Credit and Savings for the Hardcore Poor or CASHPOR has currently 24 programs in 8 countries that are linked by their shared aim to replicate the Grameen Bank model. Together, they bring financial services to over 240,000 poor women. CASHPOR was formed in 1991 when the first seven Grameen Bank replicators (or GBRs), met formally to exchange experience, and since that time, has been an active leader of the replication movement in Asia. With financial support from the Asia Pacific Development Center and the Grameen Trust, it has spawned new GBRs in countries where the model had not been tried - Vietnam, Nepal and China - and helped existing country movements to expand in India, Philippines and Indonesia. For its members, CASHPOR conducts training, offers technical assistance and mobilizes resources. But it goes beyond this traditional network role: CASHPOR monitors its members� performance and is beginning to set standards that they are expected to uphold. In addition, its leader,Professor David Gibbons, is currently adding a new element to the network's portfolio*direct implementation in Uttar Pradesh in India.

From its headquarters in Seremban, Malaysia, CASHPOR operates with a lean staff of five: an Executive Trustee, a Training Manager, a new Audit Manager and two support staff. It is managed by a board of trustees comprising seven founding members and its patron, Professor Muhammed Yunus. Membership in CASHPOR is open to GBRs who commit themselves to a code of ethics which includes a promise to grow to reach substantial numbers of poor women. In addition, individual organizations pay annual dues of $200.

However, at this time CASHPOR favors membership by national GBR networks, rather than by new individual programs. Through these networks, Gibbons explained, individual GBRs can gain access to CASHPOR benefits. He envisions that they will progressively take over CASHPOR's capacity building role vis a vis their members. While this new policy and the vision have stimulated the organization of several new national GBR networks in the past year, a lack of leadership, over dependence on the volunteerism of busy members and meager resources are limiting their ability to fulfill this mandate.

CASHPOR, nevertheless, has been actively engaged in training its members. It now has two workshop series: A basic GBR skills series of six 5-day workshops cover the Grameen model from field operations through management; the intermediate series targets more advanced programs with workshops on "repayment crises and strategies for rehabilitation" and "Institutional financial analysis and organizational financial self-sufficiency". To date, the basic series has been completed three times in three different regions. The intermediate series is more recent and aims to help members chart a course to self-sufficiency.

To move the GBRs to greater scale and sustainability, CGAP has recently approved a $470,000 program, co-funded with CASHPOR members, that will enable the network to instil financial rigor and good organizational practices in a large number of peer institutions. Because CASHPOR itself will have to acquire the requisite skills in financial analysis to carry out this program, it is billed as an experiment to upgrade the standards of Asian MFIs through building the service capacity of their network. The program will enable CASHPOR to develop new manuals from the intermediate workshop series described above and translate existing materials into national languages. But perhaps most interesting is the surprise audits that each member will receive annually, to validate monitoring information, and to ensure that financial management skills taught in the workshops are actually put into practice. The audit visits will include preventative technical assistance to spot potentially problematic deviations from the essential Grameen and work with staff to return to Grameen fundamentals or develop effective adaptations. This kind of intervention is not new for CASHPOR. The network has sent a technical consultant to ASHI and TSPI, both members in the Philippines, to raise a red flag regarding repayment. Over several months, the consultant worked with each organization to soak the staff in Grameen Bank methodology, retrain borrowers and help it to make necessary adjustments in staffing and personnel policies*elements of a rehabilitation plan that succeeded in raising repayment back to the 98% rate expected of GBRs. Beyond crisis management, CASHPOR takes a proactive role in monitoring the performance of its members and defining the standards they should strive for (one efficiency standard discussed in the CASHPOR newsletter is a cost per dollar outstanding of less than 20 cents). It collects and publishes quarterly statistics on each program, charting portfolio growth and quality. The Board has endorsed requiring high standards of each member and acknowledges that its monitoring and audits may identify members who are not serious about scale and sustainability. Agreeing that the quality of the network is most important, Dr Yunus commented, "But, you do it the same way we do it with the staff. You give help and encouragement, then warnings and if still there is no improvement, you fire them".

Despite such a proactive role Professor Gibbons is not satisfied with the indirect nature of CASHPOR's institutional support to its members and is eager to get back to direct implementation.He, and CASHPOR, are embarking on a new GBR in Uttar Pradesh, India, with support from the Grameen Trust. Gibbons� goal is to demonstrate that a "properly managed project can open six branches, reach 20,000 poor women and achieve financial sufficiency with four years".". This model deviates from the traditional GBR expansion path of adding one new branch at a time, and will also include new savings windows open to non-borrowers. Gibbons will manage this experiment himself, spending 3-6 months a year in India until he can train a local implementing partner to take over. CASHPOR, through Cashpor Financial and Technical Services is looking for investors in this venture with the blessing of Dr. Yunus whose words of encouragement were, "Get equity from social entrepreneurs and make the project run. When it is working, give the equity back. Then found another company and do it again".

For more information readers can contact CASHPOR at 6 Lrg Permata 4/1, Tmn Permata (Lobak) 70200, Serernban, N. S. Malaysia. Fax: (606)7642307; Tel.(606) 7645116; email: Error! Bookmark not defined. [Extracted from NEXUS, March, 1997].