Advancing financial inclusion

Advancing financial inclusion

Advancing financial inclusion

ILO Making Microfinance Work Training and certification programme

Il corso è disponibile in English, Français, Español, Português, العربية, 中文, pусский

What is Making Microfinance Work ?

Making Microfinance Work (MMW) is a management training program that is designed to strengthen managers’ ability to increase the quality and scale of their institution’s outreach in financial inclusion and microfinance

Key features

Learn by doing, through case studies, group exercises and individual work


Get certified and join the group of international experts of MMW


Shape MMW around your audience, business focus and local context

Presentazione del corso

The MMW program draws from the experiences and techniques of financial service providers (FSPs) worldwide and is based on the two flagship publications of the Social Finance programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO)Managing for improved performance (Volume 1) and Managing product diversification (Volume 2).

The ILO’s unique governance structure, in which workers, employers and governments participate equally in decision-making, puts it in a privileged position to explore how public and private sector actors can work together to expand the outreach and impact of microfinance. Through MMW, the ILO facilitates broader and more innovative use of financial services to help create decent work for all low income people. The course is a natural complement to other training packages created by the Social Finance Programme of the ILO and ITCILO, most notably on financial inclusion, impact insurance, financial educationsustainable investing and others.

The programme also builds capacities of local and regional trainers and experts in provision of the curriculum and certifies them as ILO and ITC ILO trainers.

Chi si iscrive a questo corso?

The programme targets managers of financial service providers and a broader range of stakeholders engaged in developing financial sectors. 

  • Managers at various levels and of all types of financial service providers (banks, microfinance organizations, impact insurance providers, credit cooperatives and SACCOs, leasing companies and other)
  • National and regional associations of microfinance practitioners can use Making Microfinance Work to strengthen the performance of their members and to facilitate expansion into underserved markets.
  • Governments can use Making Microfinance Work to strengthen the performance of the microfinance sector in their country and to encourage product and market diversification that increases financial inclusion.
  • Investors can use Making Microfinance Work to inform their investment decisions, as well as to strengthen the performance of institutions in which they invest. 
  • Funding agencies can use Making Microfinance Work as an efficient tool for building capacity within specific microfinance institutions or at the industry level. 
  • Affiliate FSP networks can use Making Microfinance Work to complement their existing training programmes, particularly their professional development programmes for middle managers, and can leverage the MMW certification process to strengthen their own training skills.
  • Technical assistance providers can use Making Microfinance Work to build their own capacity as well as that of the microfinance institutions with which they work.
certified trainers
Countries where the MMW programme is delivered
Languages: Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese*
The programme

Managing for Improved Performance. This course helps managers develop a holistic understanding of the different functions that contribute to successful microfinance operations. It provides tools and guidance that improve manager's ability to: 

  • Develop and market competitive financial services 
  • Reduce their organization's vulnerability to risks
  • Retain staff and clients
  • Proactively shape the institutional culture
  • Manage healthy growth
  • Enhance their organization's productivity and efficiency

This course aims to inspire and prepare managers to expand their institutions’ outreach beyond what has already been achieved.  It provides tools and guidance that improve manager's ability to:

  • Develop a portfolio of products and services that can meet the diverse financial service needs of low-income households
  • Design and implement outreach strategies for reaching new market segments
  • Assess and prioritize new product and new market opportunities
  • Identify and control the risks inherent in product and market diversification
  • Deliver a diverse product portfolio effectively

The Making Microfinance Work program is built on adult education principles using a highly participatory methodology, varied activities, and a minimum of lecturing.  It draws on numerous local and international case studies to complement the tools and instruments that are found in the course manual and stimulates the sharing of real experiences, challenges and strategies for meeting those challenges. Learning through doing (under the guidance of an experienced facilitator) is an integral part of the course. Although participants often work in groups, each person develops an individual action plan for implementation in their working environment.

Making Microfinance Work targets managers of FSPs at all levels because trainers adapt the discussions and activities to the audience.

Why is MMW needed today?

There are many answers to this question, some of which reflect the following:

  • Sustainability and profitability pressures that have led FSPs to prioritise growth in the most familiar and easy-to-reach markets, leaving others unattended
  • A heavy focus on microenterprise credit rather than on meeting the varied financial service needs of low-income households;
  • Limited skills and strategies for survival in increasingly competitive markets;
  • Systems and staff development that do not keep pace with growth;
  • Inadequate FSPs and client risk management;
  • A lack of awareness about products and delivery strategies that can meet the needs of more difficult-to-reach markets cost-effectively; and
  • Lack of interest and/or investment in systems that can measure the impact of financial inclusion and microfinance on the incomes and poverty rates of clients.

The Making Microfinance Work training curriculum helps managers recognize these performance gaps and acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes to address them. 

Who can deliver MMW?

MMW training courses are delivered by ILO certified trainers. 

How is MMW different?

What MMW offers is the following:

Rather than focus on any technical area in particular, MMW works with participants to improve their planning, organization, leadership and control of all activities that contribute to successful operations.  This approach helps prepare new managers in particular for the complexity that comes with their jobs.

The integrated nature of the MMW curriculum helps managers put their day-to-day operations into a larger institutional and environmental context. They explore how different parts of their institution can help them fulfil their roles and responsibilities, how the work they do can impact others’ ability to function effectively, and how external factors can be managed for more optimal results.

MMW is delivered at the national level through a network of more than 100 certified trainers and partner institutions. This makes the course more accessible, affordable and tailored to the local context.

Although delivered at the local level, MMW was created for international use. It supplies tools, strategies and examples of effective practice from around the world and guides participants to learn from the industry’s global experience.

The course manual and training materials for Volume I and Volume II exist in nine different languages and multiple trainers have been certified to deliver the course in each of those languages.

Although delivered at the local level by many different trainers, a centralized curriculum, professional materials, and rigorous trainer certification process help to ensure that every delivery covers the same core content and meets specific quality standards.

MMW covers a lot of content in a short period of time. The intense experience facilitates connections between disciplines and bodies of knowledge that are often thought of only in isolation.

MMW has been described by some as a “mini-MBA”. To the extent that this description applies, what makes MMW different from other management courses that are typically offered at the national level is its focus on financial inclusion.

The course has been developed using a highly participatory methodology that includes role plays, competitions, self assessments, debates, puzzles, interviews, videos, exercises, panel discussions, content-related energizers and more to keep participants engaged and to facilitate learning.

In each MMW module, participants are invited to apply the frameworks, tools and strategies that are introduced in the classroom to their own institution’s data and challenges.

The action plan can be used as a tool for institutions, supervisors, investors, funding agencies and managers themselves to gauge the amount of learning that takes place during an MMW event, to build consensus around priority areas for improvement, and to take steps or encourage action that results in stronger performance.

Managing for Improved Performance

Volume 1

The first volume of the MMW program focuses on strengthening the performance of existing operations. It provides an overview of the many functions that come together to create a successful FSP or microfinance institution and the connections between them. It helps managers identify weaknesses in their current performance as well as strategies for improving that performance. Its holistic approach helps prepare managers for the complexity that comes with their jobs.

Volume I aims to achieve four overarching objectives:

  1. Broaden understanding of the various functions that contribute to successful FSP performance
  2. Supply a portfolio of tools that can assist managers to strengthen the performance of their unit, branch or institution
  3. Stimulate the sharing of experiences and strategies for meeting current challenges
  4. Expose managers to microfinance experience from other parts of the world and inspire more innovative thinking about what might be possible in the local environment

In addition, each of the 24 modules in the course has specific learning objectives that guide discussions and activities in that area and help to ensure the consistent transfer of knowledge and skills across decentralized delivery channels.

This section covers four topics that address different aspects of the course title: microfinance, management, the definition of performance, and the institutional context for improving performance.

  • Module 1: The Manager's Mandate addresses the topic of management. What are the roles and responsibilities of a manager? And what makes individuals effective in carrying out those responsibilities? This module explores the four functions of management, different management styles and characteristics of effective managers.
  • Module 2: Financial Services for the Poor addresses the topic of microfinance. It explores the diverse financial service needs of the low-income market and the products that can meet those needs. It analyses the various aspects of outreach and the challenge of sustainable outreach expansion.
  • Module 3: Institutional Options considers the formal, semi-formal and informal identities through which managers may have to work. It compares the advantages and constraints of different institutional types and discusses how transforming to or partnering with another type of institution can help managers achieve goals and overcome environmental challenges.
  • Module 4: Strategic Direction explores how an institution's vision, mission, values and objectives define the performance managers are expected to achieve. It also examines how managers can use these four components to guide and motivate better performance from their team.


This section focuses on clients and how managers can build long-term relationships with the markets they want to serve.

  • Module 5: Market Research explains the importance of understanding the needs, behaviors and preferences of clients. It explores the market research process as well as primary and secondary data-gathering techniques.
  • Module 6: Product Development examines how to create financial products that are valuable to clients and the institutions that deliver them. It analyses the product development process and the preconditions for successful product development.
  • Module 7: Communicating Value looks at how to market products in a way that distinguishes them from the competition and clearly communicates their benefits to clients. It addresses market segmentation, messaging and sales techniques.
  • Module 8: Customer Service explores the definition and delivery of excellent customer service. It discusses tools and strategies for improving customer service and for creating a customer service culture.
  • Module 9: Customer Loyalty examines why long-term client relationships are so important. It then considers multiple approaches to creating and monitoring loyalty.

This section focuses on risk management.

  • Module 10: Introduction to Risk Management provides a framework for understanding the variety of risks to which microfinance institutions are vulnerable as well as a process for controlling those risks.
  • Module 11: Credit Risk addresses the most fundamental vulnerability of a financial institution - the possibility that clients will not repay their loans. It examines a multitude of steps that can be taken before and after loan disbursement to reduce the likelihood and scale of loss.
  • Module 12: Staff Fraud and Security Risk considers how to prevent, detect and respond to fraud. It also discusses strategies for managing institutional exposure to theft, fire, and other types of damage.
  • Module 13: External Risks explores the degree to which regulatory, macroeconomic, political, demographic, environmental and competition risks can and should be managed. For priority risks, monitoring and mitigation techniques are discussed.

This section focuses on strengthening the people, structures, systems and culture through which microfinance institutions deliver their products and services.

  • Module 14: Human Resource Management explores how to recruit, develop and motivate people to achieve an institution's mission and objectives. It examines specific techniques for evaluating performance as well as for improving employees' ability and willingness to improve their performance.
  • Module 15: Institutional Culture considers why and how shared values, attitudes and behaviors can be among an organization's greatest assets. It analyses techniques for proactively shaping a culture that fuels stronger performance.
  • Module 16: Organizational Structure examines how microfinance institutions divide responsibility for the work that needs to be done and how they organize people, functions and partnerships to facilitate implementation of that work. It compares the impact of different structures on information flow, accountability, institutional efficiency and client value.
  • Module 17: Using Organizational Architecture to Manage Growth explores how human resource management, institutional culture and organizational structure define an institution's capacity to grow. After analyzing a variety of growth strategies and patterns, it considers how an organization's architecture needs to evolve over time to support healthy growth.

This last section focuses on strategies for enhancing efficiency and productivity.

  • Module 18: Understanding Efficiency and Productivity addresses the definition and measurement of efficiency and productivity. It explores the root causes of inefficiency and introduces multiple strategies for doing more with less.
  • Module 19: Performance Incentives examines the role of financial and non-financial incentives in motivating staff performance. It introduces various incentive scheme options and identifies key characteristics of effective incentive scheme design.
  • Module 20: New Technologies looks at a range of technology options that are enabling microfinance institutions to increase output, lower costs and deepen low-income households' access to financial services. It discusses the opportunities and challenges presented by different technologies and provides guidelines for introducing a new technology effectively.
  • Module 21: Managing Change tackles the tricky business of introducing new things in an effort to improve performance. It examines why there is often resistance to change and suggests strategies for facilitating changes that generate productive results.
  • Module 22: Costing and Pricing explains the relationship between costs and pricing and explores how costing and pricing can be tools for increasing efficiency and productivity. It compares two principal approaches to costing and cautions against common pricing errors.
  • Module 23: Plans, Budgets and Reports analyses tools for defining measurable performance goals and then tracking performance to ensure those goals are met. After considering different types of plans, budgets and reports, it provides guidance on what and how to monitor.
  • Module 24: Managing Performance brings the previous 23 modules together in the context of the four functions of management. It explores how the tips, tools and techniques introduced during the course can assist managers in fulfilling each function more effectively.

Volume 1 is available in generic version and special social performance management (SPM) edition with SPI4 at its focus.


Generic version

SPM edition

 The course is based on the ILO publication “Making microfinance work. Managing for improved performance” (420 pages, preview here).

Managing Product Diversification

Volume 2

This second volume examines the challenges of product diversification and identifies strategies for meeting those challenges. It explores ten different product options and eight market segments that FSPs may wish to diversify into. It also provides tools and advice for managing the product diversification process as well as the ongoing delivery and maintenance of a diverse product portfolio.

Managing Product Diversification aims to achieve four main objectives:

  1. Raise awareness of the opportunities and risks that product diversification presents
  2. Explore options for improving the outreach of microfinance institutions through product diversification
  3. Provide tools and strategies for managing the product diversification process successfully
  4. Encourage more proactive management of FSP product portfolios over time

In addition, each of the 24 modules in the course has specific learning objectives that guide discussions and activities in that area and help to ensure the consistent transfer of knowledge and skills across decentralized delivery channels.

This introductory section helps microfinance institutions (FSPs) plan and organize themselves for successful product diversification. It encourages FSPs and the entities that support them to reflect upon their diversification efforts to date and how they might do things differently in the future to expand their outreach through ongoing product and market development.

  • Module 1: Understanding Product Diversification defines product diversification and the concept of a strategic product mix. It explores the many reasons why microfinance institutions might want to develop new products and markets while raising awareness of the damage diversification can cause.
  • Module 2: Managing Product Development focuses on the process through which FSPs can effectively manage their product development activities, both those that result in the creation of new products and those that improve the performance of existing products. It examines techniques for generating a consistent flow of product development ideas, screening those ideas, and managing the risks inherent in diversification to limit the damage that could be caused.
  • Module 3: New Market Development compares the process of new market development to that of new product development. It introduces the concept of an outreach strategy and explores how market segmentation can be used to better understand and serve new types of customers.

This section explores the variety of products that microfinance institutions (FSPs) might want to include in their product portfolio. Each module examines the characteristics, utility and challenges of one type of product, using examples from FSPs around the world to illustrate variations in the way that type of product can be delivered.

  • Module 4: Savings discusses mandatory and voluntary savings products, including demand deposits, fixed deposits and contractual savings. It examines the prerequisites for intermediating savings and suggests strategies for addressing major challenges associated with savings mobilization, such as fraud prevention, cost control, liquidity management and marketing.
  • Module 5: Long-term Savings and Micropensions explores the supply of, and demand for, savings products with a duration of five years or more. It reviews product design features that can meet the needs of the low-income market, giving special attention to products that bundle savings with insurance, and highlights issues that must be addressed for this type of product to be viable.
  • Module 6: Microenterprise Loans compares multiple methodologies for delivering microenterprise credit and explores the conditions under which certain methodologies might be more appropriate for serving a particular market segment than others. It discusses the main elements of microenterprise loan product design and the trade-offs that must be managed to create client value while managing credit risk.
  • Module 7: Housing Loans focuses on the design and delivery of credit products that enable individuals to finance their habitat needs. This may include repairs, expansion, new home construction, property legalization or access to water, electricity or other services. It examines how housing loan design and delivery differs from other credit products and suggests strategies for managing risks and challenges that are unique to this product category.
  • Module 8: Emergency and Consumption Loans describes the rationale for this type of lending as well as the controversy which surrounds it. It offers guidelines for designing a product of this type that can assist low-income households in managing risk and irregular cash flows while avoiding over-indebtedness.
  • Module 9: Microinsurance examines the concept of insurance and the conditions under which this type of risk-managing financial service is preferable to savings or credit. It explores the different types of microinsurance products that are being used by low-income households and the structures through which FSPs are able to deliver those products effectively.
  • Module 10: Leasing describes financial products that facilitate clients' use of equipment that they do not own (or own only in part). It clarifies the major differences between leasing and asset-backed lending and explores the conditions under which FSPs might consider adding leasing to their product mix.
  • Module 11: Money Transfers addresses the range of financial services that enables the movement of money from one party to another. This includes bill payment, remittances, government transfers and person-to-person transfers. It compares the building blocks of different money transfer systems and explains how the money transfer value chain works before examining the business models through which FSPs can offer money transfer services.
  • Module 12: Non-financial Services considers two important themes: 1) why some FSPs offer education, health, business development or other non-financial services; and 2) how such services can be efficiently and effectively delivered so as to complement an institution's financial service offering.
  • Module 13: Grants explores how the provision of small sums of money or in-kind benefits to clients without an expectation of repayment can enable FSPs to build productive relationships with disadvantaged market segments. It also discusses how to design micro-grants so they do not create dependency, discourage savings, or distort the market for sustainable microfinance.

This section explores the characteristics of eight market segments, the nature of the product mix that can meet the needs of each segment, and the strategies that microfinance institutions are using to overcome key challenges associated with serving each segment.

  • Module 14: Targeting Marginalized Markets focuses on finding, recruiting and serving market segments that are difficult to reach because of their small size, isolation or particular vulnerabilities. This includes disabled persons, bonded laborers, people living with HIV/AIDS, gypsies, and others.
  • Module 15: Pre-microfinance for the Poorest focuses on a market segment that is highly marginalized but substantial in size. It examines the barriers to financial service access for the poorest of the poor, from both a supply and demand perspective, before exploring the product mix and adaptations that are enabling FSPs to reach this segment effectively.
  • Module 16: Microfinance for Youth focuses on potential microfinance clients who are underserved because of their young age. It explores the product design and delivery mechanisms that can help youth become economically active, start their own enterprises, finance education and manage risks.
  • Module 17: Microfinance for Women focuses on the female market segment and considers how FSPs can adjust their product design, delivery mechanisms and communication strategies to develop longer-term, more empowering relationships with low-income women.
  • Module 18: Post-crisis Microfinance focuses on communities that have been affected by armed conflict, coups, earthquakes, floods or other natural and man-made disasters. It discusses when and how microfinance can be an appropriate intervention in such communities as well as the steps FSPs can take to prepare themselves and their clients for crisis.
  • Module 19: Islamic Microfinance focuses on low-income clients who want access to financial products that respect Islamic law. It describes how key Islamic principles influence product design and pose unique challenges for those that want to serve this segment of the population effectively.
  • Module 20: Rural Microfinance focuses on a market segment that government and non-government actors have been trying to reach for decades, yet remains vastly underserved. It summarizes the factors that make rural areas so challenging and presents features of an outreach strategy that are enabling some FSPs to serve these areas more effectively.
  • Module 21: SME Finance focuses on small and medium enterprises whose financial service needs are usually too small to attract the interest of mainstream financial institutions and too large to be met by a typical FSP. It explores the changes that some FSPs have made to meet the needs of their most successful microenterprise clients, changes that are now enabling them to reach the underserved SME segment.

This last section returns to the management agenda. How can microfinance institutions plan, organize, lead and control the product diversification process to maximize the benefits for themselves and their clients?

  • Module 22: Building and Managing Partnerships looks at the important role of partnerships in enabling institutions of various types to diversify efficiently and effectively. It surveys the continuum of partnerships found in microfinance and the factors that contribute to their success. It also identifies strategies for mitigating major risks at each stage of the partnering process.
  • Module 23: Delivering a Diverse Portfolio addresses the challenges inherent in delivering a more complex product mix. It raises awareness of the issues that need to be dealt with as a product portfolio expands and provides specific suggestions for adapting institutional culture, redistributing functions and responsibilities, empowering staff, communicating with clients, reengineering systems and managing change.
  • Module 24: Product Portfolio Management moves beyond the creation of a diverse product mix to focus on the maintenance of a strategic product portfolio over time. It introduces the product portfolio management function and suggests tools for implementing the activities associated with it, including the definition of product strategy, product elimination and portfolio review.

Volume 2 is available in generic version and special segment focused editions.


Generic version

Refugees and host communities


Rural Areas


The course is based on the ILO publication “Making microfinance work. Managing product diversification” (612 pages, downloadable).

Certification Overview

To make its course content more widely available, the ILO's International Training Centre (ITC-ILO) certifies local trainers to deliver Making Microfinance Work on its behalf. Certified trainers have access to a full set of training materials that are regularly updated to incorporate new developments in the field and that can be adapted to their local environment.

Certifications are organized in country – for local and regional audiences, or in Turin, for an international audience.


The Certification Process

Trainers are certified to deliver the MMW curriculum through a three-phase process.


  • Phase 1: Local trainers are selected to participate in the certification process on the basis of their financial sector, management and training experience, as well as their capacity to offer the course on an ongoing basis if certified. The selected trainers attend the course that they want to be certified to deliver so they can absorb the content and training methodology from a participant's perspective. Certification candidates are given a content exam. The results of this exam and the Master Trainer’s assessment of each candidate’s performance during the Phase I event determine which trainers move to the next phase.
  • Phase 2: Certification candidates participate in a 5 or 6-day training-of-trainers workshop with an ILO Master Trainer to better understand the course design and practice applying its methodology. They deliver content which they have adapted for their local environment and receive multiple rounds of feedback on their performance. Skill clinics focus on strengthening training techniques that were identified as weak during the Phase I event. At the end of this workshop, the strongest trainers are invited to participate in the third and final phase of the certification process.
  • Phase 3: Certification candidates deliver Making Microfinance Work to a real audience of FSP managers. An ILO Master Trainer is present to support the trainers, provide feedback at the end of each training day, and monitor the quality of delivery against ITC-ILO certification criteria. Trainers who meet the ITC-ILO’s quality standards during this event are certified and become licensed to deliver one volume of the MMW curriculum on behalf of the ILO. Trainers that wish to become licensed to deliver a second volume of the MMW curriculum must pass a content exam and participate in a training-of-trainers workshop designed specifically for that volume.


Get in touch
  • If you are interested in organizing a course or a certification process in your country or region, or translate or adapt the course to your own context: contact Ms. Margarita Lalayan, Senior Programme Officer at
  • If you are a certified trainer: access the trainer’s area of the ITC ILO ecampus. Write to for registration and access.
  • If you would like to become a certified trainer or join one of the upcoming courses: please contact for information
Programme partner and founder






Social Finance programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO)

See more

ITC ILO programme in Social Finance

Domande? Abbiamo le risposte