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Looking back in the rearview mirror

Two and a half months in Paraguay working for Fundación Paraguaya has been a really valuable experience. I think there was an excellent fit between my ambitions (learning about microfinance on a local level) and the needs of the Fundación (analytical person with finance background). One thing I’ve learned is that lifting people out of poverty through microfinance is complex because of the playing field between efficiency (that requires a certain standardization) and the observation that people, better yet, families, are poor in their own unique way. Continue reading


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Franchising in Paraguay: Going beyond microcredit

Franchising - Picture 1

One of the “Impulsoras” explaining the different microfranchise options to Nidia, a long-standing client of Fundación Paraguaya.

The World Wide Web tells us that: “traditional franchising is when a firm with an established product or service (the franchisor) enters into a contractual relationship with other businesses (the franchisees). Franchisees operate under the franchisor’s trade name and guidance — in exchange for a fee.”

Microfranchising is a business model that applies traditional franchising (e.g. McDonalds) to very small businesses or micro-entrepreneurs, like cleaning supplies, eggs, and reading glasses in the case of Fundación Paraguaya. Microfranchising is a concept that differs from microcredit in that it mainly provides a proven and successful business model for replication, rather than just startup capital. Continue reading


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Up for Review: the Client Protection Principles at Fundación Paraguaya

Consider this the sequel to my last story about the Client Protection Principles. Planet Rating is visiting this week to conduct an organization-wide evaluation in order to decide if Fundación Paraguaya will be eligible for SmartCampaign certification.

(Tip: If some of these names do not sound familiar, probably better to read the prequel first).

Planet Rating has been so nice to let me join them on one of the days, which at the time of writing was yesterday. We visited the branch of Villa Elisa, a city in the Central Department of Paraguay that borders with the capital Asunción. At the branch, Anali from Planet Rating conducted interviews with three focus groups:

  1. Asesoras & Oficiales de Crédito
  2. A group of 8 male clients
  3. A group of 5 female clients (we hoped it would be more)

Some of the more interesting observations were:

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Helping Paraguay’s Poverty Stoplight Go Global

Last week I had the privilege to attend a workshop in La Paz, Bolivia. La Paz is located at an elevation of 3,600m above sea level and sits in a bowl surrounded by the high mountains of the altiplano. As it grew, the city of La Paz climbed the hills, resulting in varying elevations of 3,200 to 4,100m. Right after I arrived at the airport of El Alto, I was quickly blown away by the spectacular views over the city.

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First view over the city

Born and raised in a country that is partly below sea level, I happily followed the three rules that, according to the locals, every visitor to La Paz should obey in order to prevent altitude sickness:

  1. “Camina lentito” (Walk slowly)
  2. “Come poquito” (Eat in moderation)
  3. “Duerme solito” (Sleep alone)

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Red, yellow or green? You decide.

Dear reader,

If you would have to rate yourself with respect to access to electricity, which of the colors below would you choose?Picture 1

  • Red: Your family does not have access to electricity
  • Yellow: Your family has access to electricity but it is clandestine and/or not constant
  • Green: Your family has permanent and non-clandestine access to electricity

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Starting with the Semáforo

My first days working at la Casa Matriz – headquarters – remind me of a quote from a book I’ve read countless times.

“Of all the delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed.” –J.M. Barrie, Peter & Wendy

La Casa Matriz is a two to three minute walk from la Casa de Pasantes – Intern House. My morning stroll through the neighborhood is tranquil; I know that my day at work will be full of enthusiasm from start to finish. The Fundación Paraguaya office is a converted residential compound, bustling with vibrant energy from one room to the next. Here, we are “nicely crammed.” Each department has a dedicated space in the compound; for the Semáforo team, that space is not enough.

These Poverty Stoplight cards make it easy to visualize the fifty different indicators considered in determining overall poverty levels.

These Poverty Stoplight cards make it easy to visualize the fifty different indicators considered in determining overall poverty levels.

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Behind the scenes of a solidarity group

One by one, the women are entering the patio. Some have brought their children who are quiet at first but soon start to run around, playing and laughing innocently. There’s a dog wandering around as well, dragging along its leash, apparently not belonging to anyone. Silvana is grabbing some extra chairs since we’re expecting more guests. There will have to be at least 15 women or else the meeting cannot take place. The sun is shining with brutal force on my pale Dutch skin. The banana I brought as an emergency snack is practically melting. I thought it was supposed to be winter in Paraguay?

Picture 1

Still without any worries

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