Scale Academy for Microenterprise Development

Funded by the Citi and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundations and operated in collaboration with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO).

About the Project

Now in its fifth year, the Scale Academy for Microenterprise Development provides grant funding, peer learning events, and technical assistance to twelve high-performing microenterprise organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to scaling-up operations to serve more clients.

With the challenge of achieving greater scale a long-standing issue in the U.S. microenterprise field, the Scale Academy is viewed as a way to focus resources on a set of microenterprise organizations that are poised to scale up and, with this injection of support, produce an immediate return in terms of increased numbers of clients served. By documenting the experiences of their scale-up strategies, FIELD shares best practices with the wider microenterprise community.

Meet the twelve grantees

Scale Academy Highlights: Solid Results

Launched in 2007, with an impending financial crisis underway, the initial cohort of Scale Academy members faced their share of challenging circumstances and successes. Results from the original seven grantees include these highlights:

  • They served 6,979 clients and made 1,776 loans in FY 2010.
  • Since 2006 (the baseline year), the number of clients served increased 67 percent and number of loans made increased by 36 percent.
  • Many of the programs serve additional participants with less intensive services like referrals, credit counseling, one-time workshops, or smaller amounts of technical assistanceā€”making the total number of individuals served at least 9,576 in FY 2010.
  • In 2010, the median number of individuals assisted by Scale Academy members was almost seven times that of 288 microenterprise programs responding to the 2010 US microenterprise census.

In addition, the networking that both cohorts of grantees have engaged in, both within the Academy and externally, has helped moved the field forward. For example, recent joint work on capitalization strategies may offer insights into the viability of bond issues to support the financial growth of the field. The partnership of several members (Opportunity Fund and the ACCION members) has made Microfinance USA, a national conference that is putting U.S. microfinance on the map for new audiences. The engagement of Academy members in other important networks is also extending the influence of the ideas and learning generated within the Academy.

Sharing Lessons with the Field

Grant investments have helped Academy members transform their business models for increased scale and sustainability; improve products and services; and invest in market research and marketing pilots, and organizational development (board and staff development, MIS systems, and fundraising). FIELD has shared the outcomes of many of these initiatives in publications, webinar forums and conference venues.