“Building Inclusive Markets: Impact through Financial and Enterprise Solutions”: this is the theme of this year’s SEEP Annual Conference – and you are invited!
I have been attending SEEP conferences for over ten years, and this will be my second year as Executive Director. It is always inspiring to see the new relationships and projects that emerge through a week of face to face meetings, discussions, and sharing. This year, the conference is focused on innovations that address some of the most pressing barriers to meaningful inclusion. In particular, we recognize that innovations that increase scale and impact are critical for expanding access to the basic tools of economic self-determination.
While the SEEP conference is only a week long, its effects are felt in the weeks, months, and even years after they occur. This year, the SEEP Annual Conference will take place from November 4-8, with an exciting menu of technical trainings , workshops, and plenary sessions that address major issues facing the industry. We’re also excited to introduce our first Microfinance and Enterprise Development Career Fair at the conference.
The most exciting thing for me to watch is how experts from all segments of the industry share ideas and best practices. Workshops and conference plenaries, focused this year on financial inclusion strategies, private sector partnerships and inclusive markets, measuring impact in market systems, and leveraging social protection for the ultra poor, continue to bring the most exciting new ideas and practices to the forefront of the discussion within the industry. This year, workshops will fall under five categories that support the conference theme:
- Enterprise and Market Development. Developing market systems and strengthening value chains has become increasingly integrated in both economic and private sector programming. Sessions will explore strategies to increase economic environments that are conducive to the increased participation of the poor, as well as identifying gaps that still need to be addressed.
- Strengthening the Economic Potential of the Ultra Poor. The ultra poor (those living on less than $1.25/day) are often unable to meet their very basic needs, and so participating in markets is often out of the question. Sessions will explore new and multi-disciplinary economic strengthening approaches that help the extremely poor meet basic services and participate in markets, such as improved access to social safety nets, human services, and market development programs.
- Proof of Practice – Understanding Change and Impact. Providing the best level of service in the field requires program flexibility and agility to respond to actualities on the ground and programmatic successes and failures. Sessions will explore how organizations can become more adept at recognizing when a project plan needs to react to changing circumstances on the ground, such as effectively incorporating evidence on what is working and what is not.
- Viable Approaches to Savings Delivery. Savings is widely recognized as an “on-ramp” to financial inclusion and enterprise development. It can help to prepare households for emergencies, smooth incomes, and take advantage of economic opportunities when they pop up. Sessions will explore how to move past the barriers that continue to hinder the expansion of services that are cost effective, sustainable, and scalable.
- Innovations in Information and Communications Technology. The number of mobile subscribers in Africa is expected to hit the jaw-dropping number of 925 million by 2015. An estimated 1.7 billion of the world’s poor possess a mobile phone. Rapidly evolving technology holds the promise of introducing affordable financial tools that can reduce the barriers to market inclusion in a safer, more effective, and transparent way. Sessions will explore the potential of ICTs to move the poor from cash-based to electronic financial transactions, such as through mobile phones, smart cards, and ATMs.
As you can tell, the entire global SEEP community and I are very excited about what the conference has in store for us this year, and what great ideas, initiatives, and programs will emerge. Please join us and share in our commitment to combating poverty through promoting inclusive markets and financial systems.
Business Fights Poverty is a Media Partner for the 2012 SEEP Annual Conference, and Business Fights Poverty Founder, Zahid Torres-Rahman will be participating in the event.
Sharon D’Onofrio has been associated with the SEEP Network for over 15 years. She has been an active member, facilitator to working groups and practitioner learning programs. Prior to assuming the position of Interim Executive Director in April 2011, Sharon was Lead Facilitator in SEEP’s Association Development Community of Practice, providing strategic direction in SEEP’s service to its association members and overseeing the creation of a suite of association development tools. Sharon’s experience in microfinance spans 23 countries in Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa.