Back Consultant - SILC Approach Assessment and Lesson Learned Documentation

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Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we collaborate to put bold solutions into action - helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within now and for the future.

Mercy Corps has worked across Iraq’s 18 governorates since 2003, implementing relief and development programming. Mercy Corps Iraq’s current goal is to work with new and existing civil society, and public and private sector partners to meet immediate and long-term needs by strengthening communities’ ability to rebuild amidst increasing crises. Mercy Corps Iraq focuses on (1) a relief-to-resilience pathway to meet the needs of conflict-affected communities leveraging agency expertise in conflict management and civil society development (2) a humanitarian response that empowers conflict-affected populations to meet their own needs (3) partnering with conflict-affected adolescents to address their diverse needs, promoting leadership and linkages with civil society, as well as access to education, psychosocial support, and economic opportunities; and (4) promoting reconciliation and foster trust across community divisions by strengthening conflict management and prevention mechanisms and enhancing social cohesion.


To conduct SILC intervention assessment, lessons learned documentation, and recommend key considerations for improvement and scale-up.

Project Description:

Mercy Corps Iraq has been implementing Promoting Economic Revival for Microbusinesses and Agriculture (PERMA) program funded by the Agence Francaise Developpement (AFD) that aims to improve the business environment, and improve access to financial services as well as reactivate the agriculture value chains in Hamdaniya in Ninewa governorate. The agricultural sector in Ninewa has been disorganized by the conflict: public infrastructures such as irrigated perimeters, slaughterhouses, markets, etc. have been either damaged and/or plundered, as were private equipment and assets (orchards, poultry houses, feed production units, etc.). Although rehabilitation and recovery costs may be modest, access to financial resources is a challenge both for the government, due to a comparatively low priority on agriculture in reconstruction efforts, and for farmers, whose capital has been depleted. The same can be said for all micro and small enterprises that are part of the economic fabric of rural areas and therefore contribute to the overall rural development of the governorate.

Facilitating access to finance for agricultural and other MSMEs in rural areas and smaller urban areas of Ninewa Governorate is one of the objectives of the PERMA program. To contribute to this objective of increasing access to finance, PERMA has been implementing a number of interventions to contribute to addressing the key constraints such as lack of trust in formal financial services and providers, cultural and social beliefs, lack of information, limited financial capability and dependency on subsidies and grant assistance, limited options and high requirements for the guarantee in accessing loans, limited institutional capacity, the weak value proposition for customers, limited understanding of market opportunities, lack of capital with the supply side. In this context, PERMA has been facilitating the implementation of Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) a community-based approach so that people will have an alternative financing mechanism for small-scale savings and lending within their groups, addressing their basic financing needs and adapting good financial behaviours.

Contextual overview of financial services in Ninewa: The financial sector in Iraq, in general, is poorly developed and the situation in Ninewa has been further aggravated by the conflict and security situation. The banking services are limited to city centres and people still do not find the banks as the trusted sources for financial services. MFIs in Iraq established with donor-supported programs to serve low-income people are still in an NGO status and lack loan funds. The MFIs are allowed to do lending services only which limits them to mobilize savings/deposits for lending to their customers. Group lending methodology and outreach models do not exist limiting the access to loans only to the people capable of furnishing enough guarantee. Organised informal mechanisms for financial services are almost absent and people depend on family, friends, and relatives for loans.

The PERMA programme has been implementing the SILC approach of informal savings and credit in the PERMA programme area in Hamdaniya and Bashiqa since July 2021. SILC approach is an informal financial inclusion methodology where members pool together savings and lend among themselves to start their income-generating activities or basic or emergency financing needs. The members can also establish a social fund where they can contribute to funds for their own social needs e.g. medical, marriage, burials etc.

SILC Groups help members to meet more immediate short-term consumption, investment, and emergency needs by providing the opportunity to save frequently in small amounts and to access credit on flexible terms and are increasingly being promoted in combination with other interventions such as health, education, market development, gender equality, and access to formal financial services to provide previously excluded and underserved populations with impactful financial services.

The programme SILC model is being implemented using customized SILC guidelines and tools. Training of Trainers was organized to develop community-based facilitators, in turn, the facilitators are being used to roll out the SILC approach in the communities under the monitoring and supervision support of the PERMA team members.

Consultant Objectives:

Assess the PERMA SILC approach of informal financing mechanism against the intervention objectives of increasing access, impact, sustainability and scalability Access: Enabling economically active people in the PERMA programme areas to develop their reliable financial services Impact: Ability of the members to work in groups, access and use loans to address the social and economic needs Sustainability and scalability: The ability and willingness of the SILC groups to continue after PERMA support and the potential of the community to replicate the approach Identify and document key successes, challenges, risks and lessons learned. Assess the alignment of the SILC approach and strategy to the social and cultural context of the community. Evaluate the inclusiveness of the current SILC approach (in terms of gender as well as other relevant subgroups) and outline strategies for further ensuring marginalised community members are meaningfully engaged in SILC group operation and benefits. Make recommendations for further improvements in the design of the SILC approach adaptation considering the local context and alignment with Shariya practices to ensure a successful and sustainable scale-up in the next phase of the PERMA. Identify other potential interventions, actors, and mechanisms to establish linkage with the SILC groups and strengthen SILC groups’ capacities to ensure the SILC group operation is sustainable and scalable.

Consultant Activities:

The Consultant will:

Assessment of SILC Approach Intervention Strategy and SILC Training and Implementation Guide Study of the secondary information related to organized informal financing mechanism development in Iraq in general including constraints and opportunities. Study of the project documents including the PERMA SILC strategy, training, and implementation guide. Review of the tools and materials supported. Review the community-based facilitation approach. Review the progress reports of SILC Group transactions. Observation and discussion with representative SILC Group Meetings processes they follow while doing financial transactions. Review savings and credit processes, decision-making process, and the roles and responsibilities of the post holders and members in representative SILC Groups. Review the sources of income and expenditures of the SILC Groups. Conduct KII/FGD with SILC members including post holders, members, the borrowers, community leaders and SILC facilitators. Conduct interviews with PERMA staff. Document the findings of the above studies and the results of the pilot testing.

Document lessons learned Conduct lesson learned sessions jointly or separately with the SILC groups, facilitators, community and program representatives to capture the challenges, mitigation measures, what went well, what went wrong, and what needs to be improved. Identify and document the key constraints for the SILC Groups to adapt and continue SILC operations independently. Identify capacity gaps that need to be addressed through technical assistance in order to continue or expand the SILC mechanism. Identify the impact of SILC intervention on the PERMA participants and identify any improvements that need to be made. Draft a technical assistance plan for strengthening the capacity of the SILC Groups in consultation with the PERMA program team and the SILC Groups considering the limitations of the PERMA program and the SILC Groups.

Recommend for improvement Compile recommendations for improvement in the concepts, features, and processes of the SILC approach of informal financing mechanism to increase access to inclusive finance Develop a technical assistance plan for strengthening the capacity of the SILC Groups. Explore the opportunities to link the SILC Groups with other service providers and recommend potential options. Any other relevant recommendations for scale-up, impact, and sustainability.

Consultant Deliverables:

The Consultant will:

Draft a report of key findings, lessons learned, and recommendations, to be shared with PERMA staff, SILC Facilitators and SILC Groups for feedback and validation Results dissemination workshop to share findings and recommendations Final report of the study including review report, technical assistance plan for capacity building of SILC Groups, lessons learned, and actionable The final version should incorporate all Mercy Corps feedback provided on the draft. All data collection tools (interview questions, focus group discussion guides, etc.), as well as notes and raw data, are to be submitted with the final report.

Timeframe / Schedule:

Thirty workdays between June 2022 and August 2022. The desk study, designing tools, and report writing can be done remotely; however, the consultant is expected to travel and be on-site for meetings, interviews, and observation with SILC Groups, and other stakeholders. The consultant can continue working on weekends or holidays if assistance of a program or partner’s team is not required to carry out the planned activities.

Activities and Due dates (Work schedule and due dates will be agreed upon once the consultant is selected):

Inception Meeting Desk study of PERMA proposal, reports, SILC strategy, training, and implementation guide Discussion session with program team Design tools for SILC assessmentFGD/KII with SILC Members and Groups, SILC Facilitators, and program staff Documentation of review, lesson learned, and technical assistance plan Submission of draft consultancy report-Incorporate comments/inputs from the program team/TSU Conduct result dissemination workshop Finalise and submit the consultancy report

The Consultant will report to:

Financial Inclusion Manager/PERMA Programme

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