Helping the Disadvantaged Manage Money Matters
7 March 2014 at 2:34 pm
Growing up in a family where social justice, love and overcoming adversity through hope were commonplace, there’s little wonder why Good Shepherd Microfinance Chief Executive Officer (and self-confessed metalhead) Adam Mooney has made a career in the Not for Profit sector. Mooney is this week’s Changemaker.
Adam Mooney joined Good Shepherd Microfinance in April 2012 after working in community development, social inclusion and financial services across Australia, Cambodia, England and New Zealand.
He came into the organisation from Reconciliation Australia where he performed roles including Acting CEO, Director of Business Development and, for more than three years, Director of Reconciliation Action Plans, the organisation’s primary program.
Prior to that, Mooney was Head of Community Development Finance with ANZ from 2005 to 2008.
He has also worked with development agency Concern Worldwide in Cambodia from 2003 to 2005 on community-led livelihood programs, where he helped establish one of Cambodia's largest financially sustainable microfinance institution.
In 2013, Mooney completed the Harvard Business School's Strategic Leadership for Inclusive Finance program.
Mooney currently holds the positions as Board Director of PNG Microfinance Limited, Board Committee Member of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples and member of the Australian Government's MoneySmart Week Advisory Committee.
Mooney has also been a director of Foresters Community Finance in Australia (2007-2012), past co-chair of the Indigenous Financial Services Network (2009-2011) and past director of AMK Microfinance in Cambodia (2004-2010).
What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?
The actual and potential impact of the work and the people I am honoured to work with. From a personal perspective, I get great meaning from learning from others and doing things that help create communities that I want to live in – that are connected, vibrant, optimistic; where people love and support each other and can weather and bounce back from shocks.
I also enjoy the intellectual stimulation and opportunities to collaborate to find ways to make our communities better, using many interconnected disciplines like social science, economics, health and human behaviour.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
Eleven years, since 2003, with Concern Worldwide in Cambodia on community-led livelihood programs (two years), Reconciliation Australia on Reconciliation Action Plans (four years), Good Shepherd Microfinance (two years).
In between I spent some time from 2005 to 2008 with ANZ in Corporate Affairs as Head of Community Development Finance.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Seeing people move from despair, crisis and low hope by finding their own way to gain hope, strength and control, through a couple of short conversations, simply where we listen.
A client recently said to me:
“Three years ago my son asked me why he couldn't go to Grade 2 camp with his friends. I didn't have the courage to tell him that since my marriage broke down I had no money, so I said I needed his help at home.
“He always told people his mum was strong and invincible and I didn't want to change that. To pay for the dentist and bond for a new place I borrowed from one of these fast money places. This got me into trouble for about two years until I visited a financial counsellor and then took out a no interest NILS loan to buy the fridge and washing machine I was renting.
“Since then things have been looking up and I'm getting on top of my budget. My daughter is now ready to go to the same Grade 2 camp and I can manage it now. My son, now 11, gave me a hug and told me that he now understands about money and is happy that his sister can go to camp.”
One of our NILS clients shared this moving story with me late last year. I also have a daughter in Grade 2 and can't imagine having to say that she can't go to camp. This keeps me focused and reminds me why we are doing this work – it enables hope, dignity, belonging, love and human connectedness.
In the lead up to International Women's Day on March 8, I paid tribute to all of our clients and committed providers who are improving the lives of many, but especially the three out of four of our clients who are women.
Women, like my own partner, mum and sister, who are determined to take action themselves to improve their own lives and the lives of their children with courage, tenacity and grace. We estimate that of the 125,000 loan clients we have reached so far, at least half a million people – partners, children, carers, housemates…have been positively impacted in a similar way to the family of the client I met.
What has been the most challenging part of your work?
Setbacks when stakeholders and investors change ideologies or move away from agreed program aims, often captivated by “smarter”, “efficient” and “easily replicable” contemporary concepts have have little evidence to support them.
Changing program logics mid-stream or before agreed evaluation and reset points on the whim of an idea or sound byte, simply to benefit the actor and not the client, is sometimes disheartening.
This is especially so when you have thousands of people expecting you to influence and correct that view.
I consider my greatest achievement to be …
A conversation with a Good Shepherd Microfinance client in which she looked me in the eye and said: “Thank you for seeing me as a person with real dreams and talents of my own and not judging me like many others do. Your faith in me, through this small loan, has lifted my hopes, made me feel that someone cares and has definitely improved my life now and future outlook. I'm starting to set bigger goals for myself with confidence.”
That we can do this across Australia in partnership with 257 organisations, in 650 locations, with the same values and vision is inspiring and positively affirming.
Where do you feel your passion for good came from?
Growing up in a family with a dad who is a quadriplegic and a mum who is a nurse.
Together, they have overcome barriers to live full lives as a renowned artist and actor and writer, whilst using love and compassion to bind everything together.
My brother, sister and I are very fortunate to have grown up in this family where social justice, love and overcoming adversity through hope were commonplace.
Favourite saying …
“Behold the long necked turtle. For it cannot make progress without sticking its neck out.”
“One person is worth the whole world” – St Mary Euphrasia, Good Shepherd Foundress.
I’m always being asked …
How can someone like you like heavy rock and heavy metal music and why do you keep alpacas on your farm in Gisborne? Apparently I don't fit the stereotype!
Through your work, what is your ultimate dream?
To live in a place where people relate well, trust each other, work together to solve problems, laugh a lot and have enough food, money and knowledge to live a full rewarding life, as people define that themselves.
And, that all other communities around the world can do this as well at the same time. This means that we need to be aware of our own hubris and occasional perception of wellbeing that results from a misplaced need for relative superiority (economic, military, intellectual or cultural).
What (or who) inspires you?
My seven-year-old daughter Millie and four-year-old twin sons, Will and Hamish – to them, anything is possible.
Volunteers, involved in financial inclusion, reconciliation and family violence.
Christine Nixon, Eddy Caffari, Archie Roach, St Mary Euphrasia and the Good Shepherd Sisters, Bruce Dickinson, Mick Dodson, Hilary Clinton, Lowitja O'Donohue, my mum and dad, and people who work with Oxfam (like my partner Louise) and each member of Metallica, for their relationship and trust, and what genius comes from it!
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
As a new organisation, reaching the audacious and important goals our Board and team set ourselves last year! Reaching a million people over the next five years. Community-led client and provider satisfaction. Impact through economic mobility of our clients. Informing ourselves and others to influence positive change. Strength in sustaining and developing our people, processes and supporters.
We work alongside hundreds of thousands of people on low incomes, especially women, across all parts of Australia to access fair, safe and appropriate financial services.
We have strong evidence that this has directly enabled people to define and then realise their own economic wellbeing.
It has also enabled economic mobility (moving away from crisis and hardship, to stability, economic participation and resilience) for four out of five clients.
We are applying the clear economic case and positive social impact to attract further investment and other support to reach over one million people in the next five years.
This will include offering unique but scalable programs in small loans, energy inclusion, micro enterprise development, savings, advice to sectoral actors, home ownership, insurance and retail (physical stores) and online financial services.
We are particularly focused on not accepting the status quo and systemic failure of banks worldwide in not seeing people on low incomes as viable customers worth transacting with.
We find audacious ways to disrupt the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage, especially for women, and replace this with systems that provide hope, confidence and dignity, by accessing the inherent strengths of all people to improve their lives and realise their own dreams.