From Paraguay to the World, Flying IMAGO
Luis Fernando Sanabria, General Manager, Fundación Paraguaya
The largest program of Fundación Paraguaya, based in Paraguay (Parawhere?), is a microfinance program. However, it is not microfinance to promote financial inclusion, but rather microfinance to overcome poverty. Our ultimate goal is that our clients overcome multidimensional poverty.
To involve our clients in achieving this goal and to be able to measure our impact, we developed the Poverty Stoplight. This is a tool that allows families to conduct a self-assessment in 50 poverty indicators each defined by three levels (red, yellow and green) which measure their quality of life on different dimensions, using an application with drawings. On this basis, each of our client families can develop their “Family Plan for Exiting Poverty”. At the same time, using aggregated information from clients, Fundacion Paraguaya generates partnerships with public and private services to provide solutions to the different indicators.
After developing the Poverty Stoplight with our microfinance clients, we soon realized that the tool would transcend the field of microfinance: our own employees asked to use the tool to improve their indicators and their lives! This was a first important sign to show us that the Poverty Stoplight could be an opportunity for growth and improvement for anyone. Next, we received requests from other private companies, civil society organizations, and local governments to use the Poverty Stoplight in their programs (which had nothing to do with microfinance).
Our local aspiration became global when we started to have organizations from other countries ask to use the Poverty Stoplight in their own programs. Our opportunities grew, but also our challenges: How do we finance growth? What was the product we could offer? Our business model? How do we make ourselves known from an often overlooked country like Paraguay? Was it the right time to go to scale?
We met Imago in April 2016 and immediately realized that they could help us find the answers we were looking for. With Isabel Guerrero and Michael Walton we defined that our vision is "A world without poverty where we all want to live.'' This was the starting point to also define our mission, our values, and our strategic objectives. Equally important, the partnership with IMAGO allowed us to deeply analyze our existing institutional capacities and the ones we needed to develop to successfully scale up the Poverty Stoplight.
It was particularly important to clearly define our minimum viable product. This allowed us to define what exactly we were offering the world. Furthermore, we developed a business model with two modalities: a social franchise of the Poverty Stoplight creating an international community of practice of NGOs, governments, and private companies, and an alternative for the direct implementation of Fundación Paraguaya. Our work with IMAGO has been very participatory, involving not only the management of Fundación Paraguay, but also the entire staff. By March 2017, we were ready to implement our scale plan and we were clear on the way forward.
Our relationship with IMAGO has not been limited to planning. Their role has been particularly important in the implementation of the strategy, accompanying us with advice, analysis of situations and opportunities, giving us access to valuable contacts, training and guiding our staff through formal training opportunities as well as regular consultation calls. IMAGO has also helped us give global visibility to our program and especially has expanded our horizons by providing a global and systemic vision of the world, which is a fundamental component to reach scale.
At the time of rolling out the scaling up plan we developed with Imago, the Poverty Stoplight was being used by some 110 organizations, most of which were in Paraguay. We are currently closing the year with more than 300 companies private and social organizations that use the tool in 26 countries, with more than 120,000 participating families. In addition, the Government of Ecuador is implementing the Poverty Stoplight with agricultural producers.
Our path to the goal of reaching one million families with the Poverty Stoplight would have been very difficult without Imago's support. Their work methodology has been key to our growth and its founders’s friendship and leadership have inspired to give the best of us to the world.