The LIFT Initiative

The LIFT Initiative

Panamá, PanamaCómbita, Samacá & Sutamarchán, Colombia
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The LIFT Initiative harnesses innovation in mobile technology to expand financial capability and promote inclusion among low-income persons in rural areas.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Efforts to confront poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean have been restricted by budgets, logistical concerns and fluctuations in public policy. As a result, governments and nonprofit-led programs designed to address the needs of low-income families are generally implemented on a small scale, helping individual families in need without addressing the underlying factors that keep them mired in poverty and instability. Despite millions in aid and myriad programs for addressing the needs of the poor, poverty in the region has not diminished in absolute terms over the last several decades. The LIFT Initiative is a means for reaching not hundreds or thousands, but millions of families with a financial capability tool that will help as they transition out of poverty.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The LIFT Initiative promotes financial inclusion as a strategy for helping low-income families overcome poverty. Financial assets, such as savings and insurance, provide the stability and opportunities that low-income people need to build assets and improve their livelihoods. Providing these tools, however, has proven a costly exercise, limiting the prospects for bringing financial inclusion and education to a sufficient number of families in order to have a real and lasting impact on poverty in the region. The LIFT Initiative goes beyond traditional methods for providing financial education by taking advantage of innovation in ICT for development, replacing traditional in-person workshops with tablet-based education programs, incentivizing participants via text and voice messages, and promoting sound financial behavior through technology-based reinforcement methods that accomplish the same goals as traditional education programs, only at a lower cost and on a much greater scale.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The LIFT Initiative expands on financial education and inclusion programs that have already proven successful throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. What differentiates the The LIFT Initiative from other programs is that it is designed to reach scale. By recognizing the need to provide greater coverage (decentralized and rural outreach) at a cost that is lower for both providers and recipients of financial education, The LIFT Initiative seeks to increase financial capability and create a lasting impact on poverty in the region. Through this Initiative, proven financial education methods are now being deployed via tablet computers in rural areas of Colombia. This tablet-based application, the first of its kind in the world, provides an interactive experience designed for BoP users in order to teach topics such as the ABCs of Savings, helping users set savings goals, and familiarizing them with automatic teller machines, all the while covering transversal topics such as gender and empowerment. The application does not require internet access, and therefore can reach low-income women even in the most rural areas, which is precisely the population that is most affected by extreme poverty in the region. By integrating audio and videos, this didactic application overcomes literacy barriers, provides an entertaining educational experience, and empowers women through technology. The LIFT Initiative is currently being piloted as a complementary educational system for recipients of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) in Colombia through the government's Familias en Acción program.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The LIFT Initiative is the first of its kind, and therefore comes with a lot of risk and logistical challenges. Our primary peers and competitors include development practitioners already implementing traditional financial education programs in the region, with whom we've had excellent relationships in the past. Attempting to implement something as innovative as our proposal requires faith and acceptance of risk, which governments and donors are not always fond of, and therefore presents an environment that is favorable for our current competitors. However, the innovative nature of The LIFT Initiative has already caught the eye of government officials, financial institutions, and international donors, which is promising for such a new and risky venture.
Team

Founding Story

Not long ago, this initiative would have been a fantasy. Advances in ICTs have created an opportunity to reach populations in ways and at a scale previously unimaginable. Realizing this potential was not so much an "Aha!" moment, but rather the result of progress and advances building on one another to make what was once impossible not only possible, but inevitable - an idea whose time has come. The power of financial inclusion and asset building to create lasting impact on low-income families has long been clear, and it is a power that Fundación Capital has been working to leverage for some time. The question remains, as to how to take advantage of that potential and transform it into a set of tools that can be adapted for diverse populations in a sustainable and scalable way. The LIFT Initiative is an attempt to answer that question: a product of the technological revolution and a belief that tools of progress will be the tools of equality as well.
About You
Organization:
Fundación Capital
About You
First Name

Ana

Last Name

Pantelic

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Fundación Capital

Organization Country

, PA, Panamá

Country where this project is creating social impact

, BOY, Cómbita, Samacá & Sutamarchán

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

No

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Innovation
How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Cost.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

The LIFT Initiative will prove that asset building and financial inclusion for low-income populations can be brought to scale sustainably, so that poverty in Latin America need not be accepted as a part of life and that by tailoring simple tools to specific populations, financial education can provide a permanent buffer against poverty worldwide. The initiative is designed to make a permanent dent on poverty in our region and beyond, convince various stakeholders of the idea that low-income populations are in the best position to understand their needs, and that when provided with adequate support, information, and the right tools, they can lift themselves out of poverty sustainably and productively. LIFT will demonstrate concretely that ICTs will be a key factor in achieving these goals.

Which barrier(s) to financial inclusion does your solution seek to address? (select all applicable)

Physical and other accessibility obstacles that prevent communities from reaching financial services, Other (Please describe below).

If you selected 'other' above, please specify which other barriers to financial inclusion you solution seeks to address:

Literacy challenges, rural and distance obstacles, and community engagement for financial inclusion

For which underserved or excluded communities will your solution create access to valuable, affordable, secure and comprehensive financial services?

The LIFT Initiative targets low-income communities and individuals (specifically women) that lack access to information, technical assistance, and financial education. In the pilot phase, we are working directly with the national government of the Republic of Colombia to support their financial inclusion agenda through CCT recipients. The Initiative seeks to move beyond this specific target group to include rural youth, micro and small entrepreneurs, and displaced persons and victims of Colombia's internal conflict. In order to create access to financial services for these communities, we are working directly with both public and private financial institutions in order to improve their portfolio of microfinance products and customer service at the BoP, leveraging Fundación Capital's excellent relationship with the national government and these institutions.

Could your solution work in other geographies or regions? If so, where?

The LIFT Initiative is designed specifically to be applied across communities and geographies. One of the biggest benefits of the technological platform is that it can be easily modified and adjusted to the needs and circumstances of particular communities. By analyzing educational requirements, adjusting images and language, and tailoring lessons to particular cultural and economic circumstances, the impact of the program will not be limited to an individual country or community.

If your solution is dramatically successful, how will things be different in 10 years?

The biggest impact that The LIFT Initiative will have will be on mentality, and on the ways that financial inclusion and education are approached in general. Ten years ago, this Initiative would not have been possible. Ten years from now, the tools and technology available for fighting poverty will have changed in unimaginable ways. The key is to change the way we think about confronting poverty and the way technology is applied to improving the lives of low-income families and individuals. By positioning every technological breakthrough as a potential tool for expanding and improving financial inclusion, The LIFT Initiative will serve a vital role in proving the utility of technology for reducing poverty and promoting the idea that the tools of progress in modern life can have a profound impact on all levels of the economic pyramid.

What will have had to have changed to make this happen?

In order for The LIFT Initiative to have the greatest impact, stakeholders of all kinds will have to buy in to the idea of using technology - and in particular the most advanced ICTs in the market - to improve the lives of low-income persons. Development professionals, donors, and practitioners must recognize that technology is not only for those with means, but that it can serve as an engine of economic growth at the BoP, confronting inequality and empowering the poor to make decisions for themselves. In addition, complementary services such as mobile banking (which in Africa has already become a reality) will be necessary in the Latin American region in order to ensure that financial literacy initiatives are linked directly to actual microfinance products that serve the needs of the poor. Continuing innovation in technology will be a great advantage to The LIFT Initiative, as it decreases costs and helps achieve scale.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

The LIFT Initiative is currently in its pilot phase, being implemented in ten municipalities of Colombia, with an estimated impact of 700 persons during a three month period. We have already negotiated with national government agencies in order to plan an expansion phase for the following year (whose goal is to reach 300,000 recipients of the Familias en Acción program). In addition, we have received expressed interest from financial institutions in other countries in the region, as well as from donor organizations implementing projects in other regions (specifically Africa). We are prudent about our growth and want to make sure that the pilot phase addresses all possible concerns and questions prior to growing both geographically and in scope.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

We believe that The LIFT Initiative can have great impact within Latin America and the Caribbean, and are already looking to adapt the tablet-based educational content and materials to the different cultures and languages of the region. In addition, we have recognized the importance of including targeted materials for youth, micro and small entrepreneurs, and participants of other government social programs. In five years, we project that The LIFT Initiative will be present in 15 countries in the Latin American region, with complementary activities in Africa and Southeast Asia. We also project that The LIFT Initiative will become an integral part of the activities of financial institutions working with the BoP in these geographic regions.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

We are already overcoming a number of barriers in implementing the pilot phase of this project, some of which include literacy obstacles, rural access challenges, and financial products currently in the market that do not meet the needs of the BoP. In addition, we are dependent on current public policies, specifically related to government social programs, who have come to value the importance of financial inclusion as an integral part of these programs, but who may decide to focus on other strategies for overcoming poverty. In order to ensure that the educational contents we have designed remain personalized and adapted to each region of implementation, we could face cultural and language gaps and boundaries, given that our expertise so far has been in the Latin American region.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

The LIFT Initiative has reached 700 persons during its pilot phase, and has an agreement with the government to scale up.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Successful completion of the pilot phase, with detailed qualitative and quantitative result analysis presented in a final report

Task 2

Presentation of final report to the Colombian government's social programs, as well as financial institutions and donors

Task 3

Signing of agreements for the expansion of The LIFT Initiative with the Colombian government and other partners

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

The LIFT Initiative has expanded to five other countries and has reached 5,000 low-income families and individuals

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Present the Colombian experience in other countries, create an expansion plan and identify potential partners

Task 2

Sign agreements with those partners (other countries, financial institutions, international donors, etc.) working with the BoP

Task 3

Implement an expanded LIFT Initiative in these countries in order to reach 5,000 BoP persons and evaluate implementation results

Sustainability
Tell us about your partnerships

Fundación Capital has excellent relationships with national and local governments throughout the Latin American region, and has already implemented financial education initiatives on a regional scale through its Proyecto Capital. We work hand in hand with financial institutions, and use government social programs such as CCTs, to target and reach low-income and rural populations. We've worked with experts such as Microfinance Opportunities, and have written agreements with financial institutions such as Banca de las Oportunidades and numerous government bodies both in Colombia and the region.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

Yes. Following the pilot phase of the project, in 2013 we are looking to broaden our activities within Colombia (reaching more women, targeting other government social programs, providing training for persons working on these projects, etc.). We are also planning to expand our geographic reach, responding to expressed interest in Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Mozambique. We are looking beyond basic financial education topics in order to include additional modules that focus on entrepreneurship, youth savings, and gender empowerement.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

The staff of Fundación Capital is a highly interdisciplinary and innovative group, that takes calculated risks in order to develop lasting and scalable solutions for achieving financial inclusion. Our diverse international team brings a wealth of cultural experiences and unique ideas, which are incorporated into our organization's methodology and solution-seeking approach. We work under the leadership and guidance of our visionary President, whose expansive international development experience has taught him, and therefore us, that even the smallest ideas can make a big difference. He encourages us to take risks and dream big, following the maxim that "The greatest mistake a man can ever make is to be afraid of making one (Elbert Hubbard)."

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We can offer our regional expertise and excellent relationships with various governments and national entities within the Latin America and the Caribbean region. We also offer mentorship and strategic advice to other organizations.