No one needs to live in a life of poverty, yet it’s one of the most pressing issues facing the Asia-Pacific region. At Good Return, our job is to empower people to grow their incomes and break the poverty cycle for good, by making sure they can access responsible financial services.
We want to actively contribute to the UN’s agenda of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, which might sound like a lofty goal but, given the achievements the world has made in recent times, is within the realms of possibility.
We’re a nonprofit social enterprise that started life 15 years ago as an Australian offshoot of the global not-for-profit organisation, World Education, with the endeavour to help financially and socially excluded people.
In 2010, we rebranded as Good Return upon realising just how much our job hinged on making sure people had financial resources, financial education and access to banking. Nobody is getting out of poverty without access to financial services.
Working in countries right throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Good Return is now empowering people to map their own way out of poverty, building their own financial capability to get them there. We’re working with people who are born into poverty, people who’ve never dealt with a bank before and people who live in areas where there’s no banking infrastructure – and more often than not we’re working with women because, as the world is being awoken to, poverty is sexist.
We ensure people can build pathways out of poverty, by ensuring that they have access to responsible microfinance, as well as financial education and business skills development. An integrated approach like this is crucial to long-term success. Good Return’s programs and initiatives are designed to get the right resources to people, to help them get out of poverty permanently.
Technology underpins everything we do. For starters, the Good Return microfinance loan platform is entirely digital. It connects individuals who want to lend money to poor entrepreneurs seeking credit to start or expand a small business, no matter how remote the area they’re based in – a reality not possible without technology.
Our financial literacy and financial capability programs are also delivered with technology: the training curriculums are worked through on iPads and supported by a local onsite trainer. Technology features, like audio prompts in local languages, help to provide an interactive, hands-on approach to learning.
Importantly, the success of these training programs are judged both by how many people complete them, AND by how well the learning sticks and is applied later. The latter is harder to measure, but crucial if we’re going to make an actual difference.
We’re also working on a new, interactive app for small business owners, which helps them track their finances, offers prompts when they need to check their budget and provides coaching support in starting their business, amongst other features.
One of Good Return’s proudest achievements is our ‘Let’s Talk Money’ campaign in Cambodia, where financial literacy is exceptionally low (18% nationally). Here, a generation grew up without parents, those who were wiped out by the Khmer Rouge in the second half of the 1970s. As we all tend to learn our financial habits first and foremost from our parents, there was a surprising additional impact on financial literacy in the country. These atrocities left a whole generation of people with no one to learn good financial habits from and therefore more open to money scams and a host of wider financial issues.
The Let’s Talk Money initiative was designed to encourage people to start talking about the way they use, manage and grow money, and to increase financial awareness. The campaign was started as a series of Public Service Announcement videos. Given the prevalence of Facebook in Cambodia, we used the social media channel to disseminate a series of videos that worked and got people talking about money.
What started as a PSA Facebook campaign grew into educational sessions delivered to schools, and we’re now working with the Ministry of Education in Cambodia to include financial literacy in the school syllabus – we’re designing textbooks with them!
Financial services and products can be confusing to navigate for anyone, but especially for people who’ve never accessed them before, living in poverty in rural communities. In this environment, trust has to be implicit. If our customers are to gain the financial confidence needed to map themselves and their family out of poverty, they need to be able to trust the banks and financial system. It’s absolutely essential.
Because of this, we work very closely with our fantastic microfinance institutions (MFIs) and banking partners on the ground to ensure high customer satisfaction and consumer awareness can come first, working towards the practices that are best for business and best for the community.
Just as Good Return’s donors and lenders in Australia need to trust in Good Return, the people they are supporting with their loans and donations across Asia-Pacific need to be able to trust their MFIs. Building this type of trust gets easier with technology – and building this type of trust is what will get us to our goal by 2030.
Join Anna Walsh at Salesforce World Tour 2018 to hear more about how Good Return and other financial institutions are unlocking their full power to serve as trusted partners in their customers’ financial life journeys.