Archive for the ‘microfinance’ Category

Day Ten: Save, Hope, Live and Love

November 20, 2012

For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.

Santosh Daniel, of Mumbai, India joined Grameen Foundation February 2010 as a Project Manager leading oure microsavings initiative. Prior to joining Grameen, Santosh had sixteen years of experience with ICICI bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and ACCION, specializing in lending to urban poor.

I wanted to work for Grameen Foundation to help lend credibility to this microfinance model being used successfully to reach the poor – to learn and overcome the immense challenges. It’s creative work, and it’s a very uplifting feeling to witness the impact of our actions reflected through the smiles the clients we serve. I enjoy being a part of a very active and vibrant organization in which is defining and influencing the international development landscape in India.

Santosh regularly meets with savings groups in the villages, helping connect poor women to savings accounts through a mobile phone.

Grameen Foundation supports Cashpor, a microsavings program in partnership with ICICI Bank, to use mobile phones to enable poor, isolated customers to withdraw and deposit their money without having to travel to a bank. We operate in seven districts in Utter Pradesh, with about 80,000 clients. Until now, these women didn’t have access to a bank account, because they live in villages where there are no bank branches. Furthermore, they don’t make enough money to open conventional accounts, which require minimum balances and deposit/withdrawal amounts.

In the past, if these women had some extra money, they would keep it around the house or bury it. Otherwise, it would be spent on non-essential and impulse purchases, or taken by their children, or even eaten by rats. They didn’t have any options for an organized way of saving money. This account allows them to make very small deposits – even deposits of 20 rupees (about $0.40) are allowed – from their mobile phones, which are available for less than $10 in India. Most of the women are illiterate, so they are assisted by the center manager, who also collects and distributes the money at the end of the weekly meeting.

Work requires me to be in the field much of the time, visiting savings groups meetings about six times a month. The most challenging part of the job is patiently working with different stakeholders with divergent interests towards a common goal. Not all the factors influencing the project are controllable, but how close we can come to understanding and responding to the uncontrollable effectively defines our success.

With our technology and information-collecting expertise, we’re helping take this mobile-enabled savings to the rural villages where these women can enroll themselves through the mobile phone and start saving. Many of them are illiterate, so we also teach them financial literacy to help them understand the text messages. We are also getting them in the habit of saving money, which allows them to make a plan. Our initiative has brought them closer to their dreams of being able to save, hope, live and love.

Help even more poor women reach their dreams through access to savings accounts and other services by supporting Grameen Foundation today.

Our 12 days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.

You can read the rest of our series here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Day Nine: A Savings Account to the Rescue

November 19, 2012

For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.

Rajkumari Buddhu lives in Kaurouta, a village in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India. She shares a small mud-thatched hut with her husband, four children, two daughters-in-law and grandchildren. The family’s livelihood comes from weaving clothes and selling them at the local market, Rajkumari spins her wheel and makes small spindles of different-sized threads from larger spindles, forming the spools used in the weaving process. Here is her story, as told to local Grameen Foundation staff.

Rajkumari has always wanted an organized way to save the small amount of money that, though discipline, she had left over every week, but without access to a savings facility, she often spent it. When Grameen Foundation microfinance partner Cashpor introduced a savings program in her area in July 2011, Rajkumari quickly enrolled. Now she has a disciplined and reliable way of saving.

Rajkumari (shown here with her grandson) earns a living weaving thread, and has been able to help herself – and her family – in times of emergency, thanks to her savings account provided by Cashpor, helped by Grameen Foundation.

Just in the past year, she recalls tearfully, there have been three separate occasions that have made her feel grateful for Cashpor and Grameen Foundation:

  1. Rajkumari became sick with severe pneumonia and had to stay in the hospital. After the first few days of treatment, paid for by her husband and sons, the hospital insisted on an additional 4,000 rupees (about $75). Her family’s resources had totally dried up, but she realized that she had some money left in her Cashpor savings account. With the IV still attached to her wrist, she traveled on her son’s bicycle to the nearest Cashpor branch. It was almost 6 p.m., but to her great relief, she saw the center manager’s motorcycle still parked outside. She immediately went over to him and withdrew the entire 3,200 rupees in her account, then managed to borrow the balance from her neighbor and pay the hospital to continue her treatment.
  2. Rajkumari’s daughter-in-law, during the third trimester of her pregnancy, realized that her baby had stopped moving. She was rushed to the hospital and told that she needed an operation to save the baby and herself. Rajkumari’s family was not prepared for this sudden expense, but the money in her savings account again came to the rescue. After seeing the birth of her healthy granddaughter, Rajkumari felt proud that her small savings account helped save the lives of her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter.
  3. A less dramatic, but still meaningful, occasion happened when her twin daughters wanted to participate in the state-level Khabaddi athletic championship in Delhi, but they needed money to fund the trip. Rajkumari managed to help them with her small savings, and she now proudly displays the trophy and the certificate that her children won in the championship.

Though the Hindi meaning of her name is “princess,” life has never treated Rajkumari as one. Now, with the help of Grameen Foundation and Cashpor’s savings program, she is the queen of the house – managing household finances, helping with the family business and helping the family lift themselves out of poverty. Access to savings has helped usher in new hope to face the hardship and give wings to her aspirations.

You can help more families like Rajkumari’s lift themselves out of poverty when you support Grameen Foundation today.

Our 12 days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.

You can read the rest of our series here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Day Eight: Reaching the Poor and the Organizations That Serve Them

November 18, 2012

For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.

Cristopher Lomboy lives in Los Banos, in the Philippine province of Laguna. He joined Grameen Foundation in November 2009 as its poverty measurement specialist in Asia.

One of our exciting initiatives in Asia is the microsavings initiative in collaboration with CARD Bank in the Philippines, which reaches around 600,000 clients. Its goal is to encourage more poor people, especially those living on $1.25 or less a day, to have access to formal savings services. The program allows them to pool their money as a group and then open one account for each member of the group.

Cris strives to put life-changing tools – like savings accounts – in the hands of the poor, and to help other pro-poor organizations reach more poor people, more effectively.

My role is to help the project measure the poverty levels of the clients, then use this information to find out if we are reaching the poorer people. If not, we develop approaches to reach those clients. What makes my job rewarding is the opportunity to become a thought and practice leader in poverty measurement, and to support “blended performance reporting” – meaning that we look at both financial sustainability and social impact. Also, being able to learn about poverty alleviation efforts in different Asian countries enriches my own approach to helping influence pro-poor organizations’ initiatives to help the poor.

One of the challenges of my job involves reaching out and sharing our rich experience and tools with more pro-poor organizations. The magnitude of poverty is great and there is a real need quickly exchange knowledge and stories between practitioners, to help improve their practice. We also collaborate with other organizations, such as the Ford Foundation, to provide technical support for poverty measurement data.

Our goal is to increase our direct outreach to poorer clients. There are many people who do small jobs, like selling vegetables and seasonal manual labor, who are most vulnerable to crisis. If they can at least save some money for an emergency or life event in their families, then reduce the risk they face, and break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.

You can help us connect even more poor people to savings accounts when you support Grameen Foundation today.

Our 12 days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.

You can read the rest of our series here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Day Seven: Filipinos Saving to Secure their Future

November 17, 2012

For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.

Elsa Ligua, 41, of San Pablo City, in the Philippine province of Laguna, is married, with four children. She’s now able to save money through a microsavings program offered by CARD Bank, a microfinance institution that is a long-time partner of Grameen Foundation. She shared her story with Grameen Foundation’s Cristopher Lomboy.

Elsa Ligua’s husband has a shoe-repair stall near the public market. She helps add to the family income by selling food. All four of their children go to school, and she is proud that the eldest also works as a supermarket clerk. She joined the microsavings program at CARD Bank, which Grameen Foundation helped develop, to help save for her children’s college tuition. Both she and her husband had to drop out of school, so they want to make sure that their children become educated and have better opportunities in life.

Every day, a CARD Bank savings officer visits their home and collects about 50 cents from Elsa and other members of her savings group. On good days, she deposits even more money. Her goal is to save about $200 by June 2013, so that she can pay the tuition fees. She disciplines herself not to withdraw her savings and instead lets it grow over time until she needs it.

Elsa (right) and her niece Rose Anne are now able to save for emergencies and other future events, thanks to the savings account provided to them by CARD Bank, with the help of Grameen Foundation.

Before the savings program, she kept spare money around the house, but ended up spending it. But now, with her money in a safe and remote location, she’s not tempted to use her savings immediately, she says.

You can help more people like Elsa achieve their savings goals – and eventually escape poverty – when you support Grameen Foundation today.

Our 12 days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.

You can read the rest of our series here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Asking the Right Questions Makes All the Difference

September 1, 2012

Sally Salem was an Atlas Corps Fellow at Grameen Foundation, where she worked with the human capital management team for a year learning and designing toolkits to support the strategic adoption of human capital practices at microfinance institutions.  Sally has more than a decade of experience in non-formal education and development and has worked with adults and young people on issues ranging from youth participation, volunteering, intercultural learning and human-rights education.

After working with Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Center for a year as an Atlas Fellow, it was time to return to Egypt.  Looking back now on my year-long stay, I realize that I was lucky to have had Grameen Foundation as my host and to have worked with the human capital management team.

Thanks to good timing, one month after my fellowship ended, I had an opportunity to put all the theory I had learned into practice. I was invited to support an engagement with the Lebanese Association for Development-Al Majmoua, a leading microfinance NGO in that country, part of a collaborative effort between Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Center and Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Ltd., a joint venture between Grameen Foundation and the ALJ Foundation, a subsidiary of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group.  My task was to help facilitate a human capital management assessment – the starting point for aligning an organization’s people practices with its business strategy.  As a native Arabic speaker with working experience in Lebanon and deep familiarity with the assessment, I was eager to volunteer my services through Grameen Foundation’s skilled-volunteer initiative, Bankers without Borders®.

In Sidon, Lebanon, Sally (right) met Osama – a photographer and Al Majmoua client – who is carving out a niche in her city’s male-dominated photography industry.

In Sidon, Lebanon, Sally (right) met Osama – a photographer and Al Majmoua client – who is carving out a niche in her city’s male-dominated photography industry.

Lebanon has an interesting (and somewhat tragic) modern history that some say sums up the story of the Middle East in the last 60 years or so. It is a country with a strong Phoenician heritage – sea people who made great ships using their mighty cedar trees and who explored the unknown Mediterranean at a very early stage of human history. This is still reflected in the adventurous character of today’s Lebanese people. There are more Lebanese outside of the country than in Lebanon. They are known for their entrepreneurial spirit, and wherever they go they prove to be clever merchants, excellent hosts and good cooks! What a great environment for microfinance to thrive and grow.

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“Financial Vandalism” in India, and a Way Forward

August 15, 2012

Alex Counts is president, CEO and founder of Grameen Foundation, and author of several books, including Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World.

I was invited to give one of the closing keynote addresses to the Sa-Dhan conference, something I had been preparing for at least since I travelled to India in early July to work on an upcoming book about the latest trends in microfinance.  I had intended to arrive in time for the inaugural session on August 7, but travel delays prevented that.  (Word to the wise: when travelling to India on the non-stop flights from Newark, plan to arrive in Newark long before your onward flight is due to depart.)

Upon arrival, I was told that the conference’s mood on the first day alternated between “somber” and “angry.”  Just a few days earlier, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had announced new regulations affecting microfinance.  Though these policies rolled back some harmful policies announced a few months back and helpfully clarified others, they also introduced a controversial new rule saying that microfinance institutions over a certain size would be subject to smaller margins than they were currently allowed between the rates they borrowed and lent at.  The whipsaw nature of Indian microfinance policy at the national level, coming on the heels of the debilitating and draconian law passed in the state of Andhra Pradesh in late 2010, had justifiably enraged many of the practitioners in attendance – particularly as there had been no warning or explanation for many of the policies announced over the last 12 months.

Grameen Foundation President and CEO Alex Counts (lefts) speaks about the Indian microfinance sector at the Sa-Dhan Conference held earlier this month in that country. With him on stage are Jayshree Vyas (center), Managing Director of SEWA Bank, who served as the moderator, and Sujata Lamba of the World Bank.

Grameen Foundation President and CEO Alex Counts (left) speaks about the Indian microfinance sector at the Sa-Dhan Conference held earlier this month in that country. With him on stage are Jayshree Vyas (center), Managing Director of SEWA Bank, who served as the moderator, and Sujata Lamba of the World Bank.

The second day did not get off to a good start.  Sa-Dhan executive director Mathew Titus announced that a senior government official had canceled his opening address.  However, as the day got going, the overall mood improved.  Royston Braganza, CEO of Grameen Capital India, organized and moderated an excellent panel on “Overcoming the Barriers to Resource Flows” to the sector.  (Grameen Capital India is a joint venture between Grameen Foundation and affiliates of two major banks operating in India.)

I attended Royston’s panel and then caught the end of a concurrent panel on “business correspondent” (BC) models for MFIs working in partnership with, and essentially as agents of, fully licensed banks.  Though some recent policies about the BC model have cast doubt on the viability of MFIs being able to work effectively with banks, it was an invigorating discussion.  Mukul Jaisal, Managing Director of Indian microfinance institution (MFI) Cashpor, talked about his experience pioneering this model for providing savings services (which the MFI has been able to implement with support from Grameen Foundation).

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Give and You Shall Receive: My Week in the Philippines

August 14, 2012

Estelle Martinson is a Bankers without Borders® (BwB) volunteer who recently returned from a project in the Philippines. A Six Sigma Black Belt, Estelle began her career working as a business analyst in information technology, and is currently a credit risk manager at Standard Bank, where she has worked for 10 years. She also has experience in the fields of disability, computer literacy, adult education and community development.

As I sat sipping some lemongrass tea, one of the many gifts I brought back home with me from my trip to the Philippines, I reflected on the series of events that led me there, and what the experience meant to me.

On the plane, someone asked me, “What motivated you to go?” That was pretty easy to answer. I am a banker, and the vision of microfinance – a world without poverty – is something I support passionately, so I grabbed the opportunity to get involved with an organization working in microfinance when it presented itself.

My interest in microfinance started when I was exposed to Grameen Bank’s work during a leadership training session at my organization. I expressed my interest in microfinance to a friend who, three years later, e-mailed me a volunteer project, saying, “This is really you – have a look at it and see if you’re interested.” Of course I was interested!

BwB volunteer Estelle Martinson (second from right) rides by water back to town after visiting one of RSPI's 25 branch offices with staff members (from left) Alice, Paul and Jeannette.

BwB volunteer Estelle Martinson (second from right) rides by water back to town after visiting one of RSPI’s 25 branch offices with staff members (from left) Alice, Paul and Jeannette.

I joined BwB and signed up for a project with Rangtay sa Pagrang-ay, Inc. (RSPI), a 25-branch microfinance organization that has been operating in the Philippines for the past 25 years, to train their research department in reviewing operations through “process mapping.”

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The Time to Defend Grameen Bank is Now

August 4, 2012

Todd Bernhardt is Director of Marketing and Communications at Grameen Foundation.

As you might have read in the news this week, the Bangladeshi government seems to be moving into the end game in its longtime effort to take over Grameen Bank, a move that has been widely criticized within Bangladesh and around the world.  To briefly summarize, the cabinet – presided over by Prime Minister Sheik Hasina – voted on Thursday to amend the Grameen Bank Ordinance of 1983, effectively removing the Board of Directors’ right to choose the Bank’s Managing Director, and vesting that power instead in the Board’s government-appointed (and aligned) chairman.

As troubling as that disenfranchisement of the Bank’s 8.3 million borrower-owners is (more than 8 million of these owners are poor women), equally troubling is a directive from the cabinet to the Finance Ministry to examine and report on the salaries and benefits that Grameen Bank founder Professor Muhammad Yunus received after he turned 60, which is the official age of retirement from the Bank. It also asked the Ministry to examine whether he earned foreign currency that was tax-exempt during his time as Managing Director.

(Prof. Yunus, who is 72 and going stronger than ever, was exempted from the retirement age by the Grameen Bank Board, whose decision was reviewed and accepted by the government for more than a decade before it suddenly decided that he was too old for the job; the post of Deputy Managing Director was also exempted. For more information on the government’s 21-month campaign against Prof. Yunus and the Bank, see this Fact Sheet developed by the Friends of Grameen organization. Grameen Foundation President and CEO Alex Counts also recently blogged about this issue.)

The women on Grameen Bank's Board of Directors, who represent the Bank's 8.3 million borrower-owners and are shown here with Prof. Yunus at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, are in danger of losing their ability to choose the Bank's Managing Director.

The women on Grameen Bank’s Board of Directors, who represent the Bank’s 8.3 million borrower-owners and are shown here with Prof. Yunus at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, are in danger of losing their ability to choose the Bank’s Managing Director.

Let’s look at the second part of the cabinet’s actions first.  The idea that Prof. Yunus would benefit financially from any of his activities advocating for the poor is patently absurd.  Throughout his career, he has had multiple opportunities to join corporate boards as a paid advisor or even to lead for-profit organizations, for great personal gain – yet he has declined.  He has consistently donated whatever money he has earned as a public speaker to social businesses dedicated to serving the poor or to other charitable causes – including Grameen Foundation, which began with $6,000 that he earned from one such speaking engagement.  He lives in a small apartment on the Grameen Bank campus.  All of his activities – either as leader of Grameen Bank or as leader of the Yunus Centre, which focuses on fostering social businesses – have been other-focused, rather than focused on personal gain.

As for the government’s moves to give the Bank’s chairman almost unlimited power to choose a new Managing Director and to sideline the poor women who own this successful, innovative, Nobel Prize-winning microfinance institution – well, to many, it smacks of pure desperation, and an attempt to shift public attention away from a number of public policy failures.  The government of Sheikh Hasina is facing a host of challenges and embarrassments at home, including the recent cancellation by the World Bank of a loan to fund the $1.2 billion Padma Bridge project – a huge infrastructure initiative that was going to be a hallmark of her administration – because of corruption within the government and contractors involved.  She herself has become more autocratic and combative, as noted by The Economist in several articles, and as demonstrated by a recent appearance on the BBC’s “Hard Talk” interview show, where – among other things – she argued with the presenter about accusing Prof. Yunus of “sucking blood from the poor in the name of poverty alleviation” (a well-documented quote from her referring to him) and misrepresented Grameen Bank’s interest rates, saying that it charges between 30 and 45%, when her own administration has confirmed studies showing that the Bank’s highest charge is roughly 20%, seven points below the maximum rate set by the government.

Professor Yunus, who was a surprised and disappointed as the rest of us by the cabinet decisions and directives, released the following statement on Friday:

I was very apprehensive about it for some time. Now my fear is becoming a reality. I am disappointed that we were not successful in stopping this process. It  makes me immensely sad to see the poor women being deprived of their rightful ownership and their rights as owners to exercise their power over the bank. I am so shocked by the turn of events that I am left without words. I request my fellow citizens who are as shocked as I am, to try to  persuade our government to realise that this is a very wrong step they are taking; they should refrain from proceeding with this. The decision of the government would destroy this well known bank for the poor, the bank that has made the country proud.  I urge our fellow countrymen to come forward and save this successful national enterprise owned by the poor women. I am also urging the poor owners of Grameen Bank to appeal to the government and the citizens  to come forward to help them safeguard  their rightful ownership of the Bank.

What can non-Bangladeshis do about these injustices?  You can take action by speaking up – Grameen Foundation has a petition that we plan to give soon to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking her to reiterate the U.S. government’s strong support for the continued independence of Grameen Bank and the rights of the poor women who own it.  Microcredit Summit has its own petition on Change.org, also in support of the continued independence of the Bank, that it plans to give to Sheikh Hasina.  Please sign both petitions, and urge your friends, family and those on your social networks to do the same.

We would also ask that you contact your legislative representatives, and the media, no matter where you live, and let them know how important it is to you that the world’s flagship microfinance institution remain independent and able to continue its effective, innovative role in the ongoing battle against poverty. Time is short. The Bangladeshi government’s commission reviewing the Bank and the other Grameen social businesses is moving ahead quickly, and new actions against the Bank may be announced soon, so it’s essential that you act now to defend the rights of – and opportunities for – the world’s poorest.

In the meantime, we will keep you informed about developments as they occur.  Of course, with your support, we will continue our work around the world to provide the poor with access to appropriate financial services like microsavings and loans, as well as access to life-changing, real-time information about their health, crops, animals and finances. Working together, in the spirit of innovators like Grameen Bank, we can begin to realize Prof. Yunus’s vision of putting poverty where it belongs – in a museum.

The India Microfinance Crisis, Reconsidered

August 1, 2012

Alex Counts is President and CEO of Grameen Foundation. He recently wrote this  post on his own blog. We have included an excerpt below, followed by a link to the full post. 

I have already written about my impressions of Bangladesh, so let me turn now to India. Much has been written about the microfinance crisis there. For my part, I have made public statements about it, transcribed and released of my debate with SKS founder Vikram Akula at the Asia Society (which took place at the outset of the crisis), and addressed the issue in the opening section of my chapter in New Pathways out of Poverty (the Spanish and French versions of which are freely available, as they are not protected by copyright). David Roodman gave an impressive account of the crisis in his book Due Diligencewhich I have reviewed (a review to which Roodman thoughtfully responded).

However, when I went to India I tried to free myself from preconceptions, and attempted to listen and observe with an open mind. I met with leaders of MFIs large and small, as well as other members of the ecosystem including consulting firms, industry associations, and the staff of Grameen Foundation’s wholly owned subsidiary Grameen Foundation India and our joint venture Grameen Capital India (both of which are organized as social businesses as per Professor Muhammad Yunus’ definition). Below is a list of eight things I learned that I did not know, or believe, before I arrived:

  1. Despite recent progress in terms of returning the sector to normalcy outside AP, and in advancing legislation that is flawed but still a net positive, I heard from multiple sources that that state government of Tamil Nadu is considering an AP-type of ordinance that would throw the Indian microfinance sector into a new and probably much deeper crisis. Stay tuned!
  2. At the height of the frenzied growth during the period 2007-10, many MFI field officers came to rely on so-called “agents” (also known as “ringleaders”) at the village level who took on many of the functions of staff. In effect, field staff were outsourcing their client recruitment and loan underwriting responsibilities. This was a ticking time bomb, as the MFIs effectively lost control of their own activities, most importantly in terms of their relationships with loan clients. The reasons for this probably include the lack of training given to the new recruits of fast-growing MFIs, and the impossibility of managing as many clients as staff were expected to serve (based on unrealistic targets that were the basis for awarding generous bonuses) using the traditional approach. It is not clear that MFI leaders were aware that this was going on, or whether they just turned a blind eye.
  3. I was aware that most of the smaller AP MFIs who do not have operations outside the state have effectively gone bankrupt. What I learned from sitting down with four leaders of these now defunct institutions – who predictably though plausibly claim to have been largely innocent of the abuses committed by the larger MFIs based in the state – is that two AP MFI promoters (i.e., founders) who were distraught by their life’s work being ruined have recently committed suicide, and more are feared.

Read the full post >>

Overcoming the Barriers to Fighting Poverty

July 27, 2012

Ananya Mukkavilli is a Bankers without Borders® (BwB) volunteer who served as an institutional relations intern for Grameen Foundation’s External Affairs team in 2012. She is a rising junior at Haverford College, majoring in political science, with a minor in economics. Ananya will spend the next academic year studying international relations at The London School of Economics and Political Science.

When I first learned about microfinance, I was a freshman in high school in Bangkok, Thailand. Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, had just won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize, and by happy coincidence I was representing Bangladesh in the Economic and Social Council of our Model United Nations Conference. The subject of microfinance could not be more relevant. I found the idea of microfinance revolutionary. It wasn’t about charity or donations; it was about giving people opportunities to economically sustain themselves, as part of an overall effort to address the ever-increasing global income gap. Cutting poverty in half by 2015 was a big part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, and the actors involved were always striving to look at bigger-picture, long-term solutions to poverty. Prof. Yunus had created an effective and simultaneously empowering means of doing just that.

Bankers without Borders volunteer Ananya Mukkavilli, pictured here during a trip to Dubai’s Old Town, discovered some essential truths about fighting poverty when she served as an intern at Grameen Foundation this summer.

Having grown up in Vietnam, Thailand and India, I am no stranger to the realities of absolute poverty and the importance of “giving back” to one’s community. What drew me to the subject of microfinance was that it challenged the “us versus them” mentality that often differentiates givers from receivers. Microfinance opened my eyes to what is now a widely accepted idea of creating shared value among everyone.

But the more I have been exposed to  microfinance and international development through my academic, cultural and extracurricular experiences, the more I have realized that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of poverty. When the Andhra Pradesh crisis was unraveling in 2010, I saw for the first time how microfinance can fail when practitioners don’t put the poor at the center of their efforts. Working at Grameen Foundation this summer, I have seen the benefits of approaches to microfinance that innovate and cater to the needs of the poor, rather than those that follow a cookie-cutter, formulaic approach.

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