September 11, 2017
Honiara, Solomon Islands – A two-day ideation workshop is being held in Honiara, Solomon Islands this week to help shape and develop linkages between savings groups to formal financial services through digital channels.
Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas. It is at the core of innovation that PFIP has been pursuing through its workstream and setting up of Innovation Labs that are aimed at encouraging the adoption and usage of mass market financial services by rural and low-income households in the Pacific. Through hands-on design activities, the workshop aims to engage the participants to collaborate to imagine appropriate services by following a human-centered design process.
In the Solomon Islands, remote rural households, especially women (80%) form savings groups where there are limited to no financial services available. Savings groups offer a convenient place for saving, withdrawals, small loans besides opportunities to improve financial literacy, peer support for small business owners, and building social capital and cohesion within the communities.
Despite the popularity and proliferation of savings groups in rural and peri-urban Solomon Islands, members often face issues that cannot be met by traditional savings groups models alone. Savings group members have limited access to a broader range of financial services. PFIP is exploring opportunities for linkages through digital channels to appropriate and affordable formal financial services.
30 participants from Saving club’s promoters – World Vision, Live & Learn, Ministry of Women, GELCA, WARA and commercial banks, financial institutions like ANZ, BSP, POB, SPBD and SINPF will be participating in the two-day activities.
In opening the workshop, Dr Jasmine Cernovs, Counsellor Economics, Australian High Commission noted the Australian Government, through its support to the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP), is happy to see the progress of financial inclusion in the country targeting rural Solomon Islanders, especially women.
“We are aware that initial work including a study of the savings groups in the country followed by a grant project with World vision Solomon Islands covering remote communities in South Malaita reaching nearly 2000 people has been successfully implemented by PFIP. We support the extension of this work in assessing the feasibility of appropriate linkages with the private sector that will widen access to and usage of formal financial services like banking, micro-savings, micro-credit, pensions by those in the informal sector. These are steps in the right direction to include more Solomon Islanders into the real economy and improve household and community resilience and well-being,” she said.
Acting PFIP Manager Krishnan Narasimhan said the sustainability and impact of the saving group model can be significantly enhanced by migrating the members to a digital financial service platform.
“Savings group members require a compelling customer experience to shift to formal channels and transact on a regular basis. Through the human centred design approach that we are employing in this project, we hope to find the right combination of products, pricing, delivery channels, and service design that addresses their needs for dealing with their financial needs and significantly improves their daily financial lives,” he said.
Mr Narasimhan added that PFIP through the help of international experts on Human Centred design were working on a structured approach to identifying, testing and validating products and service concepts that improve the customer experience, and at the same time, leverage their existing social capital that comes out of the members being part of a saving group. In all these initiatives that adopt the classic new approach “Innovation Labs” a highly intense customer-centric approach is used with a hypotheses that mass market clients will adopt and use financial products that are properly designed, delivered in the most convenient manner and those that increase use case and usability of financial services.
Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, Gane Simbe, in his key note address said CBSI was pleased to support the work that PFIP has been doing in progressing financial inclusion in the country and importantly the projects with Savings clubs that are so unique and necessary from the Solomon Islands context.
“We recognize the earlier work that PFIP had done in developing the Savings club manual with best practices following extensive field studies and thereafter their support to institutions like World Vision, Live & Learn, Mother’s Union, Ministry of Women and others in promoting savings clubs in the remote rural communities of the country, primarily targeting women. Now, as next steps, exploring linkage of savings clubs with formal financial services is indeed a good step forward and is in line with the National Financial Inclusion Strategies that CBSI is implementing.”
He acknowledged the support of the Australian Government in this initiative as well as their broader support to financial inclusion in the country.
Participants of the workshop will play an integral role in helping PFIP understand and define potential service concepts that are possible in the Solomon Islands.
Following the workshop, PFIP will identify opportunities and move to the prototyping and testing phase to validate the solution that will hopefully lead to the digitisation of saving groups.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped over 1.6 million low-income Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supporting policy and regulatory initiatives, and empowering consumers.
PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands. It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.
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