Child & Youth Finance International
Year founded: 2011
Geographic reach: Global; headquarters in the Netherlands
Annual budget: €1.95 million (2015 revenue)
Number of employees: 20 (2015)
Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI) is a global network that focuses on increasing the economic citizenship of children and youth. CYFI defines economic citizenship as giving all children and youth aged 8-24 the knowledge to make wise financial decisions, the opportunity to accumulate savings and the skills to find employment and ultimately earn a livelihood. The objective of these goals is to break the cycle of poverty and empower children and youth. The organization currently works with a network of over 1,000 partners and stakeholders in more than 130 countries, who are reaching over 36 million children and youth with a combination of financial and educational services.
Founded by Jeroo Billimoria in 2011, CYFI was born out of an initiative within Aflatoun, an organization created by Billimoria that provides financial and social curricula for children and youth, with the aim of improving children’s financial literacy. At Aflatoun, Billimoria discovered that the growth of the organization’s programme was limited by financial and educational systems, nationally and globally, that did not strongly emphasize financial education or inclusion for children. As a result, Billimoria decided to build a new organization dedicated to convening critical stakeholders to foster a movement for child and youth financial education.
Today, CYFI hosts initiatives designed to mobilize a network of national governments, multilateral organizations, central banks and financial institutions to reshape financial and educational systems to economically and socially empower children and youth worldwide.
How CYFI works
CYFI mobilizes a large multistakeholder network, acting as an advocate, connector and adviser. The organization engages with the network to advocate for financial curricula and financial inclusion for children and youth on national agendas. The aim is to have education in economic citizenship included in the basic educational curriculum of every country, while also revising the regulatory framework so that children and youth can secure child and youth-friendly savings accounts.
CYFI performs three roles (see the Table):
- Advocate: CYFI creates awareness of economic citizenship for children and youth at the global and national levels, engaging countries in low-threshold activities (such as Global Money Week) to increase involvement in the CYFI movement; encourages organizations to advance their efforts in financial inclusion, education in economic citizenship and entrepreneurship by recognizing and endorsing those parties that achieve impact and demonstrate innovation; and highlights gaps and opportunities to policy-makers so they can take action.
- Network connector and expert hub: CYFI connects a select group of countries to cross-organizational learning to encourage the accelerated take-up of financial inclusion, education in economic citizenship and entrepreneurship at the national or organizational level, through replication or innovation models; generates and shares knowledge to ensure that stakeholders access materials that help them develop and implement policies and programmes; and facilitates support through technical assistance by linking organizations in need of support to the right providers in its network.
- Network adviser: CYFI pilots innovations to show how different approaches can be implemented; shares expertise to increase the number, quality and scale of organizations engaged in offering policies or programmes; and provides technical assistance, either directly or through providers in the network, to ensure that stakeholders are receiving the exact type of assistance desired.
Table: Summary of CYFI Roles
|Role||Target countries (by 2020)||Activities|
|Advocate||All 150 countries in CYFI’s network||Global Money Week|
Global Inclusion Awards
Endorsements (curriculum and product)
National Economic Citizenship Implementation Tool
|Network connector and expert hub||30-40 middle-income countries|
15-20 low-income countries that require more in-depth support
|Research, best practice sharing and documentation|
Summits and subregional meetings
Technical assistance facilitation
Young Entrepreneurs programme (YE!)
|Network adviser||15-20 low-income countries that require more in-depth support, with which CYFI already works and for which data is available to track impact||Pilot programmes for proof of concept|
Workshops and training
While growing Aflatoun, Billimoria became increasingly concerned that the organization’s efforts to integrate social and financial curricula into educational systems and open up the financial system for child-friendly banking products was plateauing. By this time, Aflatoun was reaching nearly 1 million children with its curricula and programme. Despite this significant number, Billimoria was critically aware that this was a very small percentage of the global population of children and youth who need financial education and access to child-friendly banking products.
Billimoria realized that to reach the broader global population of children and youth, social and financial education needed to be integrated fully into national educational systems. She also believed that financial regulators and institutions needed to be encouraged to develop and market child-friendly savings accounts so that children could learn to save. To begin this process, Aflatoun set up the Child Finance International initiative to explore what it would take to encourage these systemic reforms.
Under this initiative, Aflatoun convened a group of 120 high-level stakeholders and experts in 2010 to discuss the creation of a movement for child and youth finance. This conference brought together ministers of education, education experts, ministers of finance, central bankers and leaders of non-governmental organizations from around the globe, underscoring the interest and importance of growing such a movement. However, the conference revealed a perplexing issue: many participants stressed that a multistakeholder movement required an honest broker – an organization that did not have a stake in promoting its own operations. The big question became whether Aflatoun could act in this capacity, given its inherent bias towards its own approach.
Aflatoun decided to spin off its Child Finance International initiative in 2011 into a new organization, CYFI. Today, CYFI operates a global network devoted to integrating education on economic citizenship into educational and finance systems throughout the world. In addition to measuring the number of children reached with their initiatives, CYFI tracks the progress of its 132 member countries in achieving specific milestones on the way to realizing full economic citizenship for children and youth. Through annual country surveys conducted since 2011, the organization has documented an increase in national authorities offering financial education combined with financial inclusion policies, as well as child-friendly products and services offered by financial institutions.
Organizational scale is fundamentally different from systemic scale.
While growing Aflatoun, Billimoria realized the policies of national educational systems and financial regulators were hindering acceptance of the financial education curricula that it was promoting. Although Aflatoun had grown the reach of its programme impressively to reach 1 million children, Billimoria believed these systemic barriers would hinder further growth. CYFI was created to change the values and norms underpinning these policies – namely, to educate and motivate national decision-makers on the value of economic citizenship for children.
Changing systems rules can require neutral organizations or institutions.
Convening a network also brings together the systems actors most affected by or invested in change. When building a network, CYFI strove to understand the motivations and behaviour of network members. Then, as the honest broker, it built an agenda for the network to drive national activities in the education and financial sectors. CYFI uses peer motivation to encourage network members to stay involved and remain on track to deliver commitments made during global and regional events.
Questions for social entrepreneurs
- What rules (policies, norms and values) underpin the social issues your organization is trying to solve? What changes are required?
- What efforts are needed to change these rules? Who are the decision-makers or drivers of these rules?
- What type of institution, organization or leader would be most effective in driving this change? Is neutrality necessary? Does this organization exist already, or is a new organization or institution needed?
“From the outset, we realized that our large-scale challenge requires large-scale thinking, and that the current situation – as well as the barriers to change – is the result of the systems in which we live. Our model recognizes that there is no one big answer to complex problems, but rather a plethora of smaller efforts working in harmony that propel the entire machine forward.”
CYFI 2016-2020 Strategy