At Accion, we know financial services are powerful tools to help reduce poverty and create opportunity. We work to create a fair and inclusive economy where underserved people have quality financial choices and opportunities. And in our recently published Impact Report, we dive into how we translate our vision into action — and impact.

We support innovative companies. We create responsible digital financial solutions. And we conduct rigorous research toward building a fair and inclusive economy for underserved people globally. Since our founding in 1961, we have helped build 235 financial institutions across 75 countries, and our work reached 106 million people last year, helping them secure a brighter future.

That’s only a snapshot of our impact. To understand exactly how our work is making a difference in people’s lives — and how to maximize our impact — we systematically gather feedback from our partners and their clients so we can quickly learn what is and isn’t working, and share and promote best practices across our global networks.

By doing so, we’re able to learn and respond quickly to insights as they arise, which is key to equipping the people we serve — who are largely small business owners, smallholder farmers, and women — with financial tools that answer their unique needs and enable them to make better financial decisions. We also advocate for progress across the field of inclusive finance to elevate responsible impact measurement and customer-oriented solutions everywhere.

To understand impact, listen to clients

For a clearer picture of our impact, we need to listen to clients. This means looking beyond their ability to access new financial solutions and learning more about how they are using new tools to improve their lives. For example, are they saving money for the future? Are they able to respond to unexpected emergencies? Are they investing in and growing their businesses?

We integrated these questions into our first four-year partnership with Mastercard, which drove the digital transformation of small businesses and their financial service providers around the world. Our impact research showed 5.6 million microentrepreneurs started using new digital financial products on a regular basis. Critically, rates of 30-day usage increased by roughly four times the initial rate, showing how clients are making good use of new digital financial tools. Three-quarters of digital product users are women, and nearly 80 percent of users reported improved financial health thanks to digital solutions. This means being able to pay bills on time, having access to funds when they need them, and strengthening their finances against economic shocks.

To further center client voices, we became a founding partner of a new index, released last year, which shows the impact of inclusive financial services on customers around the world. Created by the firm 60 Decibels, the index includes data from more than 18,000 customers from 72 microfinance institutions globally, many of them Accion partners.

Promoting transparency and standards across the industry

According to a recent report by the Global Impact Investing Network, 94 percent of surveyed impact investors assess their impact at least once per year, and 76 percent are aligning their impact priorities with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But only 15 percent of impact investors can compare their impact results to peers, and 76 percent consider this a major challenge.

In short, we need better, more transparent, more universal standards. And as more companies orient toward impact, they must back up their claims with evidence and align their impact reporting with common practices and metrics.

To promote progress across the field, Accion recently signed up to the Operating Principles for Impact Management, joining a global community of impact investors who commit to bringing greater transparency, credibility, and discipline to the impact investing market.

We are also harmonizing our impact measurement practices and priorities with those of our partners. This helps ensure that our diverse network of partners around the world are doing their best to periodically evaluate the quality and effectiveness of their solutions for their clients and their communities.

You can read more about Accion’s impact framework, our legacy of impact, and our ongoing commitment to creating locally led, systemic change in our just-released 2022 Impact Report.

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