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‘People coming together, it changes things’ guest post by Nadia Martinez

In this guest post, Nadia Martinez of the Smallholder and Agri-SME Finance and Investment Network (SAFIN) reflects on the importance of breaking down silos and bringing people together to connect and work more effectively toward shared goals. 

SAFIN works across the investment landscape to collectively advance inclusive finance for agri-SMEs and smallholder farmers. Our members provide direct impact to SMEs through capital and service provision. As a network we come together to find common solutions and alignment around the main challenges in the sector. We are trying to impact at a systems level and improve the landscape within which SMEs operate.

We find that the ecosystem can be very siloed. Work happens at small scale or can be duplicated because there isn’t sufficient coordination. Our work brings the diversity of actors to the table to discuss issues they have in common; better collaboration and coordination is critical.

I feel motivated after attending Small Foundation’s partner gathering in Nairobi. It was a joy seeing old colleagues and connecting with new ones; and getting deep into issues of common interest, struggle and achievement was enlightening.

Thinking about the conversations we shared, my key reflections from the gathering are:

  • Learning is also about failing. I heard several examples of ways some people are doing this well, including F&*k-up Fairs and Walls of Remembrance. Clever ways to reflect and learn from what didn’t work.
  • Impact is hard to measure, especially when you’re trying to shift a whole system. Structural change takes time and short-term thinking and reporting is not aligned with this. There were some great ideas about combining stories and qualitative observations with quantitative measurement. Having a clear impact goal and hypothesis is key.
  • Solutions are out there. Some require courage and will. Sharing lessons and experiences is critical to scaling what works and to avoid duplication. The Small Foundation partner gathering was a deliberate effort to create that space and it works. Let’s do more of it.

Hosted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome, SAFIN first partnered with Small Foundation in 2018.

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