Fit for finance, Offenbach

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Schemes with a mentor approach: (f)in-fit Fit for Finance, Germany http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/finservices-retail/docs/capability/report_survey_en.pdf Source Evers and Jung

Summary

The German (f)in-fit project strives to recruit and train motivated migrants as intercultural mediators by enabling them to educate their fellow citizens in financial matters. The approach is based on the experience that many financial literacy projects fail to reach those target groups which are particularly prone to the effects of lacking financial capability (e.g. low income or low education groups in which migrants are overrepresented).40 Mainly funded by the San Francsico based Levi Strauss Foundation, a first pilot project was started in late 2006 under the technical guidance of EVERS & JUNG, a Hamburg based research and consulting company with critical know-how in private finance and financial literacy, and the Ethno-Medical Centre Hanover. (f)in-fit is currently limited to the Offenbach Region (338,000 inhabitants) which is home to 55,400 citizens with an foreign nationality. (f)in-fit is an adaptation of the successful MiMi© (for: “With Migrants for Migrants”) concept educating migrants via a mediator approach in prevention and access to care issues41. MiMi© was launched by the Ethno-Medical Centre Hanover and is running in over 20 German major cities and regions already. The (f)in-fit project aims to reach the following goals:

  • Training of intercultural financial mediators,
  • Realisation of mediator-led community-based group interventions with young migrants within their settings,

The following case study is based on freely accessible resources of the programme providers and telephone interviews conducted with Dr. Matthias Wienold, representative of the Ethno-Medical Centre Hanover, Mr. Ahmet Kansiz, working as a financial mediator in the (f)in-fit programme and Dr. Jan Evers, national financial literacy expert for Germany and managing director of EVERS & JUNG. All interviews were conducted in July 2007.

Salman, R., Menkhaus, B. (2006): Mit Migranten für Migranten – Das MiMi-Projekt des Ethno-Medizinischen Zentrums als Beitrag zur interkulturellen Gesundheitsförderung und Integration in Deutschland (engl.: With migrants for migrants – the MiMi-projekt of the Ethno-Medical-Centre Hanover as a contribution for the promotion of intercultural health-care, in: Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration, Integration und Gesundheit, Berlin 2006, 107-14.

  • Assessment of financial learning outcomes in community groups of young migrants educated by mediators,
  • Involvement and sensitisation of regional financial service providers, businesses and banks.

The results of the pilot test will be ready in March 2008. After that a further enrolment of the project is envisaged. Provider The programme is carried out by three partners among which the responsibilities are clearly divided:

  • Ramazan Salman has been developing new projects aiming to overcome the traditional gaps between German and Non-German residents at the Ethno-Medical Centre in Hanover since 1989. Based on this experience the Ethno-Medical Centre is the main institution responsible for the project and possesses the necessary didactical know-how: For example it developed a curriculum that blends the content (see below) with tried and tested methods for adult learning. The Ethno-Medical Centre is also responsible for the overall instruction process and coordinates the partners.
  • The Hamburg-based research and consulting company EVERS & JUNG is specialised on private finance and financial literacy. EVERS & JUNG is technical partner of the project team and covers all issues where financial know-how is needed. One of the main assets EVERS & JUNG brought into the project was a basic finance handbook the company developed some years ago which teaches the most important financial aspects in a compressed and elementary form. Reverting to further studies,42 EVERS & JUNG tailored this handbook especially to the needs of migrants and helped to derive the (f)in-fit curriculum. EVERS & JUNG is also responsible for the evaluation of the project.
  • As the project is solely piloted in the Offenbach Region, the work of the representatives of the local authority (Integration Office) is crucial for its success. Tasks like recruitment and support of the financial mediators and the promotion of the project among local financial service providers and policy makers are within the scope of the local authority. Furthermore the Offenbach Region provides rooms for project-related activities.

In order to assure a smooth transfer of information and a consistent result, the partners exchange their views on a regular basis via telephone-conferences. Issues that occur in the meantime are solved in close consultation.

Hayen, D. et al.: Migranten und Finanzdienstleistungen (engl.: Migrants and Financial Services), study carried out on behalf of the Ministry for Consumer Protection (BMVEL), 2006


Figure The providers of „Fit for Money“

Target Group

Research has shown that the financial literacy of the average German population is rather low. This drawback is especially visible in low-achievement and socially marginalized groups where migrants are highly over-represented. EVERS & JUNG’s research has shown that migrants tend to be more exposed to risk when dealing with financial issues than the average population43:

  • Compared to the total population, migrants are less likely to make use of financial services. Vast discrepancies appear in the use of cash-cards, online-banking and time deposits.
  • Migrants tend to save less than the total population. Half of the participants of the study with migrational background admitted to have no old-age provision.
  • A vast undersupply with existential insurances (e.g. personal liability insurance) combined with an oversupply with less important insurances (e.g. legal defence insurance) was recognised.
  • The accumulation of real estate in Turkey is the main pillar of the asset building strategy of Turks in Germany. In most cases they are refinanced via expensive instalments at German credit institutes.
  • Language problems often keep migrants from dealing with financial matters.
  • The standard of financial knowledge is assumed to be rather low. Compared to the total population, fewer information channels are made use of.

In the Offenbach Region 20% of the population has a migration background. The (f)in¬fit pilot is tailored to the specific needs of the Russian and Turkish community (the largest sub-groups in the migrant community). Next to a proficient knowledge of the German language, the mediators working in this project had to have some professional or academic experience related to the field of private finance. Furthermore the MiMi© experience had shown before that young adults (<25 yrs.) were especially qualified to work as financial mediators because they proved to have good learning abilities and were very likely to possess a broad network that facilitated the acquisition of participants for the campaign phase. 43 The study is limited to Turkish migrants, depicting the largest migrant community in Germany. Hayen, D. et al.: Migranten und Finanzdienstleistungen (engl.: Migrants and Financial Services), study carried out on behalf of the Ministry for Consumer Protection (BMVEL), 2006

National and Transnational Context

For the time being the programme concentrates on the Offenbach Region. For the future a further extension on a national scale is planned. In order to meet this goal it is envisaged to build more regional cooperations with public or private bodies that would take the position of the Offenbach Region. This approach would follow the MiMi© concept, which was also piloted in one single region and then subsequently expanded. Within MiMi© constellations with a central coordination have also been tried and tested but have proved to be not efficient because activities like the acquisition of financial mediators are very time-intensive for non-locals. Given the opportunity to work with strong international partners, a transnational roll-out would also be possible. Established mediator networks and systems in other areas of concern could provide an interesting platform for transnational pilot studies and outreach programmes. This includes strategies of social inclusion, prevention and capacity building (e.g. violence, HIV/AIDS).

Educational Content and Methodology

The project is organised in several steps, beginning with the recruitment and instruction of the mediators and ending with one-day sessions which each mediator has to organise for his or her community. At this point the course is completed and mediators receive their certification.

The instruction of the mediators encompasses a 50-hour training during which highly-skilled professionals from the partner region (including bank and insurance experts) will teach them about money matters and education techniques. At the end of the training each mediator has to give a presentation to his fellow students and receives qualified feedback. The mediator training is based on the contents of a handbook on private finance for migrants which was developed in the course of the project. For example the handbook comprises the following contents:

  • Managing on available means
  • Daily money matters
  • Possibilities to raise one’s income
  • Insurances
  • Old-age provision
  • Credit
  • Becoming self-employed

Figure The financial mediators with some representatives of the project team

In the next step the mediators train their fellow citizens in community group sessions. In order to accommodate for language difficulties with German, the community group sessions are conducted and evaluated in the native tongue of the mediators (Turkish or Russian in the pilot phase). All materials have therefore been translated from German into Turkish and Russian. To mainstream the quality of these sessions, EVERS & JUNG and the Ethno-Medical Centre Hanover have developed the curriculum encompassing the contents of the handbook and enriching them with additional learning material (e.g. newspaper articles, charts, graphics etc.). Out of this package, the mediators can chose the topics that they would like to highlight during their lessons and amend this with own material if useful.

Figure A financial mediator holding his final presentation

In order to assess the impact of the community group sessions and the project as a whole, the participants are asked to complete questionnaires before and after the workshop. Mechanisms of community participation are applied to ensure support and compliance from migrant community organizations, banks and service providers as well as the public sector. Further qualitative feedback is provided, trainers are recruited and new potential partners for a further roll-out are identified in two organized round tables on a regional level.

Results & Innovations

Within the framework of the project a handbook on private finance for migrants was developed and translated into Turkish and Russian. For the methodological and technical training of the mediators, a comprehensive curriculum was designed. The contents of the handbooks were also depicted on Powerpoint slides and translated, so that the mediators could present them to their audience in the community group sessions. Furthermore EVERS & JUNG compiled a collection of accompanying material (e.g. newspaper articles, films, crosswords) which the mediators could chose from in their lectures.

As the community group sessions have not started yet, conclusions on the impact of the project can not yet be drawn. However, as the project is based on the MiMi© idea, the results of the MiMi© evaluation give strong evidence that (f)in-fit will be able to reach a wider audience through its mediator approach.

Mr. Ahmet Kansiz, who is mediator in the (f)in-fit project, puts it like this: “We know where we can reach our countrymen best, we speak their language and we are aware of their cultural background. The chance that we can motivate them to take part in a community group session is therefore very high.” Before the mediator trainings a so-called round table discussion had taken place. This event was used to gather representatives of the project team, regional policy makers and financial service providers to discuss the success factors and challenges of the project. On a range from 1 (very good) to 5 (very poor), the participants of the round table said that the approach could be easily adapted to other regions and settings (average value 1,9) and that the handbook was well tailored to the target group (average value 2,06) (see figure 5).

The major challenges were seen in the recruitment of suitable mediators and instructors for this event (average values 2,58 and 2,63). The participants also suggested to further intensify marketing activities.

Figure Evaluation results of the first round table

For the future it is envisaged to further professionalise the recruitment of mediators and instructors by setting up a management tool, which is equivalent to MiMi©. According to Dr. Matthias Wienold from the Ethno-Medical Centre this tool is a step¬by-step guide enabling organisations wanting to set up a project to set up a smooth management process. So far the evaluation of the mediator training sessions gave strong evidence that the motivation of the participants is very high. All of the 17 mediators trained were very proud to be part of this project and stated that the project very much contributed to their personal development. Asked why he is working on the project Ahment Kansiz stated: “I feel a strong will in me to share what I learnt about finance with others. In my daily life I experience that many friends of mine don’t know much about financial matters and keep on making expensive mistakes. It is important that something is done about that.” Matthias Wienold finds that the motivation of the mediators is a crucial success factor for project: “Financial mediators only receive a low remuneration for holding community group sessions, therefore it is absolutely necessary that they identify with the programme. The MiMi© project showed before that it is possible to even keep mediators involved for a long period of time. Some of our current mediators have been working for MiMi© right from the beginning.”44

Outreach Approach and Sources of Funding

To date the programme is funded by the Levi Strauss Foundation. After the pilot phase it is envisaged to set up further (f)in-fit trainings in other regions. Dr. Matthias Wienold finds that the programme should be further expanded via a franchise approach. This implies that the programme and its instruments will be sold to organisations that have a strong interest in this project and/or the positive effects alongside it. This could be for instance policy makers or financial service providers, with whom first discussions have been held and from whom an interest was already signalled. In order to accomplish this goal, a management tool which is equivalent to MiMi© has to be set up (see chapter 6).

Next to this approach various other settings are possible. However, no concrete plans have been made so far.

Adaptability

According to Dr. Jan Evers, national expert on financial literacy in Germany, the contents of the (f)in-fit programme are adaptable to various other settings. To date the programme targets migrants with Turkish or Russian background. Drawing assumptions from the MiMi© project, the mediator approach will also work in other ethnical groups. Nevertheless Dr. Evers has reason to indicate the following: “It is not clear though, in how far the contents of the handbook will correspond with the individual financial needs of other ethnical groups because no respective research has been carried out in Germany so far.“ As the major part of the handbook consists of financial issues that apply to all target groups regardless of ethnical origin, these concerns are not a criterion for exclusion. Considering that the contents of the handbook are transported via mediators who know their audience very well, they will be able to adjust the complexity of the contents to the background of their audience and select the topics that seem most relevant to the financial needs of their target group.

Notes and references