Home > Grameen, Haiti, microfinance, social entrepreneurship, Uncategorized > Re-discovering Fonkoze — An Organization on the Move … And, Emerging Themes

Re-discovering Fonkoze — An Organization on the Move … And, Emerging Themes

I am not new to Fonkoze, but even so, during my first 26 hours in the country I learned a lot.  Part of this is because it is impossible to understand everything about a complex institution, and also because things are always in flux at this most entrepreneurial of organizations. 

Emily, Morgan and I began with an hour-long interview with Carine Roenen, a Belgian physician and former country director of the Irish NGO Concern (an important partner and funder of Fonkoze), who became the head of Fonkoze (the Haitian foundation whose name is a shortened form of the Creole for “Shoulder to Shoulder Foundation”) in 2009.  We learned about her life journey and how it led her to Fonkoze, which included a six year stint running a health clinic in Rwanda, and later marrying a Haitian doctor.  From her we learned the difference between a CLM (also known as the “ultra poor program”) and Ti Kredi client (the latter has a bit of a “light in her eyes” that the former lacks), the effort to revamp the solidarity lending program through incorporating more of the Grameen II methodology (the big barrier is the loan tracking software), and the initiatives by senior Haitian staff to finalize various manuals (especially related to financial management) and “clean up” dormant savings accounts (mostly from people who left the program and even left the country with small balances). 

We then had dinner with James Kurz, the 25 year old “wunderkind” (my term) of the Fonkoze network.  He has been playing various roles related to financial analysis and modeling, project management and writing for all members of the “Fonkoze family” (Fonkoze, Fonkoze Financial Services, and Fonkoze USA) since he started as an intern about two years ago.  From him, the most interesting thing we learned was that 2009 was something of a positive turning point for Fonkoze (and in some ways for Haiti as a nation also).  While the earthquake was devastating, the huge amounts of aid money that came and were well used (almost all of it in the case of Fonkoze) helped build on some of the positive trends in 2009 in addition to providing immediate relief from the disaster.  This is a theme – how 2009 helped lay the groundwork for 2010/2011 good years for the organization and country despite the horrors of the earthquake – that I think I’ll return to in the blog and the book itself.  But I need to learn much more in order to say something truly useful about this.  I’ll invite blog readers to comment on this as a way to help improve my thinking.

Tuesday morning we headed southwest to the Fonkoze branch of Okay.  We learned from the very earnest manager, Robens Fleazinor, that during his nearly ten years with the organization his greatest accomplishment was reducing overdue loans at this branch from 68% to 4% in less than two years.  The son of a farmer whose side businesses helped him put Robens through 14 years of schooling, the rest of his family which includes four siblings depend on him for financial support, since he is the only one with a stable job.  Among his accomplishments in the aftermath of the earthquake was re-opening his branch within 72 hours of the disaster, and sending his staff to the various villages they serve to squelch the rumor that Fonkoze as an organization had collapsed entirely.  Far from it – in Okay like in the rest of the country, Fonkoze was open for business sooner than most if not all of the banks! 

As I search for a few over-arching themes for my book, one is certainly the response to the earthquake.  Another is the reality that Fonkoze is one of those rare organizations workign in international development where the expatriates (foreigners) like James and Carine operate as peers (rather than as bosses/superiors or as mere “technical advisors” to experienced local staff such as Robens and the Haitian women who make up the majority of the senior management team here).  More about those two concepts, and other emerging themes, in future posts.  My next post will include one or more short videos and focus on the educational programs of Fonkoze, which we visited on Tuesday.

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  1. June 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Wonderful to hear on-the-ground details of dediated people doing important and valuable work. While the themes are important, the details make those come alive in such compelling ways. I look forward to learning more!
    As an organization consultant, I’ve seen the impact of crises on performance. Those teams that are already strong get stronger while the weaker teams and programs splinter when pressured. It says so much about Fonkoze that the response to the earthquake was so fast and powerful.

  2. Martin
    June 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Fonkoze’s ability to make a quick come back demonstrates the essence of brand management. If a brand is a promise made and kept, Fonkoze understood the importance of reaching out to its needy clients within the hour of need. Another thing I like about your findings is the ‘staff’ experiences and the passion and commitment they have to their work; their work appears to be more of a ‘calling’ than a mere job.

  3. June 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Nice to read you this morning! I am interested also to know about Haitian Diaspora influence in the history of Fonkoze. I can wait to read about Father Joseph and Anne vision for Fonkoze for the next 15 years…. Keep up the good work.

  1. June 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm
  2. July 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm

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