Three Questions for: Cécile Lapenu, Director of CERISE
The Comité d’Échanges de Réflexion et d’Information sur les Systèmes d’Épargne-Crédit (CERISE) is an exchange platform on microfinance practices worldwide. On the occasion of its institutionalization in 2012, its director, Cécile Lapenu, discussed its challenges and prospects.
In Touch: What was behind CERISE’s creation?
Cécile Lapenu: CERISE was born in 1998 from the grouping together of five French development, academic and research organizations (CIDR, CIRAD, GRET, IRAM and IRC) working in support of microfinance institutions (MFIs). CERISE ran reflections and analyzed, documented and pooled research and development on four topics: impact and social performances, financing agriculture and the rural sector, MFI governance, and microfinance intervention modes. A precursor in regard to social audits and impact assessments, the network produced operational tools to advance microfinance practices. Today, more than 500 institutions in developing countries—13 million beneficiaries in 57 countries—use the tools and approaches produced by CERISE.
IT: Why did CERISE become an institution?
CL: Originally an informal organization, CERISE had gained visibility and developed a network of partners in its own right, beyond its founding members, had deepened its specialized expertise, notably on social assessments in microfinance, and was conducting an ever-increasing number of projects. In response to these evolutions, IRAM, GRET, CIDR and Betty Wampfler (IRC), its chair, created the CERISE association in 2012; the new association aims to promote, in Europe and developing countries, fair and responsible finance that contributes to people’s social and economic development.
IT: What are CERISE’s new lines of work?
CL: In addition to continuing its work on social assessment tools, the members have selected two lines of research: impact measurement (designing a scientifically recognized and operationally relevant methodology), and social business development to clarify this concept and effective implementation conditions.