and effective programs.

Speakers: Elizabeth Salazar, NCBA CLUSA | Florence Kiburuthu, Action Network for the Disabled

Empowering Young Filmmakers to Amplify the Voices of the Marginalised

Convened by VSO 

Before COVID-19, we recognized the need to put youth in the driving seat of professionally capturing youth-led case studies through their innovation and creativity. COVID has made the challenge greater but more important. This has prompted us to devise a new approach as a team which will make our story-gathering more inclusive and primary actor led. We will share how we have created a pilot team of local story gatherers in Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Cambodia. The filmmakers will detail how they were remotely trained and how they undertook filming and collaborative editing across the participant countries. There will be a particular focus on how this approach is leading to more diverse stories and giving a voice to local actors. In turn, this is contributing to identifying the most vulnerable and ensuring they are reached with our services.

Speakers: Justin Spray, VSO | Pity Daina Custodio Estajo, VSO | David Kezio Musoke, VSO 

New World, New Acronym? The Case for WESE Post COVID-19

Convened by Hand in Hand International

Three months. That's how long it took coronavirus to slash incomes, shutter businesses, and wipe out savings in many cases built up over years among socio-economically excluded people the world over, including beneficiaries of many SEEP members. Undoubtedly, many will find a way to rebuild. But in a world where the definition of economic resilience has been stretched to breaking point, organizations working in SEEP's thematic areas have a duty to ask: are programs that focus exclusively on economic empowerment enough, or does building back better through an inclusion lens require broadening our approach to include social elements whose outcomes aren't so easily reversed?

Focusing on their experiences in Afghanistan, Hand in Hand International, CARE and Women for Women International invite you to join this urgent Design Sprint Room. Together, we will co-create tangible program responses that we can pilot to help our members build back better. Participants will learn about the devastating impacts of coronavirus on marginalized women in a fragile, complex context, and be part of developing a transformative, sustainable solution.

Speakers: Isabel Creixell, Hand in Hand International | Amalia Johnsson, Hand in Hand International | Storai Ahmadi, Women for Women International | Katie Whipkey, CARE Netherlands

Re-imagining Social Welfare Targeting through Data, Technology, and Partnerships

Convened by LEAD at Krea University

Identifying the beneficiaries of social protection programs is difficult under normal circumstances and the uncertainty and limitations brought upon by COVID-19 have made matters worse. The Indian government opted to leverage existing social protection schemes to deploy relief measures. For example, female beneficiaries of a national financial inclusion program (PMJDY) received an unconditional cash transfer directly in their bank accounts. However, early studies estimate that this approach has excluded millions of potential beneficiaries that were not targeted by this program to begin with.

In this design sprint, we explore how data and tech can create disruptive collaborations between governments, civil society organizations, technology providers and front-line workers. Participants will discuss a host of challenges and issues emerging from LEAD's experience implementing technology-intensive agent-based models (such as privacy, sustainability, comparability, connectivity, etc.) and will learn from each other's experience as well. The session will identify potential
solutions to these issues that participants will be able to implement in existing or new programs that aim to create reliable and cost-effective databases of vulnerable populations.

Please note this session will cap the number of participants. Kindly plan to connect early if you wish to join the live component of this Learning Space. The recording will be made available soon after as well.

Speakers: Fabrizio Valenti, LEAD at Krea University | Diksha Singh, LEAD at Krea University

Weathering the Storm: Understanding COVID's Effects on WEE

Convened by Trickle Up

We are a consortium of 5 organizations using the Graduation Approach (GA) to advance the social and economic well-being of women living in extreme poverty in developmental and humanitarian settings. We have come together to deepen our understanding of and evolve the GA in ways that advance women's agency within the context of Women's Economic Empowerment. Our 3 ñ 4 day online discussion will build on our significant experience, creating the opportunity for contribution from a diversity of voices. We will synthesize and document lessons, challenges, potential solutions and emerging thinking that traces What has happened to extremely poor and vulnerable people, especially women, in situations of conflict, displacement, and poverty during COVID?

We will share our learning on the multiple effects of COVID-19 on women and their families in our varied implementation contexts, focusing on the social and economic effects of the pandemic, and how these are intertwined within the GA. We discuss individual wellbeing, group cohesion, social empowerment, effects on savings and livelihood activities, and insights into intrahousehold dynamics. We will ask for similar inputs from session participants.

Speaker: Leah Berkowitz, Trickle Up 

Designing for Resilience: Inclusive Solutions to Agri-Food Market Disruption

Convened by MEDA

As market systems practitioners in emerging economies, we have navigated through market shocks and stresses before, supporting and facilitating market adaptation to environmental, economic and social challenges such as conflicts, natural
disasters, political instability and recessions. But the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, impacting individuals and communities that are the most vulnerable to shocks. For example, in Myanmar, MEDA monitored the rapidly deteriorating
economic situation for some rural women producers. Having just harvested vegetable crops at the beginning of the pandemic, and with strict mobility restrictions in place, many women were unable to sell their harvests, or sold their crops at a loss. MEDA responded by strengthening its support of women sales agents who could continue to aggregate and sell vegetable crops as well as extend credit to women producers needing to purchase agricultural inputs. Join this design sprint hosted by MEDA to explore: "how might we support small commercial farmers, especially women and youth, to adapt and build resiliency to supply chain disruptions?" Not only will you collaborate with fellow participants to ideate
and design potential solutions to tackle this challenge, but you'll also take away a workshop framework, tools, and resources that you can use in your own programming.

Please note this session will cap the number of participants. Kindly plan to connect early if you wish to join the live component of this Learning Space. The recording will be made available soon after as well.

Speakers: Clara Yoon, MEDA | Jennifer King, MEDA

An Inclusive, Resilient and Gender-Responsive Roadmap to Recovery

Convened by World Vision International

How can we design inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery efforts to actually 'build back better'? What are practical strategies to promote inclusion, gender equality and private sector development outcomes? The session will outline action-orientated lessons from diverse actors working on women's economic empowerment (WEE) in Bangladesh and Indonesia.

  • World Vision will present their hybrid approach to WEE promoting market systems inclusive of women through private sector partnerships, while ensuring equity by addressing harmful social norms and gender relations. Practical lessons will be drawn from the Nutrition Sensitive Value Chain for Smallholder farmers (NSVC) and Noba Jatra Projects, including recent assessments on COVID-19's impact in Bangladesh. NSVC partner Promundo-US will present learnings from their Mencare model to promote gender-equitable relations and male involvement in caregiving.
  • PRISMA will present their approach to WEE and working with the private sector in Indonesia for more inclusive and sustainable business models. Reference will be made to PRISMA's recent study on Women Sales Agent Models in Agriculture which spans across 10 businesses and over 500 respondents, including a rapid assessment during COVID-19. Practical design considerations for inclusive agricultural direct sales agent models will be shared as well as guidance for businesses and practitioners.

Speakers: Ellen Wong, World Vision Australia | Rakesh Katal, World Vision Bangladesh | Maryam Piracha, Palladium PRISMA | Abby Fried, Promundo | Khandoker Md Ruhul, World Vision Bangladesh

Ready or Not...COVID is Digitizing a Program Near You

Convened by PCI-Global Communities and Near East Foundation

Global policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced a rapid shift in the way organizations deliver programs and communicate with program participants. Restrictions have made group gatherings, in-person training, and data collection
difficult or impossible. As a result, implementers are shifting to digital delivery models. To be sure, the digital shift was already taking place, but COVID has forced providers, including ourselves, to grapple with how to digitize most of their services, often more rapidly than planned. Our session will explore the opportunities and constraints of shifting to digital, using examples from our organizations to
address what moving to digital actually looks like. Presenters and participants will be asked to consider:

  • What does the move to digital mean for those already at risk of being excluded?
  • What steps can implementers take to ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups and individuals?
  • Does the answer depend on the reason on specific vulnerabilities and how prepared a project was to digitize pre-COVID-19?

Together, we will share lessons learned and tangible recommendations from experiences with digitization, both planned and forced, in Sub-Saharan Africa, MENA, the Americas, and Asia. Participants will be asked to share their own experiences and recommendations.

Speakers: Dennis Mello, PCI-Global Communities | Julia Arnold, Center for Financial Inclusion, Accion | Cristina Manfre, TechnoServe | Rachel Bass, Near East Foundation 


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