Timeline and brief history


Cerise, a French non-profit organization, is founded. A pioneer in social performance management, Cerise works to find solutions for mission-driven organizations to make their social goals a reality. 


A front-page article by Daniel Pearl in the Wall Street Journal highlights portfolio-at-risk and other issues within Grameen, the microfinance institution with the highest public profile. Industry observers acknowledge that many key performance indicators— portfolio at risk, return on equity, return on assets, operational self-sufficiency and more—are calculated differently from one institution to the next, and that comparability and transparency must be urgent priorities. Meanwhile, the “other bottom line”—social performance—has yet to be defined.


Ford Foundation, CGAP, and other industry leaders come together to pursue a common goal: a framework to define and measure social performance in microfinance. After a series of exploratory discussions, the Social Performance Task Force is born.


Compartamos, a Mexican microfinance institution launched partially with USD 4.3 million in public-sector funding, issues an initial public offering.  Existing investors received about USD 450 million for 30 percent of their shares, or more than 12 times the book value of those shares.


SPTF Working Group structure launched. Initial groups include Social Investors, Harmonized Framework for Ratings, Social Indicators, Social Performance Management, and Outcomes.


Development finance institutions come together to launch the Microfinance Enhancement Facility, or MEF, to provide short- and medium-term liquidity to microfinance institutions. MEF uses the Cerise social audit tool as their tool of choice to target socially-oriented institutions.


India’s SKS, an MFI focused on lending to poor rural women, goes public, raising USD 350 million in India’s first microfinance IPO.


Cerise and Social Performance Task Force begin formal collaboration to align Cerise’s tools with the emerging social performance standards SPTF is developing, and to explore other areas of common purpose.


After 7 years of intensive global consultations, field testing, and refinements, the Social Performance Task Force issues the first edition of the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management.


Mexico’s national body for the regulation of microfinance institutions, PRONAFIM, integrates parameters focused on measuring social commitment into its operating rules. It uses a modified version of the Cerise SPI to evaluate its regulated microfinance institutions’ level of implementation of social performance and offers access to lines of financing for those with strong social results.


Responsible Inclusive Finance Facilities launched in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East/North Africa to support implementation of the Universal Standards.Cerise redesigns its SPI tool around the Universal Standards to create one industry wide tool with which all stakeholders can evaluate the level of implementation of a microfinance institution of these international best practices. The tool is field-tested by SPTF members and revised to ensure real-world applicability. The SPI4 has an optional module for evaluating environmental practices that contains the indicators from the first edition of the Green Index.SPTF launches the Gender Working Group and runs it for two years. The main work on this topic is later taken over by Grameen Foundation.


Thirteen social investors work together through a series of meetings facilitated by SPTF to create a subset of 80 indicators from the SPI4 tool that allow for the investors to harmonizing their due diligence and monitoring on the social performance of their investees. This tool becomes a module called SPI4 ALINUS.


SPTF publishes the second edition of the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management after a year-long consultative process with experts, members, and a variety of other stakeholders in responsible finance. Intensive coordination with the Smart Campaign is carried out to ensure harmonized updates of both sets of standards and inclusion within the Universal Standards of the second edition of the client protection standards. 

The Microfinance Information eXchange, or MIX, publishes a report analyzing the relationship between financial and social performance. MIX data indicate that financial service providers that monitor social performance consistently show better portfolio quality, efficiency, and productivity, and that Universal Standards-aligned human resources practices are positively associated with both staff and client retention.In Nicaragua, CONAMI publishes guidelines for the national law on microfinance, which are structured around the Universal Standards and written by an SPTF-trained consultant, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. SPTF provides SPI4 assessor training for CONAMI staff, so they can begin Cerise’s social auditor qualification process and carry out social audits of all the regulated microfinance institutions in Nicaragua.The Palestinian Microfinance Authority enacts the Responsible Lending law that has articles and instructions that cover each one of the seven client protection principles. This further defines the Regulation No. 132 of 2011 for the Licensing and Supervising of Specialized Credit Institutions.


As part of the World Economic Forum’s initiative to accelerate impact measurement and management, SPTF leads the work of an action group to develop guidance on integrating the voice of all affected stakeholders into impact investments and activities of organizations. The work is published as "Engaging All Affected Stakeholders."SPTF partners with the GIIN to develop the Financial Inclusion theme of Navigating Impact, and with UNPRI to help develop the Financial Inclusion area of the Impact Investing Market Map. The alignment work also includes coordinating with IRIS and GIIRS.Central Bank of Jordan writes a law for its regulated microfinance institutions on client protection that is based on Smart Campaign’s Model Law for integrating the client protection standards into national regulation.By the end of 2017, 250 MFIs have used the SPI4 to evaluate their practices and 30% of these have voluntarily evaluated themselves with the optional green module.SPTF publishes a set of Guides for WHY and HOW to collect outcomes data on clients of microfinance institutions, offering a menu of consensus-based indicators (a result of its Outcomes Working Group’s efforts over the previous three years). Indicators cover poverty, health, food security, vulnerability/resilience, and business assets.


Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility for Central America and the Caribbean (RIFF-CAC) is launched in January. Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility for Southeast Asia (RIFF-SEA) is formed.


SPTF Europe is formed.


The Smart Campaign (an initiative to advance client protection) concludes and hands off stewardship of the client protection standards to Cerise+SPTF.Jamaica enacts its MicroCredit Act, which integrates the client protection standards into law and gives microfinance institutions 18 months to register with the regulators and comply with the terms of the Act.SPTF launches the Customer Empowerment work through RIFF-SEA.


Cerise+SPTF formalize their collaboration, already a decade in practice, via a memorandum of understanding.RIFF-CAC published a case study on CONAMI and its integration of the Universal Standards into national regulation, use of SPI4 to monitor progress toward implementation of the Universal Standards over time, and work to create incentives for strong social performance management among regulated institutions.


We celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Universal Standards.The third edition of the Universal Standards is published and their name updated -- becoming the Universal Standards for Social and Environmental Performance Management.  The addition of Dimension 7 on Environmental Performance Management makes work on this aspect of responsible lending an obligatory part of any responsible financial institution’s social audit.In response to the rapid growth of fintech, and the unique challenges that digitized finance poses, Cerise+SPTF launches the Digital Financial Services Working Group. The global response is immediate and strongly positive. SPTF interviews dozens of experts globally to shape the draft standards for what responsible provision of digital products and channels should look like to minimize consumer risk.