The Future of Microfinance?

> Posted by Emily Leeding

Maria's Confirmation

Maria Otero (center) with Center and ACCION staff.


A suit AND heels?  Not an outfit you often find yourself wearing when you are young and work at a not-for-profit. But there the team found ourselves; dressed in our best in a room that looked straight out of the palace at Versailles. We were delighted to be attending the confirmation of ACCION’s former CEO Maria Otero as Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs at the State Department. The microfinance world could not have been more thrilled at Maria’s nomination and many leading lights of the industry were in attendance for the ceremony.
In the inevitable mingling time before the actual ceremony, the team and I had the opportunity to speak with CEOs, directors, network heads, and practioners.  All of these individuals have known Maria for years and shared stories of their adventures in the field, families growing up together, and the general camaraderie and respect that comes with working towards the common goal of alleviating poverty for the last 25+years.
This got me to thinking: What must it be like for someone who has spent the majority of their adult life advocating for a little known strategy of change to finally have that strategy (microfinance) be recognized, known and embraced by the worldwide community? What do you do when the passion of your life suddenly becomes fashionable?  And what do you do with all of these educated and enthusiastic young people who want to suddenly assist you in your mission?
At many older microfinance organizations, senior management members have been in place for years.  There is also a small number of trained younger middle management and many, many young professionals. How do you train them and keep them engaged? How do you make sure they continue to have the same fervor for your cause that you do?
I don’t have all the answers, but as this blog is a collaborative discussion space for the industry, let’s talk about it! Speaking as a young person, it is an important issue. In my opinion, without opportunity and training for the young professionals, the industry suffers and we lose the forward motion that’s happened in recent years.  Microfinance is important work, and all want to continue to move it forward. Let’s recognize the challenges and find some solutions.  
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