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.
Grameen Foundation Insights
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At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.
On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.
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.
[caption id="attachment_2263" align="aligncenter" width="300"] 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.[/caption]
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.
Shannon Maynard is Director of Bankers without Borders®(BwB), Grameen Foundation’s skilled-volunteer initiative. Maynard has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and volunteer mobilization. Before joining Grameen Foundation, she served as Executive Director of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, and managed strategic initiatives for the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. This is the final post in a four-part series; you can read her first post here, her second post here, and her third post here.
[caption id="attachment_2256" align="aligncenter" width="300"] BwB Director Shannon Maynard (left) presents Seraphina (right), a women's group leader and entrepreneur, with a cook stove that the other group leaders purchased as a thank-you for her wisdom and leadership to them.[/caption]
As a U.S.-based employee of a global NGO, the small amount of time I spend in the field is incredibly helpful in checking assumptions around what’s possible and what’s needed with our work in particular places, and in gaining a better understanding the realities of my employees based there. Of course, being surrounded by abject poverty on a daily basis, combined with getting to see – in person – the hope and progress that takes root in poor people’s lives when they gain access to credit or savings, redoubles my own personal commitment to the work of Grameen Foundation and Bankers without Borders (BwB).
In addition to gaining such perspective during the two weeks I spent in Kenya, I was able to help better position BwB to benefit Kenya-based social enterprises such as the Visionary Empowerment Program (VEP), Paradigm Kenya and Paddy Micro Investment, among others. I also had the chance to shake hands with two very important people: Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and self-identified industrialist Seraphina, an elderly woman who lives in a rural village outside Thika town and makes soap to support herself and her family.
What do these three social enterprises and these two people have in common? Let me connect the dots – because that really is what Grameen Foundation is all about. We bring together the people and facilitate the collaboration required to foster significant, scalable financial- and information-related solutions for the world’s poorest.
Emily Hosoya is a Bankers without Borders® volunteer and Communications Intern with Grameen Foundation's Microsavings Initiative. We have included an excerpt from her post on our Progress out of Poverty blog, with a link to the full post below.
Since starting our work with CARD Bank in the Philippines, we’ve realized the best savings products are designed by the customers themselves. Although we’d love to sit down with each of CARD’s 500,000+ savings customers to discuss their needs, there is never enough time or resources to do so. Instead, with the help of our senior data analyst, Jacobo Menajovsky, we’ve created a process to use specific customer information to address our business questions and drive CARD’s product design and marketing strategy.
Steve Wright is Vice President, Poverty Tools and Insights for Grameen Foundation. He recently wrote a blog post for Nexii.com. We have included an excerpt below, along with a link to the full post.
Let’s start with the realization that poverty is bad. The hardships of the poor fill heartstring-pulling fundraising campaigns: unsafe drinking water, poor diets, poor education, untreated illnesses, saving cash under a mattress, danger, a roof that leaks, no access to the information we take for granted, and more. These hardships make life more difficult for the poor than the not-poor. But this is not the only reason why poverty is bad.
Poverty is also bad because it hurts us all.
A very simple logic model for Poverty Alleviation