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Women's World Banking

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GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.

The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that we wouldn't be prioritizing the organization in question as a potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charity. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.

A note on this page's publication date

The last time we examined Women's World Banking was in 2010. In our latest open-ended review of charities, we determined that it was unlikely to meet our criteria based on our past examination of it, so we did not revisit it.

We invite all charities that feel they meet our criteria to apply for consideration.

The content we created in 2010 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about Women's World Banking and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions. With that said, we do feel that the takeaways from this examination are sufficient not to prioritize re-opening our investigation of this organization at this time.


Published: 2010

Summary

Women's World Banking (WWB) focuses on microfinance. Specifically, WWB provides technical assistance to microfinance institutions (i.e., microfinance banks which provide loans and savings) in the developing world.1

We have currently de-prioritized the area of microfinance. We do not currently consider organizations in this category as potential top charities, unless we have a specific reason to consider them outstanding and unusual, for reasons outlined at our writeup on microfinance.

We have investigated Women's World Banking in the past. Output from these investigations follows for those readers who are interested in it. It should not be taken as representative of our current views.

Past investigations of Women's World Banking

We have investigated Women's World Banking three times. WWB applied for a grant in late 2009, we reviewed WWB's website in mid-2009, and WWB applied for a grant in late 2007. Details on each follow below.

2009 grant application

We reviewed WWB in late 2009 as part of our process to distribute $250,000 in funds to an economic empowerment organization in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Our review consisted of reviewing materials WWB submitted in response to questions we provided and a phone conversation with a staff member.2

WWB did not submit information that allowed us to answer the questions above.

Sources

WWB requested that we keep all materials submitted as well as the documents' titles confidential.

2009 website review

In mid-2009, we reviewed the Women's World Banking's website as part of a process to identify top international aid organizations. (How did we identify charities for review?) We reviewed Women's World Banking's website to determine whether it met either of the following two criteria, which we believe indicate whether a charity is likely to eventually be able to meet our full criteria for a recommendation: (Why do we rely on information found on a charity's website?)

  • Does the charity publish high-quality monitoring and evaluation reports on its website? A charity meets this criterion if it freely publishes - on its website - substantial evidence regarding impact that (a) discusses how the impacts of projects or programs were evaluated, including what information was collected and how it was collected; (b) discusses the actual impact of the evaluated projects. (Why is monitoring and evaluation so important?) We seek enough evidence to be confident that a charity changed lives for the better - not simply that it carried out its activities as intended. Different programs aim for different sorts of life change, and must be assessed on different terms. We do not hold to a single universal rule for determining what "impact" we're looking for; rather, what we look for varies by program type. (For more, see, What constitutes impact?)
  • Does the charity stand out for program selection? A charity meets this criterion if it focuses primarily on (or publishes enough financial information to make it clear that 75% of its recent funding is devoted to) what we consider "priority programs." These programs have particularly strong evidence bases, enough to lower the burden of proof on a charity running them. (Why do we look for charities implementing proven programs?) Such programs include administering vaccinations, distributing insecticide-treated nets, and treating tuberculosis, among many others. (For more, see our full list of priority programs.)

Women's World Banking did not meet either of these criteria.

2007 grant application

In mid-2009, we reviewed the Women's World Banking's website as part of a process to identify top international aid organizations. (How did we identify charities for review?) We reviewed Women's World Banking's website to determine whether it met either of the following two criteria, which we believe indicate whether a charity is likely to eventually be able to meet our full criteria for a recommendation: (Why do we rely on information found on a charity's website?)

  • Does the charity publish high-quality monitoring and evaluation reports on its website? A charity meets this criterion if it freely publishes - on its website - substantial evidence regarding impact that (a) discusses how the impacts of projects or programs were evaluated, including what information was collected and how it was collected; (b) discusses the actual impact of the evaluated projects. (Why is monitoring and evaluation so important?) We seek enough evidence to be confident that a charity changed lives for the better - not simply that it carried out its activities as intended. Different programs aim for different sorts of life change, and must be assessed on different terms. We do not hold to a single universal rule for determining what "impact" we're looking for; rather, what we look for varies by program type. (For more, see, What constitutes impact?)
  • Does the charity stand out for program selection? A charity meets this criterion if it focuses primarily on (or publishes enough financial information to make it clear that 75% of its recent funding is devoted to) what we consider "priority programs." These programs have particularly strong evidence bases, enough to lower the burden of proof on a charity running them. (Why do we look for charities implementing proven programs?) Such programs include administering vaccinations, distributing insecticide-treated nets, and treating tuberculosis, among many others. (For more, see our full list of priority programs.)

Women's World Banking did not meet either of these criteria.



As part of that application process, Women's World Banking submitted the following documents:

  • 1.

    "The WWB network is supported by a global team that works closely with our member institutions to develop innovative business strategies, strengthen their organizations, and create products that best meet the needs of the poor in the communities they serve. Based in New York City, WWB's global team consists of 40 microfinance professionals who deliver expertise in serving the women's market through product design and distribution, access to capital markets, organizational effectiveness, and peer-to-peer learning." WWB organization website. See http://www.swwb.org/about, accessed 1/12/10.

  • 2.

    Phone conversation with Stephanie Waxman, WWB Associate, Global Resources & Communications, 9/28/09.

Response from Women's World Banking

About Women’s World Banking

Women's World Banking (WWB) is the only microfinance network with an explicit focus on women. Our global network is comprised of 39 leading microfinance institutions from 27 countries, serving more than 21 million women and girls. Network members are diverse in geography, size and structure but united in the firm belief that microfinance must remain committed to women as clients, innovators, and leaders. WWB designs and tailors, together with its network members, financial products that match the needs of their female clientele. Women not only have access to financial services but also gain control over their assets. By replicating and scaling these innovative approaches, WWB will prove that investing in women can be profitable and at the same time generate positive social benefits in form of a strong multiplier effect on the well-being of their households and communities. For more information on WWB, visit www.swwb.org.

Why focus on women?

Evidence has shown that providing women access to financial services results in greater development benefits for poor families, as a woman tends to invest her resources in family priorities such as the education of her children, healthcare for her family, and improvement in the quality of her housing. Women need more than loans – they need access to a safe and secure place to save, insurance products, and pensions. WWB works with our network members to create products that women will use and that will allow them to build a secure financial future for themselves and their families.

Building Increased Transparency in Microfinance

In January 2012, WWB co-authored as part of the CEO Microfinance Working Group “Roadmap for the Microfinance Industry: Focusing on Responsible and Client-Centered Microfinance.” There are three key initiatives that comprise the Road Map: the Smart Campaign, MicroFinance Transparency, and the Social Performance Task Force. Each of these initiatives is designed to improve the quality of services, better meet client needs, and achieve social outcomes and impact. WWB works closely with its network members to maintain a client-focus in developing products and services.

Additional Resources:

Center for Microfinance Leadership

2011 Audited Financials