When you’re sitting in the audience and someone steps up to the lectern to deliver their remarks, how often do you find yourself thinking “God, I hope this guy isn’t going to bore the hell out of us and waste our time.” When I’m speaking to any group, be it inside FINCA or the outside world, I put myself in my audience’s place and do my best not to speak, but to entertain. (Admittedly, I have been known to take this to the extreme, especially if there is a microphone handy, breaking into song to shock my audience into a state of full wakefulness.) My favorite teachers in High School were the ones whom we could count on to keep us entertained, like my Chemistry teacher, Mr. Reggio, who regaled us with tales from “the old neighborhood” in the Bronx where he grew up.
There is nothing like a good story to bring the work FINCA does to life. The challenging part is that you’ll probably tell the best stories again and again, like the actor who has to get up and play The Dane five times a week. How do you “make it new” and make the audience feel this is the first time you’ve ever told this story? One trick I use is I tailor or “customize” the stories, adding new details that I think would hold special appeal or interest for my audience. But I am also fortunate in that, with over 1.6 million clients to choose from, FINCA affords me with an inexhaustible source of new stories, which can be “refreshed” each time I go to the field and speak to our clients. Would that I had the time and means to hear them all! Our clients’ journeys, in their own words, are the fuel that keeps me inspired and determined to do everything I can to help them succeed.
Some of my more quantitative colleagues dislike our use of stories, arguing that they don’t provide statistical evidence of impact, or that they represent the outliers and not the norm for the client experience. While FINCA conducts its own social impact research, based on a methodology validated by the World Bank, we remain convinced that our success in attracting and retaining customers owes to our culture of listening and ensuring that the clients have a strong and clear voice in shaping our products and services. In short, nothing speaks to the impact of FINCA’s work better than the voices of the clients themselves. So take a minute to hear about Cissy.