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.

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03/31/2010 by

Sean DeWitt works closely with our partner RUMA as a  Program Manager at the Grameen Foundation.

We at Grameen Foundation congratulate our implementing partner in Indonesia, RUMA on its first prize in the Harvard Social Enterprise “Pitch for Change” competition!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="350" caption="Nearly 1,400 people participated in the 11th Annual Social Enterprise Conference"]Harvard Social Enterprise Conference[/caption]

The Harvard Social Enterprise Conference

Harvard University hosted its annual Social Enterprise conference on February 27-28, 2010.  This year’s event attracted more than 1,300 attendees.  The vibe was refreshing and dynamic, reflecting the infectious energy of the students in attendance but also the momentum that the concept of social enterprise has gained in the 2-3 years.

As part of its core activities, Harvard included a “Pitch for Change” competition to help expose exciting new social business ideas to the audience.  More than a hundred entries were pre-screened and 16 semi-finalists were chosen to pitch in front of the judging panel.

RUMA:  Delivering Business Solutions to the Poor & Poorest in Indonesia

One of the semi-finalists chosen was a startup social enterprise in Indonesia called RUMA (an acronym that translates to “Your Micro Business Partner”).  The concept was submitted by Aldi Haryopratomo, who co-founded the RUMA social enterprise along with Budiman Wikarsa, both leaving the comfortable world of strategy consulting to build their dream in Indonesia.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="129" caption="Aldi Haryopratomo won first prize with RUMA"]Aldi Haryopratomo[/caption]

Their dream is to invest the dollars and energy necessary to build a network of entrepreneurs among poor women in Indonesia who will retail valuable products and services to their communities.  RUMA is determined to focus this energy to help the poor and poorest to pull themselves out of poverty.  As such, RUMA is utilizing a poverty scorecard developed by Grameen Foundation to measure the baseline level of poverty of its entrepreneurs and to measure this level of poverty over time to ensure their initiative is achieving its intended outcomes in poverty alleviation.

To deliver on this promise, RUMA develops “business in a box” solutions that deliver on all three key success factors of starting any new business:  (1) the idea, (2) the capital and (3) the skills. And the same way small businesses are powered by computers, these micro-businesses are powered by mobile phones.  Mobile phones on the RUMA network are no longer used only for chatting, but are business devices with computing power and built-in connectivity.

03/25/2010 by

Alex Counts is the President and CEO of Grameen Foundation.

I didn’t know what to expect when my plane approached Port au Prince, Haiti, a little more than one week ago.  Like many people around the world, I had been working hard to help Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance institution, since it was devastated by the January 12 earthquake.  I acted in my capacities as President of Grameen Foundation, which has a long-standing relationship with Fonkoze, and as the volunteer Chairman of Fonkoze USA.

Some of the reports I’d received from Fonkoze after the earthquake were depressing: food and fuel shortages, growing death tolls of Fonkoze staff and clients, homes and businesses destroyed, survivors enduring maddeningly slow recovery from injuries (their progress often stunted due to intensive work against doctor’s orders).  Others reports were inspirational: the U.S. military’s heroic, James Bond-esque effort in the dead of night to transport $2 million in cash from the US to Fonkoze’s 40 branches via helicopters (so that clients could withdraw savings and remittances), the successful pilot of a “mobile branch in a van,” and, above all, the tower of strength that Anne Hastings and her team displayed to me and millions of others once communications were restored and a plan for recovery could be developed and shared.

With your generous support, our first priority was to provide small grants for transitional housing for Fonkoze staff that had lost their homes. Without such support, it was understandably difficult for Fonkoze’s staff (many of whom were left homeless)  to focus on the work at hand.  Grameen Foundation’s Regional CEO Alberto Solano  led our efforts to finalize how your dollars can make the greatest impact on Haiti’s rebuilding process. Although your quick response to our call to help Haiti was gratifying, I know one thing for sure: we have more good ideas than we have funds available to implement them.

03/16/2010 by

Peg Ross is the Director of Grameen Foundation's Human Capital Center.

Spend time at a microfinance institution (MFI) and you’ll be impressed with the resilience and resourcefulness of people who are usually out of the spotlight: the mid-level managers charged with running day-to-day operations.   Much like managers at a typical commercial bank, the way they deal with challenges or crises and effectively manage their teams can significantly impact the entire organization.  This impact  is felt more acutely  given the microfinance industry’s uniquely personalized approach and social focus.

03/08/2010 by

Darwin Cruz is Online Communications Officer for the Grameen Foundation.

Today is International Women's Day. I first learned about this holiday a few years ago. Back then, I didn't  understand the nature of the celebration or why it's been celebrated for the past 100 years. But now I realize that though in the US it's not yet a major holiday, around the world this day has a big impact.

Take a look at the over 750 events celebrating this day around the world. This year's theme is: Equal rights, equal opportunities: progress of all. I definitely believe in that last statement: unless we are all making progress together, there is no true progress. I wanted to share a couple excerpts from NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a huge advocate for women worldwide. From his book Half the Sky, he writes:

Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos.

02/26/2010 by

Eric Cantor recounts his story from Barcelona.

My heart was racing as I sat in an auditorium with several hundred of the 45,000+ attendees of 2010 GSMA Mobile World Congress . We were there to hear which of the 100 finalists out of 500 nominations for the Global Mobile Awards - recognizing the top achievements in the mobile world from the prior year – would get the one of the top honors in the industry.

The category of Best use of Mobile for Social and Economic Development was the reason for the aforementioned anxiety, because along with our partners in the AppLab and Google SMS endeavors of the last 2.5 years, Google and MTN Uganda , we had two entries out of the seven finalists. As the results were announced, we weren't sure whether we would win or not. Then the announcement came, it was us – we won the award!

They called my name and we went up on stage to accept the trophy, say our thank you's and give a brief acceptance speech. In my shock, I’m not sure what I said but I am hopeful it was fitting for the moment. This recognition comes at a critical time for Grameen Foundation . Since the inception of AppLab in late 2007, Grameen Foundation and its partners have been focused on leveraging the most successful technological innovation of our time, the mobile phone, to improve lives of the low-income individuals and communities who are always the last to be reached by the market.

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