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Volunteerism: A New Business Model for Scaling Microfinance and Technology for Development

This is not volunteerism for the sake of volunteerism, but rather a new business model for solving some of the real problems impeding the scale, sustainability, and impact of microfinance and T4D initiatives. A greater and more strategic use of volunteers can help the field to realize, more rapidly, strategic and operational improvements.


 Milena started her first business – a juice shop – in her hometown of Palos Blancos, Bolivia. However, after a long illness and hospital stay, she lost all of her savings and found herself homeless, with two daughters to care for and only 70 bolivianos (about $10) to her name. 


Zolina is a client of Fonkoze, the largest microfinance institution (MFI) in Haiti. The mother of seven school-aged children, she was having difficulty making ends meet, so she took out a loan to purchase consumable items such as coffee, beans, peas, mushrooms, potatoes and bananas to sell at the market.


In 2011 Grameen Foundation established an office in Medellín to move closer to those we work to empower — the poor and poorest. 


Grameen Foundation has been empowering the poor and poorest in the Americas since 1999. We believe there is immense untapped potential throughout the region, especially in rural communities, and focus on people living in remote rural and highly agrarian areas. In 2011, we launched the Last Mile Initiative (PDF), a five-year campaign designed to help 1 million poor people living in rural Latin America improve their lives. 


Angel connected with his local Community Knowledge Worker (CKW), who is trained by Grameen Foundation and has a smartphone full of information about crop management, market prices, and fair trade certification requirements. Angel has consulted his CKW regularly to help him grow better crops and prevent pests and disease. As he says, “I have used the CKW system four times now. Each time the information has been very useful.”