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Impact and Social Perfomance
Social Auditing of MFIs
CERISE certification for SPI users
Socially Responsible Investors in Microfinance
Action-Research on Social Performance
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Microfinance intervention methods

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Impact and Social Performance
[es]     [fr]

For many years, sustainabilty was all about "the financials"—social performance was taken for granted. CERISE and its partners were the first to pioneer a social performance assessment tool for microfinance, in 2001. Developed in collaboration with networks from the North and South, the Social Performance Indicators is one of the most widely used social audit tools in the sector today. In addition to the SPI, CERISE has also developed innovative methodologies for assessing impact.

CERISE has spearheaded a whole new facet of performance assessment to complement financial analysis. Our goal is to help MFIs become sustainable while genuinely contributing to development.

In a context of financial turbulence and growing skepticism, these innovative tools offer constructive solutions for MFIs.

The Relationship between Social and Financial Performance

Social Auditing of MFIs

Microfinance is maturing. It’s no wonder donors and social investors are demanding greater accountability from their MFI partners, who do they really serve and what effects are they are having on clients? Some MFIs also sense that improving social performance will, in the medium-term, boost their financial performance.

Social auditing tools like the SPI analyze internal processes to assess if the MFI is meeting its social goals. This approach helps MFIs set objectives for improvement and take the necessary steps to meet them.

CERISE is a pioneer of social audits. Today, over 500 MFIs have administered the SPI either alone, with their network, TA provider or social investors.

CERISE certification for SPI users

The CERISE SPI tool, available for free, was designed using an open, collaborative and transparent approach. Used by more than 500 MFIs worldwide, the CERISE SPI tool is the premier social performance audit tool for institutions committed to improving the lives of their clients. The volume of users henceforth impedes the promoters of the tool to maintain in-depth case-by-case quality control. Moreover, the microfinance sector has changed. Scandals and increasing criticism have put it under the scrutiny of media, governments, regulators and the wider public. MFIs both need and want to be more transparent and improve their practices. The CERISE SPI is useful toward this end, but it also creates a potential market for free riders. Quality of assessments must be ensured.

SPI now includes Standards of Use , and a Certification process for trainers and auditors. The Standards of Use formalize the CERISE SPI application process to ensure quality control and define optimum conditions in which the SPI tool can be used.

Certification is required to be considered as an external auditor and to train other organizations on the SPI tool.

Certification aims to

-  avoid inefficient use of the SPI tool by MFIs and their partners (bad quality, unreliable information);
-  ensure quality control and potential benchmarking among SPI users by guaranteeing with reasonable confidence the process used for the audit;
-  avoid inappropriate use of the SPI tool by third parties (free riders using SPI for commercial purposes, duplication of efforts, creating unnecessary reporting burdens for the MFIs);
-  ensure reliable reporting to MIX.

Added value of the certification

-  For the audit user (MFI stakeholders): ensures rigorous quality control and reliability of the audit, increases external credibility of results, and facilitates trustworthy information sharing.
-  For the auditor: grants international recognition, access to updated knowledge and training in the efficient use of SPI.
-  For the MFI: ensures high quality data for decision making, boosts credibility of results, demonstrates strong commitment towards social performance.

Since 2011, several CERISE partner organizations have successfully completed or have started undergoing the CERISE-SPI certification process, producing a significant network of external auditors for MFIs to validate their SPI results.

Click here to access the CERISE official list of SPI certified organizations.

For more information about the CERISE SPI, visit, or send us an email at

Socially Responsible Investors in Microfinance

Social utility is the main argument for microfinance investment. Investors who cannot clearly demonstrate the social impact of their activities risk overstating microfinance’s benefits and seeing their own reputation discredited when “problematic” aspects are publicized. But, for investors to make decisions based on social value added, they must be able to measure it.

Social audit tools for MFIs have multiplied in recent years, helping MFIs measure and improve their social performance. While some of these tools have been used by investors, Socially Responsible Investors (SRIs) deserve an audit methodology adapted to their own concerns and structures.

CERISE’s SPI Investor is a four-dimensional audit tool for investors that draws on the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment and CGAP’s work on aid effectiveness.

Currently being tested by social investor Oikocredit, SPI Investor enables SRIs to take stock of operations, strategies and social impact. Designed to be administered internally, the SPI Investor can also be used as a management tool to guide investment decisions, and a communication and benchmarking tool to increase transparency improve credibility of SRIs in microfinance.

Action-Research on Social Performance

The SPI tool is open access. In exchange for using the tool, users send their findings to CERISE along with comments on the tool. This user collaboration has led to an improved version of the SPI and a rich database with results of over 200 social audits.

CERISE has used this databank to test the relationship between social and financial performance to verify synergies between the two.
CERISE has also tested the relationship between SPI and the results of impact studies to verify synergies between systems and impact.

CERISE works with its investor partners and the Social Performance Task Force working group on social investors to identify criteria for promoting socially responsible investment.

  SPI©: A social audit tool for MFIs [es]     [fr]
SPI4 Press release
En savoir plus
  Learn more about Social Performance in Microfinance [fr]
Stakes of Measuring Social Performance in Microfinance - Discussion Paper SPI N°1 European microfinance and social performance: Where do we stand ?

  The Decision Tree for Microfinance Networks
This project is a collaborative effort of CERISE and the Imp-Act Consortium represented by Microfinance Centre (MfC), and funded by the Ford Foundation. The Decision Tree was written by Ewa Bankowska, Cécile Lapenu and Kasia Pawlak, with support from Bonnie Brusky.
The Decision Tree-Orienting network in their SP strategy

  SAM: A social audit tool for microfinance investors [fr]
Available upon request - Please contact CERISE (
SAM: Social Audit for MIVs-Tool presentation

  SPI©: A social audit tool for MFIs
SPI4 Press release
En savoir plus
  Learn more about Social Performance in Microfinance [fr]    
Stakes of Measuring Social Performance in Microfinance - Discussion Paper SPI N°1 European microfinance and social performance: Where do we stand ?

  SPI Social Audits: Case studies [es]     [fr]    

Investors-Oikocredit -DP N°6- Synthesis SPI and poverty assesment - PAT in Albania - DP N°9 - Synthesis
For a demand-driven approach to SPM in microfinance : The Argentinean case SPI case study for ESAF-India
SPI Aetos-Bulgaria SPI Agroimpuls-Bulgaria
SPI Doverie-Bulgaria SPI Gen Toshevo-Bulgaria
SPI Maritza Invest-Bulgaria SPI Perelik-Bulgaria
SPI Smilian-Bulgaria SPI Stopanin-Bulgaria

  Measuring the impact in microfinance : the approaches at stake [fr]    
Is microfinance about reducing poverty, empowering people or building an industry? DP n°2: From social strategy to impact: How can impact studies be improved?
The controversies on the impact of microfinance and the ways to assess it: putting the newest findings into perspective Inventory of impact studies in microfinance since 1980
Link SP and impact in Bolivia (Finrural) - DP N°4 - synthesis

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Key documents
-The Decision Tree-Orienting network in their SP strategy
-SPI4 Press release
-European microfinance and social performance: Where do we stand ?
Recent Additions to Library
-SAM: Social Audit for MIVs-Tool presentation
-Investors-Oikocredit -DP N°6- Synthesis
-SPI and poverty assesment - PAT in Albania - DP N°9 - Synthesis