2015 Mifos Community Choice Awards – Honoring our Finest

Throughout the year, so many acts of kindness, ingenuity, and dedication go unheralded. Now in their second year, we formally recognize those community members who through the leadership and service to the project, serve as shining examples to the entire ecosystem of how we can each do our collective part to create a world of 3 Billion Maries. The post below recaps our Community Choice Awards  dinner which took place on March 12, 2015 at during our Global Summit in Sharjah. Over a fine dinner and some impromptu entertainment led by Amit Jain, we honored our finest community members:

  • Most Innovative MFI (sponsored by Google): Elevate Africa
  • Most Dedicated Platform Solution Partner: Musoni Services
  • Most Dedicated Deployment Partner (sponsored by ThoughtWorks): Intrasoft Technologies
  • Technical Volunteer of the Year (sponsored by Liberty Mutual) –  Markus Geiss
  • Non-Technical Volunteer of the Year – Dayna Harp
  • Distinguished Service Award –  Nayan Ambali

Most Innovative MFI – Elevate Africa (sponsored by Google)

This year’s Most Innovative MFI Award was once again sponsored by Google. When we think of innovation in an open source community, we look for innovative uses of technology, innovative service offerings, and innovative participation. Elevate Africa under the helm of Henrik Esbensen, possesses all those qualities.

Elevate Africa Soap Business

Henriks’ role in the community goes way back. He has been one of our most passionate supporters and one of the most dedicated and forward-looking financial inclusion leaders I’ve met. His organization, Elevate Africa (formerly Creocore), was actually our first Mifos X customer. Henrik had the patience and the courage to believe in the Woodlock brothers as they built out the initial stages of the Mifos X platform.

Seeking greater flexibility than Mifos 2 had to offer to better support their entrepreneurship-focused, individual lending methodology, Henrik’s perseverance and willingness to serve as a guinea pig has paid off. Mifos X is powering Elevate Africa’s operations, they’ve already integrated it with their other systems like Quickbooks, and it’s ready to serve as the foundation for a variety of innovation they’re planning.

I’m watching with anticipation to see the amazing work that they will be able to do as they seek to apply a “Silicon Valley startup approach” to poverty alleviation. As a startup accelerator designed to break the cycle of poverty, they’re providing education, mentoring, networking, and access to capital in one powerful formula.

As we seek to end poverty one line of code at a time, Elevate Africa, will be a crucial part of that mission as they change lives one startup at a time.

Most Dedicated Platform Solution Partner – Musoni Services

One of the anchors in our community since we launched the Mifos X Platform has been Musoni Services. Just like Elevate Africa, they made an even bigger bet that the new platform we’re building could be a game-changer for the sector. Even in its infant stages, they recognized the long-term potential of our modern platform coupled with the flexible Mozilla Public License 2.0. They knew it could both harness and unleash their best practice financial inclusion they pioneered at Musoni Kenya as the world’s first cashless and paperless microfinance institution.

Once the platform was ready, Sander, Cameron and the rest of their team, quickly built the entire Musoni System on top of the Mifos X platform via its APIs in a mere few months. Their customized application with specialized workflows and tight integration with mobile money platforms has been a huge market success. Their team has been able to deploy their system at two dozen organizations of all methodologies throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. As they replicate their operational and technological excellence throughout Africa, they’re a powerful case study on the new technology and service delivery models that can be deployed on Mifos X with the support of our ecosystem.

Apart from their stellar track record and heralded reputation in the sector, Musoni Services shares their success back with the community. As members of the Partner Council, they share their operational knowledge and market learnings to help grow the community, their team provides detailed requirements and functional specifications to help our technology evolve to support the growing needs of digital financial inclusion, but most importantly they contribute back to the core platform that’s so essential to their business. Musoni has a small team of developers that builds unique features for their Musoni System customers but they also dedicate nearly a full-time developer who contributes features and enhancements to the Mifos X core platform back to the community – a telling example of the virtuous cycle we’re seeking to enable.

Most Dedicated Deployment Partner – Intrasoft Technologies

Zayyad Said of Intrasoft Technologies has been one of the most active and committed Partners since the earliest days of our community. I can still recall my first interactions with Zayyad since he brought on Hazina Microfinance as his first customer. Since then he’s now deployed Mifos and Mifos X at more than a half dozen organizations throughout East Africa. With Zayyad, you’re always certain to get professionalism and utmost dedication to the customer. Zayyad never hesitates to support others with his knowledge on the mailing lists and is passionate on sharing his insights about the marketplace so Mifos X can stay at the forefront of competition. His wisdom and personal experience also continues to help us shape our partner program so that he and other deployment partners can build viable businesses on top of the Mifos X platform.

Zayyad is now also leading our platform towards better support of Islamic Microfinance, generous and willing to share this knowledge and help us shape the product to support Shariah-compliant financial inclusion. This award was sponsored by the ThoughtWorks Social Impact Program.

Technical Volunteer of the Year – Markus Geiss

Markus Geiss who was recognized as our Star Contributor in October of this year, is one of those rare contributors that only comes around so often – his presence is and will continue to have a transformative impact on our project for many years to come. It’s been just over a year now since he introduced himself on the mailing list in April after finding us through Social Coding 4 Good. His contributions as a volunteer have been so numerous, his mentorship so encouraging, his foresight and vision so forward-looking, and his passion and enthusiasm so strong that we’ve brought him on to the team formally as our Chief Architect.

Markus time after time has been a steady source of architectural wisdom, elegant code, level-headed mentorship, and positive energy to the project that we could only hope for from other volunteers. We are only just starting to experience the impact Markus will have on our project to help it scale towards the next generation of digital financial services to the poor – we look forward to finding more volunteers like him who can immediately become such a vital member of the project through personal dedication. Our thanks go out to Liberty Mutual for the funding they provided to sponsor the summit and commemorate this award.


Non-technical Volunteer of the Year – Dayna Harp

We have been blessed to have such a seasoned expert from the credit union sector be so open and enthusiastic about volunteering with the Mifos Initiative. Dayna from the first day she’s been a part of our project has been eager and willing to help the project in anyway. Although she’s served as CEO of the White House Federal Credit Union, she’s always ready to get down in the weeds – writing documentation, mentoring high-schoolers, rolling up her sleeves and doing a deployment out in the field. With the operational expertise she brings from the financial cooperative sector, her vibrant personality and passionate enthusiasm for the project, and her  diligent project management skills, she’s been a volunteer that we couldn’t have done without. She also hasn’t been shy about spreading the word about how amazing our project is and has done an awesome job recruiting other like-minded experts from the cooperative sector to contribute to our cause.

Just like with Markus, Dayna possesses that rare blend of intellect and passion that is so powerful to our mission. After her volunteer commitment of more than a year and a half, we were lucky to add her to our team as Director of Strategic Initiatives. From her outpost  in Belize, she’s helping to shape the product, carve our presence into the global cooperative sector, and enable better outreach into financial inclusion as a whole.


Distinguished Service Award – Nayan Ambali

This award was launched by Craig and Amit last year to honor exceptional service and contributions that permeate throughout the entire project. This award is truly befitting of Nayan Ambali who for the past six years has been an instrumental force in our project. Out of all our community members, it’s difficult to find someone as brilliant, passionate, and generous with his time and talents as Nayan. There is nothing that Nayan does not excel at and he is always so eager to share this excellence with the community.

As a partner, he tirelessly supports his customers with some of the most intuitive knowledge of financial inclusion and the ability to craft the most creative yet sophisticated workarounds and solutions. As a developer, there’s not a feature or requirement, that Nayan can’t build or design a solution for – whether it’s the front-end or the back-end, Nayan is there to provide a solution including taking the load of developing the Community App on his own. He is also one of the best teachers and mentors around – most importantly as a veteran mentor for GSOC and GCI but he has even been generous enough to teach me, a newb, how to code. Nayan is also a creative designer – unveiling beautiful designs for logos, t-shirts, websites, and more – this eye for design is evident in his passion for photography too. Nayan is also one of the biggest champions for our community, ready to step in and host a user meeting, lead the startup of our Bangalore chapter, or guide community members on a historical tour of India or roadshow for the project.

It’s my great pleasure to honor Nayan, who I count as one of my closest friends, with this award. We look forward to honoring our next Distinguished Service Award winner so keep following the lead of individuals like Nayan.


Pizzigati Prize – Vishwas Babu

As you know, Vishwas was selected as the winner of the prestigious Pizzigati Prize from the Tides Foundation. I attended NTC in Austin on his behalf to collet his award and was intending to present it to him at the summit. Unfortunately due to a family emergency, we still weren’t able to formally pass on the Pizzigati Prize to Vishwas Babu. Binny collected it on his behalf though and has now hand-delivered it to Vishwas who has been so generous to ensure the full $10,000 prize went back to the project.


Ongoing Recognition

While we’ll do these awards each year, we don’t want recognition to stop there. We recognize our Star Contributors each month but don’t ever hesitate to publicly congratulate or give a shout out to a fellow community member. So many of us are volunteering, and that appreciation goes an incredibly long way! If you’ve been helped by a community member or have someone or some organization that you feel should be recognized, let us know.

To all community members, keep up the hard work and we look forward to honoring you as the next Community Choice Award winner!


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