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Thoughts on MIX Relaunch

Published on February 17, 2010

by Michael Tucci

At the end of last year, the MIX (Microfinance Information Exchange) relaunched their website with the help of the MasterCard Foundation (click here for their official press release). For those familiar with the MIX, you’ll know that they have implemented some major changes in the last few months culminating in this relaunch. All in all, I’m very impressed with the new look and more importantly, the increased functionality of the website.

The data from the MIX has been an invaluable resource for us here at MicroFinance Transparency. Before tackling in-country operations, background research is essential, and the MIX market offers a great platform from which to gain a broad swath of information about MFIs and other microfinance stakeholders. I tend to use the MIX mainly for gathering information on MFIs, so with this in mind I’ll offer a brief review of some of my favorite features:

  • When you first click on the “Microfinance Institutions” tab, you are directed to this nifty map. It’s a great user-friendly way to graphically sort information. It is often useful to divide MFI’s by market/country, so it is natural that this should be the dominant sorting method. The map is not only visually appealing, but it’s much less tedious to click on a map than to sort or scroll through a long list of countries… and for those of us that aren’t looking by country, there is a convenient search bar above, and a regional breakdown offered below.
  • If you click through to a country (e.g. click here for the country page for Morocco) you come to my favorite part of the redesigned website: the customizable data chart available for each country. For all the sleek design and interesting graphs, the most striking element of the redesigned MIX site is the easy availability of the data. The MIX makes it even easier to select most of the key data points it collects from institutions and display the data it in a convenient and customizable chart (that can be easily copied and pasted into your own data editor). Previously, the list of comparative data you could pull up in such a chart on the MIX was rather limited and included some more esoteric indicators while leaving out some key financial ratios. It seems they have streamlined the comparable indicators to a list of 29 of the most useful. You still can’t compare all the data, and if anything I’d like to see them expand this customizable chart even more… but its functionality is great. True, as more and more data categories are selected the chart can become somewhat cumbersome, extending far off the right side of the page. But this is a small price to pay for such readily available information.
  • A little tip related to my last point: it took me a little bit of exploring to figure out, but you can actually download all 29 indicators for all countries at once via their “Indicators” page. Great for those of us who would like to use the data set for between country comparisons!
  • Clicking through to the MFI page we can see details about each MFI including graphs of performance over time. As another example of the MIX’s increased commitment to data sharing, clicking on the “Data” tab reveals a “Download Data” button at the top of the page, allowing users to directly download a CSV spreadsheet with the MFIs data over a selected number of years. Or you can choose to “Create a Report” providing a visually appealing, print-quality version of the data viewed online.

There are many, many other features of the new MIX site that deserve mentioning, and I will try to post some more opinions in upcoming posts, but for now suffice it to say that I am most impressed by how easily available they have made their data. I think this kind of easy availability is a crucial component to having the data make a difference.

No Comments

  1. jbauchet1 says:

    MixMarket is probably the best source of information on microfinance, and their new design and features are indeed very well made and very useful.

    Just to play devil's advocate, however, keep in mind that reporting to the MixMarket is voluntary (as is reporting to the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the other source of data on microfinance), and therefore the information is not perfectly representative of all microfinance institutions.

    Jonathan Morduch and myself have written a paper (to be published in the microfinance special issue of the journal Perspectives on Global Development and Technology in 2010 and available on the Financial Access Initiative website that outlines some of the differences between MixMarket and Microcredit Summit Campaign data, and how they can impact some important analyses of microfinance.

    • miketucci says:

      Thanks so much for the comment. I absolutely think that it’s very important to keep in mind how reporting bias might distort conclusions drawn from these databases. In reading your paper, I particularly liked that you disentangle financial indicators from social indicators. In my research for MFT, I find that this is something that is often implicitly understood as we conduct our research. A glance at the MIX data makes it obvious that social indicators are not as faithfully reported as financial indicators, and as such we rely primarily on the financial data.

      Voluntary submission of data is obviously not the ideal, but it does provide an effective and useful approach and provides a good (and often the only) starting point from which to formulate ideas (rather than just working in a data vacuum). And as can be inferred from our name, MicroFinance Transparency believes that the best case scenario for an optimally functioning microfinance market would be for all MFIs to share key information so that in both practice and in policy MFIs could most efficiently adhere to a double bottom line strategy. Hopefully voluntary submission will eventually give us a completely populated dataset!

      Lastly I would say that I particularly like the last paragraph of your paper: “Donors and policymakers have the power to support institutions in using these tools, and to help data collection organizations harmonize their data. Donors and researchers can also join to encourage non-reporting institutions to begin reporting. Our results suggest that doing so would enrich–and likely re-shape–understandings of the current microfinance landscape.” In our short time working on collecting data to engender transparency, it’s obvious that it’s key that all stakeholders be leveraged to incentivize information sharing. By gaining more and more data from more and more MFIs, we get closer to creating databases that truly provide us population-level information and thus can be used to make increasingly sound and accurate decisions.

      • Edward says:

        Roy, most health pmarrogs aim to become self-sustaining in some sense, and so do most MFIs. And in both cases, some succeed; many do not; and it’s difficult to find reliable information about how common success is.Health pmarrogs, however, have demonstrated more tangible and verifiable impact on people’s lives. Regardless of the sustainability of a program, curing a case of tuberculosis (for example) can make a permanent difference to an individual, who in turn can make a permanent difference to his/her family and community. The odds that a program can become self-sustaining – when there is any information about them – should be taken into account. But so should the benefits of helping and empowering individuals.In addition, we still have major questions in general about the extent to which MFIs are helping the people they serve. There are questions about whether they’re reaching the right people, and about whether those people are benefiting or overpaying (). We haven’t yet identified a microfinance charity that can address these concerns well; we have identified health charities that appear to be at a much higher level of transparency, accountability, and knowledge about the impact of their work.

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