Spring Break – Masomboly style

OSI is preparing for the next expansion of the Masomboly project. Our first order of business is to add 50 additional women to the project by the end of March. To that end, I am going to be traveling to Madagascar over my spring break in the next couple weeks.

Though we currently we have weekly conference calls with our staff in the field and are in email contact once a week (there is still no email in our town, so our manager in the field travels to an internet cafe in the regional capital once a week), nothing can beat face-to-face contact. I’ll have to remember my Malagasy and French, but I was surprised when they came back pretty quickly last summer for the two months that I was there.

The recruitment of the new women for the next cycle has already begun. The women first are randomly designated (by a coin flip) to be eligible as an individual or only as part of a group. The women in the groups have to enter in teams of 5. Since last time we had nearly 200 women apply for only 50 spots, we are expecting to have a lottery when I arrive to choose the new 50 women. Before the lottery, every women has to apply, registering their contact information and describing the business idea they would like funded.

The women chosen in the lottery will then each receive $30 loans after the terms of the loan are explained to each women in individual sessions and they sign on to attend bi-weekly business trainings and monthly repayment meetings.

With my trip, I will be able to attend the lottery and be part of the disbursement of the loans. We are planning to have a celebration for the women from the last cycle who repaid their loans and now are eligible for $60. Part of the idea is to create a community of women borrowers. This helps with repayment of the loans and begins to create an entrepreneurial environment, something lacking in these poor settings.

Besides setting up the expansion of Masomboly, I will also be working on other HR activities with our staff: training and hiring. One of the most critical parts of ensuring that this project is able to grow, but also remain viable, will be to start solidifying our processes. For example, getting individualized interviews and photos from the field, translated, sent to the US, posted to the website and then sent out to lenders is a business process that needs to be defined and optimized. We feel like we are doing things well now, but we also know we can make things more efficient moving forward.

OSI is continuing down the path towards great things. In our fundraising, research activities and operations, we are making great strides towards our goal: making this endeavor not just a “good cause”, but an example of international development excellence.