May 05, 2011
May 02, 2011
Shannon Maynard is the Director of Bankers without Borders, Grameen Foundation's skills-based volunteer program.
January 21, 2011
Eric Cantor has led Grameen Foundation’s AppLab efforts in Uganda for the past three years, and continues to serve as an advisor on the project.
More than three years ago, I landed in Uganda to establish Grameen Foundation’s “Application Laboratory” – a program conceived to explore the potential of mobile phones to improve the lives of the poor. In our quest to test, develop and expand mobile services that are useful for the most often-ignored people on the planet, our team spent (and spends) extensive time talking to our users, in the places they work and live, to hear about the good and the bad of the methods we are testing to empower them.
We sit under the mango tree at the rural health clinic, hearing about how people learn to avoid and treat common and devastating diseases like malaria and HIV. We walk the banana plantations of farmers in the West, trying to gauge how they can best control banana wilt, using locally available resources and techniques. We observe the effects of the rapidly growing “mobile money” phenomenon – essentially digital currency delivered through a mobile phone network – and assess how it can improve the lives of villagers. We see how people interact with the Internet and other unfamiliar services available through the few laptops and smartphones in a community. And we listen to farming groups, led by Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs), as they plan and prepare to bulk their crops for sale to the highest-paying buyers. As white winter washes over the US, and the rains wind down and planting season approaches in Uganda, we share some lessons learned through this work in the hopes that our growing body of work, as well as that of other practitioners in this field, will benefit.
In AppLab’s early work, we tested a number of information services, leading up to our launch, with MTN (one of the primary mobile phone services providers in east Africa) and Google, of Google SMS Tips, the product that won the award for “Best use of Mobile for Social and Economic Development” at the 2010 GSM Mobile World Congress. It was rewarding to sit on a farm and hear how making organic pesticides using local chemicals or even waste products found on the farm helped save a farmer money, and increase her yields and incomes.
[caption id="attachment_1451" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Community Knowledge Workers act as valuable local intermediaries, bridging the "last kilometer" to bring essential information to other rural farmers in Uganda. Here, a CKW uses her high-end mobile phone to check for information on banana wilt."][/caption]
But what became quickly apparent was that information alone is not a complete solution. A reference pointer or a tip about maternal health techniques may be useful to an expectant mother, but creating deep, impactful behavior change – what information-driven development initiatives seek – requires a context in which that information has a value. People certainly have a hunger for knowledge and a willingness to embrace the mobile phone to search for answers, as shown by all the questions they asked from the beginning about family planning, and HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, which affect them directly and for which few reliable, anonymous sources are available. But we require several things to make this information actionable and impactful: specific information, a context in which to make it useful, and relevant services and resources.
April 21, 2010
Sandra Adams is Grameen Foundation’s Vice President of External Affairs.
During the first week of April several Grameen Foundation board members, other staff and I traveled to Kiambu, Kenya—about 45 minutes outside Nairobi—to see how local organizations are making a difference in the lives of poor families. Staff at the microfinance institution Kenya Entrepreneurship Empowerment Foundation (KEEF) and some of the MFIs ambitious borrowers welcomed us and shared their triumphs and challenges in the fight against poverty in their communities.
December 16, 2009
Royston and I spent the first few hours on Monday back in the Grameen Complex in Dhaka. The most exciting meeting was with two retired Grameen Bank officials -- Fazley Rabbi and, briefly, Abser Kamal – both of whom now work with Grameen Shakti (Energy). Shakti, a sister company of Grameen Bank set up by Dr. Yunus in the early 1990s and that had been led until recently by Dipal Barua, has become a world leader in bringing renewable energy to rural households. We heard how they had passed 300,000 solar home systems installed, and how they do it profitably and at a rate of 13,000 per month at present. (The second most successful program of this kind has reached just over 100,000 installations.)
December 14, 2009
Alex Counts is President and CEO of Grameen Foundation, and the author of “Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World” (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). Below is Part Two of this journey to assess the state of microfinance with Grameen Foundation partners worldwide.
After a gap of about two years, on December 13, 2009 I returned to Bangladesh – the birthplace of the modern microfinance movement and the country where I spent six of the first nine years after I graduated college. I came here initially driven by naïve idealism – that someone (especially at my tender age!) could catalyze the spread Grameen Bank’s approach beyond the borders of Bangladesh, so it could to become a global (rather than simply national) anti-poverty strategy. As I was to learn, even by the time I arrived in December 1988, that process was under way – a process that was much more complex than I had imagined, and one that has been the focus of Grameen Foundation since it was established in 1997.
August 17, 2009
Muhammad Yunus attended a reception in his honor, following his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and delivered a stirring speech about his 33 year fight against poverty and what he plans in for the future.
Watch on YouTube.
July 23, 2009
Kathleen M. Snoddon recently returned from Morocco where she was able to witness microfinance first-hand. This is the final entry in a five-part blog series about her journeys.
[caption id="attachment_195" align="alignright" width="300" caption="FONDEP Borrower"][/caption]
Having left Baiya’s with apologies for not being able to stay longer, we approached our original meeting place and could see our companions gathered and waiting our arrival. It was hot and they were both exhilarated and spent by the activities and encounters of the last several hours. I wanted to stay longer. I wanted to spend time with each and every woman who had made the effort to forge a future for themselves and their families. I wanted to hear what their aspirations were for themselves and their children.
February 18, 2009
by Brian Weinberg, Director, Recycle to Eradicate Poverty
[caption id="attachment_68" align="alignleft" width="128" caption="Brian Weinberg (left)"][/caption]
Each of us has a unique set of convictions to pursue. My own fell into place unexpectedly, after I read a Fortune Magazine article highlighting Dr. Muhammad Yunus's vision to "put poverty into the museums."
I had just arrived home, after studying Spanish in Buenos Aires and trekking 2,858 miles (4600km) alone throughout South America. Reading this article summoned the mental snapshots of several "Shanty Towns" from my recent trip, inspiring a personal call to action.
October 13, 2008
By Jon Gillespie-Brown, Author “So you want to be an entrepreneur?”
In my opinion Social entrepreneurship is in fact a subset of a much more powerful global phenomenon called “Contribution”.
An example of this working in the real world is my book “So you want to be an entrepreneur?” – All the profits from the book go to the Grameen Foundation!
So why would I work for years on a book and then give all the profits away?
Contribution is why…
OK, so what does Contribution mean?…well my definition is: “Giving with no expectation of anything in return”.
So how can “contribution” lead to success and how can you join in – even if you aren’t yet an entrepreneur?
I know this seems like a long shot or a disconnect, surely success is all about being smart and hard working? Well that depends on what you believe, you still need to do those things but if you think about it whenever you were really helpful and thoughtful about others and helped or gave without looking for a reward - what were the results?