Volunteer Mentor standards

Discussion in 'Open Forum' started by Julia Kurnia, Feb 26, 2014.

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  1. Julia Kurnia

    Julia Kurnia Director, Zidisha Zidisha Staff

    Since we began the Volunteer Mentor program last year, VMs have added immense value to our community, assisting new members to join, adding an extra pair of eyes and local knowledge to the new member vetting process, and helping mediate when their assigned members fall behind on their repayments.

    VMs have also come to hold a respected position of leadership in our community. As such, we have a duty to ensure that VM status is reserved for people who uphold our standards of ethical behavior, responsible stewardship of their own Zidisha loans, and communication with lenders.

    Up until now we have enabled VM status on an informal, case-by-case basis. This worked while the VM program was still in the experimental phase, but I think we have had sufficient experience with the VM program now to spell out a standardized set of criteria each member who wishes to retain VM status must meet.

    I'd like to ask each of our VMs, as well as other Zidisha members and staff who interact with VMs, which performance standards ought to be expected of VMs. The standards should be reasonable for a position which is not compensated, but should be high enough that Volunteer Mentorship retains its value as a position of leadership.

    Here is one question to start the discussion: Given the recent change to allow rescheduling an unlimited number of times as long as something is paid in each installment, the allowances we formerly made for VMs who were not in a position to make payments or reschedule seem no longer necessary. Should VMs now be required to be fully current on their own repayments in order to retain VM status? Should there be a minimum on-time repayment score?
    Michaela, Sverre and rovingmentor like this.
  2. russell

    russell Forum Member

    This is a difficult issue.lack of probity should lead to instant suspension as a VM.However it seems very harsh to do this to an honest VM who is in genuine need through bad luck or some misfortune.Could it be made possible for members to make the payments for the VM until they are back on their feet again?It would be self policing as only the decent VM s would attract such support.
    Shehi likes this.
  3. Shehi

    Shehi Gold Member Volunteer Mentor

    @Julia Kurnia I would love to enjoy some leeway, occassionally when amfinancially overstretched, but I cannot imagine following up on a borrower in arrears in clear knowledge that I am myself behind on repayments. A case of a kettle calling the other black I think. Altogether, I have a screaming conflict of interest in this debate maybe non-VMs can have more productive inputs.
    @russell I quietly wish your suggestion gets a fanatic following!
    Eliud Mungai likes this.
  4. qt9998

    qt9998 Gold Member

    Sverre, rovingmentor and Shehi like this.
  5. Wiredfox

    Wiredfox Gold Member

    And Indonesian?
    rovingmentor and Shehi like this.
  6. Wiredfox

    Wiredfox Gold Member

    How many VMs are currently active on Zidisha?

    I have tried contacting a few about a borrower and had no response. So one criterion might be the ability to communicate with both borrowers and lenders. Certainly being in good standing with repayments is important.

    But what actually does it mean to be a mentor? Does it mean having business experience and knowledge and a degree of success that can be passed on? Does it just mean someone who will keep tabs on other borrowers? Do we want VMs to 'police' the system on the ground? In other words, before we think about performance standards, we need a proper job description.
    Eliud Mungai likes this.
  7. Analin Saturria McGregor

    Analin Saturria McGregor Country Liaison Manager, Zidisha

  8. Julia Kurnia

    Julia Kurnia Director, Zidisha Zidisha Staff

    Mr. Shehi, I'd like to understand this reasoning better. We certainly don't want to penalize anyone for being financially overstretched, but the expectation is that anyone not able to make due payments should reschedule and deposit at least a very small amount each week until finances improve. I have seen loans rescheduled to pay just a few shillings per week. Given this flexibility, are there still cases where well-intentioned members cannot reschedule and continue to make token deposits when they are due?
    Sverre likes this.
  9. Julia Kurnia

    Julia Kurnia Director, Zidisha Zidisha Staff

    What do other VMs think of the idea of requiring three months of experience with Zidisha before admitting a VM? It would ensure the new VM is experienced and has a track record to evaluate, but this might come at the cost of reducing our VM numbers, at a time when we still do not have sufficient VMs to assign one to each member.
  10. Julia Kurnia

    Julia Kurnia Director, Zidisha Zidisha Staff

    Here is a link to our Volunteer Mentor position description for Kenya: https://sites.google.com/site/zidishavolunteermentor/roles-and-responsibilities

    Thus far the focus of VMs has generally been on helping other members successfully participate in Zidisha specifically, with any business mentoring an optional additional benefit not directly organized by Zidisha. We do expect VMs to communicate with lenders, contact and try to achieve a friendly resolution for any of their assigned members who fall into arrears, and report any suspicious activity or violations to Zidisha. We do not expect VMs to act as loan officers or to enforce repayment of loans.

    I'd welcome suggestions for how to improve the lender-VM-borrower communication channel. Keeping in mind that VMs are assigned 50 members each and many do not have daily internet access, what frequency of communication would be reasonable to expect?
  11. Shehi

    Shehi Gold Member Volunteer Mentor

    I believe rescheduling lengthens the life of the loan & therefore expensive for a borrower who wishes to progress quicker on the credit limit. She will find it less attractive. Hence, a borrower will buy time in the hope of repaying late on installments but within stated life of the loan so just she qualifies for a bigger loan much faster than her actual repaying ability.
  12. Julia Kurnia

    Julia Kurnia Director, Zidisha Zidisha Staff

    But why not reschedule to reduce installment amounts temporarily, then increase them again when finances improve? The total length of time the loan is held would not need to change.
  13. Shehi

    Shehi Gold Member Volunteer Mentor

    @Julia Kurnia As the invite program gets more pronounced, Inviters will become more resourceful in effecting borrower-lender communication & encouraging repayment as they are well known to borrowers thus their greater influence on Invitee's interaction with zidisha. VMs will mostly be responding to queries raised by new applicants & occassional bugs to reduce the work load of virtual volunteers, some kind of customer care on the ground. Some people can learn faster so 3 months could be too long a time. Personally, I believe more strictness be placed on inviting powers as VMs are more and more becoming 'goodwill ambassadors'.
    Sverre likes this.
  14. Shehi

    Shehi Gold Member Volunteer Mentor

    I believe most borrowers do not know that a reschedule today can be reversed later. I have always had a hard time convincing a borrower to reschedule. I will try spread the word.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
  15. Shehi

    Shehi Gold Member Volunteer Mentor

    Some people are fast learners but they need have at least raised & repaid their first loan. This will allow for enough interaction with the website & better understanding of the application process, raising loans & subsequent repayments.
    Sverre likes this.
  16. Wiredfox

    Wiredfox Gold Member

    Hi Analin
    If I have understood correctly, the job description that emerges from this document is:
    1) assisting borrowers with understanding and using the Zidisha platform and associated rules & regs.
    2) contacting borrowers in arrears
    3) assisting borrowers in arrears to start repayments if possible
    4) assisting borrowers in arrears to reschedule repayments if appropriate
    5) updating borrowers' notes
    6) communicating with lenders concerning borrowers in arrears and especially regarding plans to reschedule

    Activities such as 'business mentoring', verifying identities of prospective borrowers, do not appear to be part of the job description. Contributors to the Forum have sometimes expressed strong desire for these activities to be undertaken. Should there be a new category which covers these additional activities, reserved for experienced VMs with say, 6 months track record of successful VM activity and good repayment history. Perhaps special incentives could be attached to this category of VM?
    Dickson Mutashe and Cris like this.
  17. Julia Kurnia

    Julia Kurnia Director, Zidisha Zidisha Staff

    This is a challenging question. I know from many years managing grant programs that it is nearly impossible to keep corruption out of a program that distributes resources, when individuals in remote locations are given the power to decide who receives funds. I think if we changed the VM position from its original focus on mentoring to one with veto power over who receives loans, then it would start attracting the kind of people who would demand payment in return for approval of applications.

    That said, we do explicitly request VMs to review the profiles of new members who are assigned to them before disbursing their loans, and take action any time a VM alerts us to something suspicious. In these matters, the opinions of VMs who have long track records of substantial contributions to the community carry especially heavy weight. Up until now, all this has been done on a manual and case-by-case basis. I'd be interested in ideas for standardizing and perhaps automating these reviews, in a way that keeps our system as honest as possible.
    Fitri Fauziyah and Sverre like this.
  18. Dickson Mutashe

    Dickson Mutashe Silver Member Volunteer Mentor

    I wish to contribute in regards to the standards of a VM. Personally I am very new on zidisha but actually for the last one month I have been a VM, the journey has been challenging and exciting at the same time. I have gone through the above discussion and I can say its very healthy. The only think I once suggested that apart from this forum we need other places like maybe facebook group or skype room just specifically for VMs alone, ( Not very sure whether I still need to learn more on how to navigate this forum because I learnt of this thread after being sent a mail), from where we can be able to learn from more experienced mentors. I have watched mentorship of zidisha and am at times left wondering if we are doing the right thing. A mentor is somebody who has some good understanding of what they are mentoring, should be a role model to the mentee. Voluteering is willingness to offer for free most of the time for the task so assigned. My suggestions:
    1. Should have proper knowledge of the zidisha system through proper training and testing to ensure they understand(maybe create VMs academy). This is very important I should say.
    2. If they are borrowers, then they should be in good standing in repayment record, either rescheduled or ontime payment.
    3. They should be able to give account for the assigned members that's at least be in position to give report after certain period say like after two weeks and if they cant and have not explained why they cant then they have no time for the program
    4.I think or am not very sure why we are assigned at times members who are very far from us. Like in Kenya one is in Nairobi and you are assigned a member in Kisii. This would have been better if we are assigned members closer to us so that we can organize to visit some of this members to ascertain the provided addresses.
    5. Should be able to access Internet for at least certain hours a week or a day.

    Well I would go on and on but let me stop there and hear from the rest. As I said that's my suggestions but as somebody said up there zidisha executive you are better placed to set the standards and we just to abide by them to become one or not.
    Cris likes this.
  19. Eliud Mungai

    Eliud Mungai Forum Member

    Here are my two cents worth...
    First, the discussion is very timely. It goes a long way to show that the organization, Zidisha, is keen on its operational infrastructure and resources. VMs are a very very important resource, but they are still Volunteers. It is good to understand very well that the volunteering culture in Kenya especially is not the same as say in US. And that is why you see very many people assume to be a VM you must be a borrower. However this is far from the truth; A VM is not necessarily a borrower. To some extent, I tend to support the view that there exists a conflict of interest; but there are two sides to the coin.
    We cannot talk about performance without incentives. To my knowledge, to improve performance you must introduce a system of incentives. The current status relies on the goodwill of individual VMs and they are not brought together as one unit. Just organizing a simple physical forum to bring together the VMs could go a long way, and providing some identifiers (Simple cards, wristbands, T Shirts, Social media badges, etc). Satellite offices could come in handy.
    Constant communication is key and it should be mandatory to provide key information about assigned borrowers. Zidisha should also find a way to keep VMs on their toes with constant updates and notifications regarding assigned borrowers. The current system is that the VM must login to access the information. But if you can find a way to send statements via email to VMs it could be a game changer.
    Another risk to be addressed on this double edged sword of VMs cum Borrowers is that; the only reason that repayment rates are high are the hope for a higher loan amount. Therein lies a bubble risk of a time where borrowers are not capable of making repayment. Some people think being a VM is a key pass to higher loan amounts.
    Those VMs who have outperformed consistently should be placed at a higher rung even to supervise fellow mentors especially new ones.
    Cris, Sverre and Dickson Mutashe like this.
  20. Sverre

    Sverre Forum Member

    I have wondered why you who are VM havent made a tread here on forum to diquis things like how to aproach, to coach new VM.s etc
    That wouls also help lift standard regarding performance of VM's and repayments by VM's
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