After two weeks of travel, I am happy to be home. The visits were totally worthwhile. I learned a whole lot about how these microfinance institutions operate and how different the India operations are from the Kenyan ones. Without seeing them in action, I would not even have known what questions to ask.
Generally speaking, the India MFIs provide group loans specifically to women (because they tend to take the obligation more seriously). They collect cash at group meetings in the morning and use the cash to disburse new loans in the afternoon. Their loan officers can make emergency loans (up to 1000 rupees, or about $20) at their discretion. They tend to offer a lot of different loan products for different business types, festivals, and household items. Loans are secured only with group trust (group members guarantee each other’s loans, but do not put up any collateral.)
In Kenya, MFIs generally do not handle any cash. Either the group collects the cash amongst themselves and one member takes the money to the bank, providing the loan officer a bank receipt during their group meetings, or they use M-PESA to transfer money individually (see Mobile Money in Kenya) and no one handles any cash. Typically these MFIs provide fewer loan products and do not make emergency loans. They require members to save about 20% of the loan amount in a “collateral fund” before they can take their first loan.
What I accomplished:
- Visited Missions of Hope and saw three of their group meetings.
- Visited 3 additional MFIs, 2 of which do not use Mifos. Got a chance to see the alternative software and get some ideas from them.
- Completed weeks 4 and 5 of a 6 week online class called “Gamification”. This was an extracurricular activity, but it got me thinking about how we might use game techniques to enhance the UX of Mifos. Not so much by using game elements (like points, badges, and leaderboards), but perhaps just by using simple performance measurements, like progress bars, to show the user how well they are performing. Seeing how far along you are (or how close you are to finishing) tends to motivate people to work harder towards their goals.
What I did for fun:
- Went on the Nairobi National Park safari. Saw zebra, impala, eland, baboons, giraffes, ostrich, hippos (sorta, they never came out of the water) and had a close encounter with a rhino. Lions were elusive, however. Rainy season has the grass growing high enough to hide them.
- Went to the Giraffe center and got to feed the giraffes (see top photo).
- Visited the Karen Blixen Museum. She wrote the book “Out of Africa” under the pen name Isak Dinesen and the museum is the house and plantation she lived on while in Kenya.
Now that I think I’m over jet lag, it’s time to get down to some serious designing!