Social Performance Management

Program overview

Unitus Labs began research for our social performance management (SPM) program in 2008 and began pilots with SPM partners in 2009.  In the Fall of 2010, Unitus Labs transitioned resources and responsibility to complete this program to India-based MicroSave.

What is Social Performance Management?

An area of growing importance in microfinance, Social Performance Management (SPM) is defined as “an institutionalized process which involves setting clear social objectives (e.g. improved quality of housing), monitoring and assessing progress towards achieving these, and using this information to improve overall organizational performance.”

At its core, SPM involves evaluating what actually happens to the clients of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in practical terms of quality of life and income levels. In addition to providing an avenue for qualifying impact, SPM is a tool for MFIs to evaluate and improve financial products, services, and operational procedures in order to increase client satisfaction and retention.

Why is SPM important?

“We believe Social Performance Management allows us to demonstrate the impact (of microfinance), and assess what methods and practices work, in an objective, comparable manner. Unitus’s strong focus on the social aspects of microfinance and their network of socially committed MFIs makes them an important collaborator in this work.”
– Geeta Goel, Director, Microfinance at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

With the explosion of interest and rise in diverse microfinance programs over the past decade, Unitus Labs believes that it can no longer be assumed without question that genuine poverty alleviation automatically results from microfinance. Rather, with the belief that high-impact microfinance depends on measured outcomes and tailored services, Unitus is pioneering work in the area of SPM to identify implementation best practices and serve as a model worldwide.

SPM Implementation Project Overview

Unitus Labs launched the Social Performance Management Implementation Project (SPM IP) in Fall of 2009 with the support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Boeing Corporation and Deutsche Bank. A worldwide endeavor, SPM IP will work to increase adoption of social performance practice among microfinance institutions both as a gateway to smarter growth for MFIs and to ensure that microfinance has the best possible outcome for the greatest number in need.

The SPM IP program has two phases:

  • Phase One – SPM Foundation: Unitus works with 10 MFI partners to conduct analysis of existing social performance data, collect client-level data using the Grameen Foundation Progress out of Poverty Index™ (PPI™), and conduct an internal social audit using the CERISE Social Performance Indicator (SPI).
  • Phase Two – SPM Optimization: Based on findings from Phase One, partners may choose to participate in SPM Optimization, fully adopting and integrating SPM into their regular operations.

What Makes the SPM IP unique?

At launch, the SPM implementation project was India’s most comprehensive network-implemented SPM project, harnessing Unitus’ solid understanding of MFI strategies and operations to aid partners in integrating these tools into business practices.  Over time, the project will expand to MFIs in other countries.

Unitus Labs staff spent nearly a year working with partners to evaluate the possibilities of SPM and amassing feedback as to what the potential opportunities and barriers to effective adoption will be, and designed the SPM IP to best navigate this course.

SPM Partners

Unitus Labs partnered with the following organizations to develop and operate SPM pilot projects.


“Initial projects we had done in monitoring and evaluating the impact of microfinance on the lives of our clients revealed some very interesting—and sometimes surprising—outcomes,” commented Mr. Samit Ghosh, CEO of Ujjivan. “We’re excited to take this opportunity to continue that survey work and to use the findings to tailor our services to better serve our clients.”

Angkor Microfinance Kampuchea (AMK)

“The SPM IP is a unique opportunity to be more innovative in how we collect information and integrate client-centric evaluation into our operations, building on the social performance management strengths for which AMK is already recognized,” said Paul Luchtenburg, CEO of AMK.  “I am very excited to be partnering with Unitus on the SPM IP, as I think together we can ensure that our organization is best positioned to meet the needs of our borrowers.”

Grama Vidiyal

“This is a very exciting opportunity for Grama Vidiyal, especially as our 25th anniversary approaches,” said Grama Vidiyal Founder & Chairman Managing Director Mr. S. Devaraj, “We are confident that the insights gained from a stronger understanding of our clients’ needs will ensure a more impactful and prosperous second quarter century for our organization.”