The evaluator’s dilemma

January 21, 2010
By Rang De Team
By Smita Ram, Rang De Team

I have just got back from a field visit to Palakkad in Kerala. Like with every other field trip, the Kerala field trip had its own impact on the mind. The objective of most of these field trips is to get a chance to interact with borrowers and of course share those stories with our social investors. Even though I love the interaction bit, the part where we request the borrower for a picture always gives me mixed feelings — mostly unpleasant -about why we are doing it? The unpleasantness is a sense of intruding into their lives and then coming back to share the stories through social or other media. Are we right in doing this?

To add to my already unpleasant feelings was an incident where a borrower’s irate husband did not want us to take his wife’s picture. We backed off instantly and did not even utter the word ‘photo’ during this conversation. I really appreciated the fact that he was outspoken even though for the wrong reasons. The lady — her name Mary- was quite keen on being photographed.

So here is the dilemma bit that I go through on each of these field trips. I love to bring back stories for people to read. Good or bad, these stories help us understand microcredit and how it is working or not working. But during our interactions with borrowers, I realise, most entrepreneurs we meet, barring a few exceptions, are hard working individuals who have used the loan and are repaying on time. This has been true across all field trips and geographies. Shouldn’t that suffice?

Well I know the answers to most of these questions and yet I do not seem too have a solution. Drawing the fine balance between protecting the borrower’s interests and that of the social investors is what Rang De has set out to do and communication is the most important bit. So, for now, I will settle with the thought that, yes, it is important to communicate as long as we are sensitive to the people we meet and respect their feelings and sentiments. More importantly, interact with the entrepreneurs and borrowers as a friend and the interaction is bound to be meaningful and the learning richer.

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