Building a sustainable network of social businesses supporting technology adoption.
Affordable, accessible, and available software is only one part of the solution. To use it effectively, MFIs need local support that understands their needs. COSM solves that challenge by building a network of qualified and trusted local service providers called Mifos Specialists. In any region where an MFI needs help, they can connect with a Specialist offering the services they need – hosting, implementation, support, training, custom development, social performance management, and more.
The only way to provide this local support and scale it to the thousands of MFIs operating in remote environments where typical software vendors won’t go is to empower local companies, both large and small. We can achieve the leverage we need by building a network committed to our social mission but driven by a sustainable open source business model responding to the vast market need.
As the primary distribution channel for Mifos, these local companies are a critical part of the community, carrying Mifos to new markets. They are young, entrepreneurial, and agile – serving as the eyes and ears on the ground supporting MFIs, listening to their needs, and providing the grass-roots innovation to evolve the Mifos software.
COSM fuels this innovation and channels this energy throughout our community into the Mifos platform by doing the following:
Educate technology companies on the market opportunity to serve MFIs:
Despite the great need for IT services across MFIs, the market is still very young. COSM educates both local and global technology support providers on the opportunity to support software for microfinance with Mifos as the solution. COSM provides Specialists a technology platform, a viable open source business model, and connects them with MFIs in need of support. It’s still difficult for MFIs to find local support – we want to change that. We frequently receive these requests for support and rather than provide that support directly we refer them to a Specialist in their region who can assist.
Train and transform Specialists into well-rounded microfinance service providers:
We work with systems integrators who have experience implementing business applications. COSM’s role is to impart our expert knowledge of microfinance inherent in our roots as a Grameen Foundation project to transform these systems integrators into service providers capable of helping their MFI customers deepen their outreach to the poor. We provide self-driven training to augment their microfinance domain knowledge and business processes and technical documentation and toolkits to optimize implementation, hosting, and support of Mifos.
Enable a network of trusted service providers:
Upon educating and equipping these support providers to serve MFIs, we must ensure that MFIs will trust and confide in the quality and professionalism of the Specialists available to them. We define standards for servicing the poor and will define a certification standard for being a Mifos Specialist, a bar of excellence that must be attained so Mios is promoting the highest level of service and commitment to the poor. COSM organizes these into a formal network offering a full array of services so MFIs can find help wherever they are, whatever their need.
Focus on sustainability of Specialists while staying mission aligned:
Each of our Specialists is drawn to the Mifos community because of a commitment to our social mission of achieving a world of 3 Billion Maries. To achieve that mission, they must operate sustainably with a viable revenue stream. We will advise them on business sustainability, conduct market research, and test out new business models so they can stay mission-aligned but still get market rates for their services tailored to the unique needs of the microfinance sector. We want to build viable social businesses that are not only helping MFIs lift the poor from poverty but employing and retaining local talent to service this need.
Provide a framework to share knowledge and contribute to the software, unlocking the virtuous cycle:
For specialists to be effective in supporting the diverse and rapidly evolving needs of MFIs worldwide, they must share their local knowledge with the global Mifos community. We administer the channels and tools for Specialists to actively share requirements of MFIs and get peer support. Specialists localize the software to satisfy these requirements; we steward their contribution back into the platform so this innovation can be shared with and maintained by the global community.