By Indigo Elliott Phibbs, BIDUK MEL and Communication Specialist
Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) has become a well-accepted standard in any impact-focused industry. It is the method used to track and benchmark your progress towards increased impacts and, importantly, offers opportunities to learn and iteratively adapt your program for its improvement. But there is no one-size-fits-all for your MEL methodology. Different models require different approaches.
BIDUK is a financial lender focused on small and growing businesses in Indonesia to narrow the access to finance gap. BIDUK offers loans sized between USD$10k-100k with a tenor of up to 12 months. BIDUK’s financial products are built with flexibility and aim to remove gender bias from the lending process. BIDUK works closely with clients on gender outcomes. Given the relatively short tenor of the loans, the expectation is not that businesses will rapidly change their HR practices or staff composition for better equality. However, BIDUK strives to initiate a process of reflection on the importance of greater equality with businesses by convening gender discussions during the due diligence process and throughout the loan cycle.
Following the completion of the loan cycle, BIDUK has found exit interviews to be a useful MEL tool in evaluating client experience and uncovering new learning. Exit interviews are hour-long informal discussions held with a client that aim to gather feedback on due diligence, loan disbursement and loan repayment. The interview is also an opportunity to collect data for BIDUK’s gender metrics and inquire about the client’s reflections on the gender discussions that BIDUK has facilitated. Learnings are then discussed with the wider team to consider where feedback should be integrated into BIDUK’s model and processes.
THREE TIPS ON RUNNING AN EXIT INTERVIEW:
- Be prepared: The process will be most informative if you are well prepared. As part of our preparation, the BIDUK MEL team has created a learning matrix of interest areas for the exit interviews. Ahead of each exit interview, due diligence calls and communications with the client are reviewed and any information relevant to the interest areas is inputted into the matrix. The notes in the matrix are then used to adapt the interview questions and are used for reference during the interview. For example, if a client has difficulty providing a specific document during due diligence or has given very positive feedback on a component of the loan disbursement, that should be followed up in the interview.
- Be informal: The environment created during the interview will affect the candidness of the client’s responses. BIDUK only includes necessary staff and avoids including staff that have engaged with the client throughout the loan cycle. We also clearly explain the purpose of the interview and uses of the interview outputs. The BIDUK MEL team keeps the interview feeling relaxed and light.
- Be open: It’s common to enter an interview with a few pre-conceptions on responses, especially when the interview questions have been heavily researched. However, this is not conducive to revealing new or unforeseen lessons. The BIDUK MEL team intentionally leaves questions open, not prompting the client with examples and leaving adequate space for the client to reflect and respond. This is how we’ve gathered some of our most valuable feedback!
INSIGHTS FROM ONE OF BIDUK’S CLIENTS
Part of BIDUK’s underlying hypothesis is that by offering the right tailored financial products and services to SGBs, it will help them grow into healthy and sustainable businesses. To facilitate this growth, BIDUK will sometimes lend subsequent loans to existing clients. One such client received a 4-month loan from BIDUK followed by a second 6-month loan. This enabled the MEL team multiple opportunities to reflect on feedback with the client during exit interviews.
The BIDUK MEL team observed that increased trust had been built with the client over the two loan cycles. During the first exit interview, the client commented they had been trusting of BIDUK as they had been referred through a mutual contact. However, during the second exit interview, they had direct experiences with BIDUK that had further built that trust. As their second loan was a purchase order loan, they knew from their prior experiences that they could rely on BIDUK for fast capital disbursement once the loan was approved and this had been instrumental in fulfilling their order on time.
The BIDUK MEL team also observed gender to be an increasing priority for the client. During the first exit interview, the client gave feedback that the gender conversations had been valuable and the informal approach to discussing the value of gender-balanced teams and women in leadership positions had been informative. The client shared that they were hoping to add a woman staff member to their C-Suite positions. By the second exit interview, their strategy around gender had developed further. The client was seeking opportunities for current women staff (for example, two women staff members had been chosen to lead a campaign for the business) and they had identified that they are planning to create a Chief of Marketing and Sales position, aiming for this role to be filled by a woman. While BIDUK’s influence alone cannot take credit for these changes, it is heartening to see our clients reflecting on gender and engaging with efforts to progress towards gender-transformative practices.
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BIDUK has found exit interviews to be a crucial tool for monitoring and learning from client experience and the effectiveness of our model. We encourage all our peers working with small and growing businesses (SGBs) to ensure you create adequate space to hear back from these clients. This will not only help your organisation to better serve the SGB segment but may enable us to expedite our progress towards our common agenda of using sustainable SGBs to build economic development in the region.