Much emphasis has been placed in microfinance on organizational sustainability. An alternative measure of success is related to the benefits generated. This paper assesses and discusses the successes of the South African Homeless People'sFederation to achieve housing delivery for the poor. The Federation works with locally established savings groups, facilitating their access to housing (and the state housing subsidy) with both loan finance and skill sharing through community exchanges. The authors argue that the successes of the policy should be understood in terms of the assets that have been created for and by the poor.An estimated benefit of R540 million (net present value) has been secured mainly as a result of the improved housing constructed, and the emphasis on savings and loan finance is now being considered for replication by the state. The approach is not without its own limitations, however. The pro-poor stance has been weakened by the role of the state housing subsidy system and its approach to housing construction and management.
In one of the poorest areas of South Africa, Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF) runs a microfinance programme targeted at poor women. For about six years SEF has run an impact monitoring programme using indepth interviews aimed at improving SEF's performance as a developmental MFI. The emphasis is on predicting trends in client well-being rather than objective indicators of client poverty levels. SEF uses ongoing monitoring tools such as client-level indicators, drop-out monitoring, vulnerable groups and centres, and a management information system (MIS) which readily identify problems before they become serious, such as increased client drop-out associated with negative client impact. This article describes some of the client impact results produced by this impact management programme, and outlines how the system works. It describes how SEF was able to take corrective action when increased levels of drop-outs were identified in 2002, and demonstrates that the preventive action stimulated by the programme more than covered the costs of the impact management programme itself.