Initiatives Consulting

At the heart of MMI is our belief in sustainable, real-world social impact. By providing pro-bono consulting services to underserved Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and not-for-profits (NFPs), we aim to solve their organisational challenges and have a tangible impact on improving the lives of underprivileged communities. As a student organisation, we empower students to catalyse meaningful change by using their business acumen to solve real world problems and help our clients reach those most in need.

 
 
 

Background

We began offering pro-bono consulting services to underserved MFIs back in 2011. Since our first three projects, we have developed our organisational capacity, and have been able to offer advice on six projects annually, mainly operating in the Asia Pacific Region. We have also completed projects in Africa and Latin America.

As of October 2019, we will have completed 30 projects across 12 countries. This includes Australia, Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Timor Leste, and Vietnam.

We’re proud to have supported some amazing MFIs doing fantastic work to support their communities. And we’re happy to say that some clients have outgrown our services and no longer require our help. Ultimately, our goal is to outwork ourselves.

We exercise extreme caution in our work, and recognise that our clients are the ones that best understand their communities and their needs, and that cultural context and mutual understanding is fundamental to the work we do.

Since our humble beginnings, we’ve begun to develop capabilities in new areas, and have begun working with some fantastic not-for-profits. As an organisation, we feel it is important for us to keep working with smaller, more under-resourced organisations to help them scale their impact.

Our work is consistently produced by the brightest minds at the University of Melbourne, supported by the best in the industry. Check out our recent work with Good Shepherd Microfinance that culminated in their Senate submission and the quotation of our research during the Senate hearing for buy-now pay-later services in December 2018.

 
 

Our core product offerings

 
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Social impact surveying

For a microfinance institution to evaluate its effectiveness and impact on clients, they need to formulate and implement a social impact survey.

MMI is able to assist in both stages of developing a social impact survey, and is able to complete research into the effectiveness and appropriateness of surveys. 

We qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate the social impact generated by microfinance institutions on the community. We also seek to assist in the implementation of strategies that allow them to identify and respond to the need of their clients.

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credit risk assessment

For a microfinance institution, effectively managing credit risk is a critical determinant of their success or failure. Without it, microfinance institutions can become financially unviable.

MMI is able to assist in streamlining and strengthening the approach to loan administration, and to ensure that microfinance institutions are able to continue serving the community with the greatest social impact.

We provide detailed and comprehensive credit risk management policy review. We also seek to provide best-practice benchmarking and credit-scoring systems development to give clients a diverse array of insights and recommendations.

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market entry due diligence

For a microfinance institution, expanding into new markets is an exciting opportunity with potential to further social impact in the community. Nonetheless, new markets can bring risks and give rise to unforeseen challenges.

MMI is able to evaluate the viability of potential expansion, and ensure that our clients are able to have the most significant impact on communities in need.

We provide extensive, impartial analysis of the costs and benefits arising from a potential expansion or new market entry. We also provide strategy and recommendations for any considered implementation.

 
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training

For a microfinance institution, knowledge retention and regular attendance at training programs is a key challenge in achieving operational efficiency.

MMI is able to assist in refining or reconstructing staff and borrower training programs to ensure these programs are effective as possible.

We conduct academic and field research to determine key barriers to efficient operations and more effective training strategies that align with your organisation’s goals and target demographic.


Other

Besides these core offerings, we can also assist with the following:

  • Strategy and business operations consulting;

  • General research;

  • Market systems development; and

  • Pilot projects.

MMI is open to projects in other areas, and are are constantly honing and developing our capabilities.

product development

For a microfinance institution, offering valuable services and products especially relevant to the target demographic is imperative with increasing competition between MFIs in some regions.

MMI is able to assist in designing and evaluating micro-loan and micro-insurance products to help retain and attract new clients.

We conduct market and academic research to analyse current trends and demand in the market, and analyse the effectiveness of existing products, to help develop products that are better suited to your organisation's goals and clients. 

 
 

Our timeline

 
 

November/December

We formally begin scoping new projects for the following year. However, we do have many potential clients reach out to us during the year, which we keep on file and reach out to during this time. We prioritise current clients, but do regularly take on new clients. We are limited by our capacity and unfortunately cannot take on all prospective clients. For 2019, we have taken on 6 projects.

During this time, we decide on our clients and work together to determine the project scope. We generally finalise all projects by mid-February at the latest.

phase 1: March to june

With our new consultants on board, each project team begins their preliminary research for their individual projects. We draw upon expertise we have developed since 2010, our dedicated industry mentors, and our extensive alumni network, to devise a preliminary research or implementation plan.

Team co-leaders maintain regular contact with their client each week or fortnight, and are supported by their designated co-Vice President of Initiatives, who has MMI project experience and manages our projects throughout the year. They also receive training both in-house and by our industry partners.

phase 2: June/july

For 1-2 weeks during our university winter break, our teams travel to our client in-country (expenses paid for by MMI), to conduct our primary research and meet with our client in person. Getting a contextual understanding of our problem is essential, and we cannot do this from at home in Australia.

Note: We require the client’s assistance in organising the trip and to conduct our research.

Phase 3: July to october

Once back in Melbourne, our consultants collate and analyse the data collected, and work to provide feasible and practical recommendations to our client via a presentation or report.

October

This is when we elect our new leadership team for the following year, and the process begins all over again. Our new co-Vice Presidents of Initiatives begin scoping projects in November and December.

 
 
 

If you’re a potential client looking to engage MMI’s services, please click here.

If you’re a student at the University of Melbourne and are keen to join us as a consultant, please click here.