Two high profile organizations led the debate at the time, first the Microcredit Summit which promoted the need to make credit available to the poorest clienteles with the goal of reaching 100 million of the poor in order to make a significant reduction in poverty, and second, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP) which, for its part, very quickly placed the emphasis on the need to professionalize practices in order to make microcredit operations profitable and sustainable. And over last years, other types of players appeared and have gone further. They promote and claim sustainability sometimes at any cost, even if the poor are not catered to.
Today the international community has come to the realization that both goals must be pursued in tandem and that the dual ambition of reaching the poorest in a profitable and sustainable manner is a formidable challenge. The microfinance community has tried to take a middle path and be more open to pluralistic approaches: the sustainability should not be carried out to the detriment of the accessibility.
But all during this wide-ranging debate, financial cooperatives never really entered the fray. While making financial services available for years to the poor and marginalized, financial cooperatives were surprised to learn that microcredit had just been invented. And even more surprised to learn that one of the reasons why they were not considered credible actors in the sector is because the conventional thinking was that they did not reach the poorest of the poor.