Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints


Jul 18, 2013

Mercy Corps

Innovation in Development Disbursements: Visa Innovation Grant Recipients Announced


Today we’re proud to recognize the recipients of the Visa Innovation Grants Program. In partnership with NetHope, a consortium of more than 40 humanitarian organizations, and an Expert Advisory Committee of distinguished public and private sector leaders, five leading development organizations were selected to receive funding for projects that will modernize the distribution of agriculture, health and emergency relief payments to those living below the poverty line.

The Visa Innovation Grants Program is one component of Visa’s ongoing dedication to advancing financial inclusion around the world.  Every year, billions of dollars in cash payments are distributed to people in need through emergency relief efforts, benefit stipends, conditional cash transfers, microfinance programs, and other development initiatives.  Digitizing these payments through mobile phones or other electronic methods not only improves the distribution of aid, but can also help recipients gain access to broader financial services, including savings and electronic payments tools.

The group of five grantee organizations includes: Agribusiness Systems International (ASI), Freedom from Hunger, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mercy Corps, and Pathfinder International.

Each organization has been awarded $100,000 to support innovation in and adoption of electronic payments. The projects are focused on a wide variety of sectors, yet all are seeking better ways to distribute aid to the people who need it most.

Here is an introduction to the projects selected for funding, which we will cover in depth in future posts:

  • Agribusiness Systems International (ASI)

ASI will use the Visa Innovation Grant to bring formal financial services to rice farmers in Ghana. The program will extend branchless banking in rural areas by integrating mobile finance into the rice value chain. Mobile finance will reduce the risk of theft, connect farmers and other actors with financial services, and ensure timely payments to farmers. Founded in 1993 as an affiliate of ACDI/VOCA, ASI is a nonprofit consulting organization that helps smallholder farmers become competitive in the agribusiness sector.

  • Freedom from Hunger

Freedom from Hunger will use the Visa Innovation Grant to improve access to health services in rural Ecuador by integrating electronic payments for health services through local microfinance institutions that provide health savings and credit accounts. The program combines payment services with improved access to health services and education. Freedom from Hunger has more than six decades of experience fighting global poverty and hunger, as well as developing and testing flexible and sustainable approaches that provide group-based financial services, education and access to additional products and services to poor women and youth.

  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

IFRC, along with its partner American Red Cross, will use the Visa Innovation Grant to design and test a rapidly implementable and scalable electronic cash transfer system(s) with Red Cross National Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Electronic payments improve security and transparency of aid payments, enable families to begin their recovery in the shortest time possible and create a pathway to more formal financial services. The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, acting before, during and after disasters and crises to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.

  • Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps will use the Visa Innovation Grant to provide smallholder farmers in Indonesia with access to mobile money, improving their productivity and increasing incomes. The program’s scalable and replicable model connects banks, mobile network operators and a full range of stakeholders in the agricultural value chain, while also helping farmers gain the knowledge and tools they need for success. Mercy Corps is an international development organization that helps people around the world survive and thrive after conflict, crisis and natural disaster.

  • Pathfinder International

Pathfinder International will use the Visa Innovation Grant to introduce a mobile money-based payroll system for its community health workers in Kenya. The pay-for-performance incentive model will be combined with access to real-time field data, improving transparency and the quality of services delivered. Pathfinder International is a nonprofit organization with a focus on access to contraception; maternal and newborn health; and HIV and AIDS services. The organization has implemented projects in more than 100 countries worldwide, and is recognized for its innovative and responsive approaches to meeting health needs at the community level.

There were many impressive ideas submitted by all applicants, and we believe these projects have particular promise for scaling electronic payments across diverse sectors. We look forward to supporting these projects and seeing how each will spur new ideas and models for the future of aid and development payments around the globe.

[Photo above: Elizabeth Mueni (right), a community health worker in Kenya trained by Pathfinder International, uses a mobile phone to collect data and track the health needs of her clients. Photo by Sala Lewis.]

 Check back for more updates about the Visa Innovation Grants Program and the group of recipients highlighted above.


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on July 18, 2013 at 6:13 am

Feb 26, 2013

Voices of Inclusion: Mercy Corps and GSMA Mobile for Development

Visa’s Head of Corporate Responsibility Douglas Sabo continues his conversations with thought leaders from the public, private and NGO sectors about the impact mobile services are having on financial inclusion efforts around the world. 

Next in the series of conversations is Elizabeth Berthe, Senior Director of Financial Services Innovation at Mercy Corps and Chris Locke, Managing Director of GSMA Mobile for Development.

Elizabeth Berthe, Mercy Corps


Chris Locke, GSMA Mobile for Development

 Other videos in the “Voices of Inclusion” series:

Dr. Maura O’Neill, USAID


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on February 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Feb 26, 2013

Voices of Inclusion at #MWC13

In series of conversations launching at Mobile World Congress, Visa’s Head of Corporate Responsibility Douglas Sabo interviews thought leaders from the public, private and NGO sectors about the impact mobile services are having on financial inclusion efforts around the world.

Douglas Sabo, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Visa

Dr. Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer, USAID


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on February 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Jan 23, 2013

Davos Discusses “Better Than Cash”


On Wednesday morning at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Visa and Citi co-sponsored a roundtable event with the Better Than Cash Alliance. The discussion on the global shift by governments, the development community and the private sector from cash to electronic payments was opened by Visa Group President of the Americas, Bill Sheedy.

Over 50 dignitaries and thought leaders attended the panel discussion moderated by Zanny Minton Beddoes, Economics Editor from The Economist. The panel included Juan Jiménez Mayor, Prime Minister, Republic of Peru, Dr. Mauricio Cárdenas, Minister of Finance, Republic of Colombia and Florencio B. Abad, Secretary of Budget and Management, Republic of the Philippines.

The panelists discussed the benefits their countries are experiencing through the shift to electronic payments including transparency, cost savings, economic growth and increased financial inclusion.

Organizations including the World Food Programme, Mercy Corps, and UNCDF described the challenges and opportunities in making this transition and highlighted the importance of greater collaboration between the public sector, private industry and the development community.

Read more about the event from Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance here.


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on January 23, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Oct 4, 2012

Better Than Cash Alliance Perspectives: The Development Community

Around the world, 2.5 billion people lack access to formal finan­cial services. As a result, most poor households live almost entirely in a cash economy. Shifting to electronic distribution of social benefits, humanitarian aid or payroll can advance financial inclusion and help poor people build savings while achieving cost savings, efficiency and transparency.

The recent Better Than Cash Alliance launch event gathered together governments, the development community, and the private sector–all aligned around a common goal to shift the world from cash to electronic payments.

We took the opportunity to gather unique perspectives from global leaders tackling this important issue.  The first set of perspectives come from members of the development community, including:

Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer

World Food Programme Executive Director Etharin Cousin

CARE CEO Dr. Helene Gayle


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on October 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm