Fonkoze’s Double Bottom Line in Haiti

Fonkoze’s Double Bottom Line in Haiti

From the rubble of devastation comes new protection for microfinance clients

Natalie Domond refers to the importance of working towards a double bottom line in business with Haiti’s largest microfinance organization, Fonkoze. There’s the financial line and the line drawn based on social impact — something she saw clearly in the rubble of the country in early 2010.

She’s the deputy director of Fonkoze USA , the non-profit organization with a mission to raise funds and awareness on behalf of Fonkoze, which for 16 years has been helping women build better lives for their families through small loans and financial services.

About 57,000 women are connected to the organization as clients and despite a lack of infrastructure, crushing poverty, instable political institutions and the aftermath of horrific natural disasters, the program works and is working well.

The importance of being aware of client need and prepared to respond to it became vividly clear for Natalie while she was working in a new role on the ground in Haiti as the head of the social performance department, established in 2005 to assess social accountability based on client and staff feedback.

“Four months after I started, the earthquake hit,” she recalls, referring to the catastrophic disaster that devastated the country in January, 2010.

“We had just finished the evaluation of our last disaster recovery program . . . and it had become very clear to us that natural disasters and the risk of them posed a major, major threat.”

The hard work of so many Haitians can be wiped away in the fierce winds of a hurricane or the cracking of the Earth, and the setbacks are often too much to recover from.

When the quake hit, Natalie says as horrible as it was, the opportunity to pilot a new, permanent natural disaster insurance product arose because the idea was fresh and a huge influx of donor capital was pouring into the country.

“A purely profit-driven institution would not do that,” she says, but within the Fonkoze team “there was this overwhelming sense of purpose — we knew we could not abandon our clients in their time of need.”

She says they also recognized that millions of dollars in donor capital can’t be relied upon every time a disaster affects a client, so a sustainable insurance option was hastily but effectively created, and today the product is available to all Fonkoze clients.

It was launched on the 1st anniversary of the quake.

She says that entire experience, which was borne of such devastation, illustrated what it means to be committed to a double bottom line to help low-income communities equip themselves with the necessary tools to make progress and know hope.

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Kristian Partington

Kristian says he's been a storyteller all his life, and from an early age he thrived in the creative process of putting pen to paper. With Axiom News, he says he finds as much power in the conversations he has with sources for stories as he finds in the stories themselves.

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