Unlocking Innovation: Amarante’s Co-Creation Workshop with Microloan Foundation (MLF) Malawi

Unlocking Innovation: Amarante’s Co-Creation Workshop with Microloan Foundation (MLF) Malawi

In our current landscape of financial services, developing inclusive practices and innovation isn’t just about creating products. It’s about instilling an ethos for collaboration and dynamism that resonates with both organizations and their customers. Amarante recently had the privilege of collaborating with the team at Microloan Foundation (MLF) Malawi in a co-creation workshop led by Maida Zafar (Project Director and Regional Manager at Amarante) with support from Sarim Karim (Project Management Support) along with our international experts Alok Kumar, Romain Tevels, Charles Belanger,  Nasir Khawja, and Yoann Guirimand, aimed at pioneering financial product design and enhancing customer experiences as part of our technical assistance mission to develop agri-finance products for smallholder women farmers in rural Malawi. This workshop was attended by 14 members from MLF, under the support and guidance of Davison Rakasi, the CEO of MLF Malawi, and Innocent Jumbe, the Project Manager for the technical assistance. 

Let’s delve into the key highlights of this event. 

Fostering Co-Creation:

The primary objective of our co creation workshop was to foster an interactive, creative environment where both teams could align their own experience and insights to design innovative financial products. By adopting a collaborative approach, we aimed to create solutions that not only address the organization’s objectives but also resonate with the needs of its customers.

Structured Collaboration:

To facilitate structured collaboration, we leveraged the Miro Board, dividing participants into breakout rooms to ensure focused discussions. Each group, composed of members from MLF’s management, IT team, and operational teams, brought diverse perspectives to the table, enriching the discourse and promoting healthy debate.

Identifying Bottlenecks:

A crucial aspect of our workshop was to develop a comprehensive understanding of the bottlenecks encountered by MLF staff across various stages of their operations, our workshop centered around three questions that covered the aspects of loan appraisal, disbursement, and repayment. This holistic perspective allowed us to pinpoint areas of improvement and innovation, laying the groundwork for transformative solutions.

Anonymized Feedback:

In fostering an environment of open dialogue, anonymity played a pivotal role. By anonymizing all feedback, we empowered participants to freely express their ideas and opinions without fear of judgment or bias. This anonymity fostered a culture of inclusivity and openness, paving the way for genuine collaboration.

Embracing Diversity:

Throughout the workshop, it became evident that diversity was not only welcomed but celebrated. There were points of unanimous agreement, such as on whether the appraisal process should take into account other areas such as farmer experience, alternate sources of income, the type of crop and its sale potential. However we found that the real magic happened in the diversity of opinions and perspectives. For instance on the question of repayment, where participants offered varied perspectives on whether repayment should be tied to crop sales or be a fixed cycle. Robust debates ensued, challenging assumptions and sparking creative solutions that moved beyond conventional thinking.

Consolidating Insights:

At the culmination of the breakout activity, we consolidated all feedback, distilling insights that would inform the development of MLF’s loan products. The diverse array of perspectives and ideas served as invaluable building blocks, laying the foundation for future innovation and pilot readiness.


The organization of this co-creation workshop is part of a broader technical assistance program that would not be possible without the support of the Grameen Credit Agricole (GCA) Foundation and Smallholder Safety Net Upscaling Programme (SSNUP). We are grateful for  their vision and guidance which has been present throughout the project, and allowing us the flexibility to explore novel forms of collaboration.  

In conclusion, the co-creation workshop with MLF stands as an example of collaborative innovation. By embracing diversity, fostering open dialogue, and leveraging structured collaboration tools, Amarante and MLF are able to redefine financial product design. As we move forward, we are committed to harnessing the collective expertise and creativity of our teams to unlock new possibilities and deliver value to both organizations and their customers. We also capacity build teams around collaborative digital tools and agile methodologies which are an integral part of digitalisation and bringing efficiencies to the organization.

 By – Sarim Karim

Consultant Analyst, collaborating on this project, in PMO capacity, since July 2023