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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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08/05/2010 by

GF supporter and actress Yeardley Smith (voice of “Lisa Simpson” on the popular TV show The Simpsons) and President and CEO Alex Counts traveled to Bangladesh in late July 2010. They visited Grameen Bank and some of the other enterprises Professor Yunus has launched to accelerate poverty reduction. This is Alex’s first blog post chronicling their visit.

Yeardley’s and my flight arrived at Dhaka’s International airport one hour late, after which we had the pleasure of navigating Dhaka’s ever-worsening traffic to get to our hotel. During lunch, I prepared her for the days to come, explaining that this trip would be different from the time we spent in May 2009 witnessing microfinance in Haiti. We then started for the Grameen Complex in Mirpur—traffic stretched a usually short trip to 45 minutes.

To get a sense of Grameen’s 30-year history, we met with three individuals who were with Professor Yunus during the organization’s nascent years in the mid-1970s.

In her new role as General Manager, Jannat Quanine oversees all of Grameen Bank’s international programs. She receives and provides exposure and training to a delegation of foreigners—from senior government officials to curious students—who want to learn about Grameen. As we sat with her, she received a call about two ministers from India who wanted to visit the following week. (I suspected that in the days ahead, she’d have her hands full preparing for that one visit.)

Jannat explained to Yeardley what it was like during the early years with Professor Yunus—before the worldwide acclaim for his achievements in reducing poverty, which spawned a global financial services industry for poor women. She also explained the itinerary for our six days in Bangladesh—her team had worked out every detail.

After meeting with Jannat, we visited Nurjahan Begum, Grameen’s Deputy Managing Director and Grameen Foundation Board member. She told us about Grameen Bank’s recent growth and talked about its sister organization, Grameen Shikkha. (Shikkha means “education” in Bengali.) Nurjahan is the organization’s nonsalaried CEO. She’s barely five feet tall, but pound for pound, she’s the most potent force for poverty reduction and women’s empowerment I’ve ever met!

07/22/2010 by
Emily Ferris is a Marketing and Communications Intern for Grameen Foundation based in our Washington, DC office.

I remember reading about the success of Grameen Bank before my Global Issues, Local Solutions class one day and thinking to myself, “What an incredible idea!” Microfinance is such a straightforward model with such a powerful impact – who wouldn’t be impressed? So when I set out on my internship search for summer 2010, Grameen Foundation was the first place I looked.

07/21/2010 by

Veteran marketing executive Madelyn Hammond, President of Madelyn Hammond & Associates, and Emily Lynch, West Coast Coordinator for shoe designer Christian Louboutin, recently accompanied GF staff on a site visit to Peru to witness the impact of microfinance.  Once acquaintances, and now lifelong friends, both are dedicated supporters of the Grameen Foundation.

Six people who didn’t really know each other went to the Amazon to see Grameen Foundation and their local partners in action.  Four days later we were friends for life and would never look at the world the same way again. This special expedition to Pucallpa, Peru was a combination of divine intervention and supreme coincidence.

[caption id="attachment_802" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Madelyn (left) and Emily in Peru."][/caption]Almost a year ago, the world famous shoe designer, Christian Louboutin, was given a list of ten charities for him to review and then select one to really get involved with. Without knowing a lot about Grameen, the idea of microfinance appealed to him and that these loans were primarily made to women made it even more perfect.  Emily Lynch, who is the West Coast Coordinator for Christian Louboutin, and responsible for overseeing their Charity associations in the U.S., was charged with spearheading the project.  She knew to really get Christian involved would require first-hand knowledge of how a “charitable gift becomes a loan” and actually meet the “borrowers”.

I’m a marketing executive and was already somewhat familiar with Grameen through Yeardley Smith, (the voice of Lisa Simpson), who was a former client. Yeardley’s two trips to Haiti really inspired and made me want to experience a Grameen trip on my own.

We were expertly guided (and educated!) through various towns in Peru by several Grameen and Prisma (their local microfinance partner) associates. Alberto Solano (Grameen’s Regional CEO), Mary Irvine (Grameen’s Regional Director of Development), Diego Fernandez Concha (Director, Prisma), and Lori Ospina (Grameen’s Program Assistant).

Here is our Story: Ten Things Emily and Mad Learned on our Trip to the Amazon

The Borrowers:

1.       …are resourceful. There is a misconception that poor means lazy. What poor is…is a lack of opportunity. The women we met all have 4 or 5 jobs depending on weather, time of year, crops or children.

2.       …are resilient.  The women had an attitude of “whatever needs to be done will be done”. We saw an incredible work ethic coupled with practicality and strong survival undertones.

3.       …just like other women. The mothers want the same things all mothers want—healthy, educated, successful children. We saw women who were “Avon saleswomen” [the equivalent of?]and took pride in their appearance although they were dirt poor. All the women had the same hopes and dreams we all share.

07/13/2010 by

Preeti Wali is Communications Officer at the Grameen Foundation Social Performance Management Center (SPMC). She is based in Washington, DC. Preeti and her colleagues recently completed a trip to Senegal and Mali in support of Progress Out Of Poverty Index™ (PPI™) trainings. Check out our PPI blog for more posts, and you can keep up with our social performance work @gfppi on Twitter where we have been live tweeting during our travels.

“Can you drive a wheel? Can you drive a door?” As pictures of pieces of a car were passed around the room, these are the questions our trainers asked. Of course, the response was a resounding “No.” Just so, the trainers explained, “The PPI is like a car, you can only drive it if you have all the parts in place.”

07/02/2010 by

This July 11, 2010 host a World Cup Party with your friends/family and help out Grameen Foundation at the same time! VOTE to end global poverty!