Goodbye, 2020! Five Good Takeaways from a Pretty Bad Year

Eugenie Kabeya_Client_FINCA DRC

Like you, we at FINCA are excited to have turned the page on 2020. Between the pandemic, social and political unrest, and natural disasters, it was a doozy of a year for all of us and for the millions of vulnerable people FINCA serves.

But as we plan for the year ahead, we’re also reflecting on the good things that happened in 2020 and the many lessons we learned. Here are five of our takeaways from 2020, with reflections on how these takeaways will enhance our poverty-fighting work moving forward.

Takeaway 1: FINCA’s clients are incredibly resilient

It was no surprise that FINCA’s clients stayed resilient in the face of the pandemic. After all, these are women and men who have faced adversity time and time again, and COVID-19 was just a plot-twist on their journey to a better future. Even so, seeing how FINCA’s clients reacted to shutdowns, to economic uncertainty, and to tragedy in their communities was nothing short of inspiring.

We saw clients like Eugénie in the Democratic Republic of the Congo start making face masks in her tailoring shop to keep her colleagues employed and her community safe from viral transmission. Clients like Aidah in Uganda cleverly use the resources she had to maximize earnings from her banana sales even during the nationwide lockdown. And thousands of others who adapted quickly to a new reality in order to keep their families and communities strong.

FINCA has always believed in the industriousness, creativity, and strength of our clients. What we saw last year reinforced that belief, so we never forget that our clients are capable of incredible things, especially when given the resources they need to thrive.

Takeaway 2: Our world is more interconnected than ever before

The poet John Donne didn’t need to watch a deadly pandemic unfold on the nightly news to know that no man–nor nation–is an island entire of itself. Neither did we. But the swiftness with which COVID-19 spread to nearly every corner of the globe was a stark reminder that our world is more interconnected than ever before, and our collective actions have very real consequences for our global neighbors.

While our interconnectedness caused suffering this year through the spread of COVID-19, it also allowed us to respond quickly to the needs of people next door and around the world with relevant solutions, relief, and kindness. It allowed us to share resources and ideas, to encourage entire communities in their fight against the virus, and to recognize our heroes. As we look ahead, we’re mindful of our responsibility to our global neighbors and will remember how our interconnectedness has helped–and will help–us better share, grow, and promote peace and equity.

Takeaway 3: Innovative entrepreneurs are critical to the future of our planet and humankind

The first COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in the United States was created by a couple of entrepreneurial scientists who are so dedicated to their vocation that they spent part of their wedding day in a laboratory. They exemplify the dedication, intelligence, and hard work of entrepreneurs around the world.

While every entrepreneur may not have global impact like the scientists who started BioNTech, data tells us small-scale entrepreneurs can have a big impact on their neighbors and communities. And these entrepreneurs often have no choice but to be agile and innovative so they can be more effective and efficient, which results in better services and products for their customers.

These services and products were crucial to the wellbeing of millions of people in 2020. For example, one of our FINCA Ventures partner companies, Eneza Education, provided digital education to millions of students in Africa who couldn’t go to school during nationwide lockdowns. Another FINCA Ventures partner, Good Nature Agro, is using its innovative approach to increasing farm outputs to improve farmer welfare and decrease hunger. On a smaller scale, thousands of FINCA microloan recipients are making groceries and essentials more accessible to their communities at a time when traveling to faraway markets is impossible or unsafe.

FINCA is doubling down on our commitment to empowering entrepreneurs with working capital and smart advice so they can continue effecting change in the communities they serve. We saw in 2020 that big businesses are protecting their interests while entrepreneurs are serving the interests of their neighbors and clients, and we’re committed to bolstering the efforts of these dedicated innovators and community leaders.

Takeaway 4: Reliable data makes all the difference

FINCA has always been committed to robust research and we were thankful to have a strong research and data science program in place when COVID-19 hit. We wanted to respond to the needs of our clients, and we needed to know how the pandemic and lockdowns were affecting them in order to respond effectively.

Our data science team jumped into action when lockdowns began in the spring with a client survey using our tried-and-true data validation software. Our extensive field network administered the survey with safety precautions in place, and our data scientists analyzed the results to make recommendations on FINCA’s COVID-19 response.

Those recommendations made all the difference in helping FINCA to respond appropriately to the challenges our clients were facing. For BrightLife clean energy clients, we responded with free energy during the lockdown period since earning income was impossible for many. For FINCA Ventures partners, we responded with more capital to help them fulfill their social missions despite global economic uncertainty. And for microfinance clients, we responded with more business advice, more digital tools to make remote banking possible, easy access to savings, and more flexible loan repayment terms.

We are still collecting data on the impact COVID-19 is having on our clients, and we remain committed to responding to their needs on the long road to recovery.

Takeaway 5: FINCA’s partners are radically generous

Last year was hard on everyone, and it would have been easy for one to stick their head in the sand to insulate themselves from the overwhelming sadness and need surrounding us. But FINCA’s supporters did the exact opposite.

You, our contributors and partners, were radically generous last year. In the spring we launched an Emergency Response Fund to address the needs of our clients and we asked you to help. And you did. Your response was nothing short of heroic, and as we reflect on 2020, we are honored and deeply grateful for your outpouring of support, love, concern, and compassion for vulnerable families and struggling entrepreneurs who needed your help.

Our takeaway from your generosity is this: there are better, brighter days ahead for FINCA’s clients, their communities, and the whole world thanks to you and the millions of people who are willing to make sacrifices for the good of others. Thank you for sustaining hope when it’s needed most and for being one of the best things about 2020.