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Growth for All: Including the Poor in Strategies for Economic Growth

May 31, 2012

Michael Castellano is a graduate student at The George Washington University, studying International Affairs and Development. He interned with Bankers without Borders® at Grameen Foundation during the spring of 2012.

In the years following the global financial crisis, politicians and policymakers across the globe have harped on one cardinal goal: economic growth. Without a doubt, plans for growing the economy will dominate discussions in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. It seems as though we as a society have collectively determined that if only the economy would turn around, conditions would certainly improve across the board. If only we could enact legislation to spur economic growth, inevitably we would all be better off.

Fortunately, statistics show that the United States has seen steadily climbing annual growth rates since the nadir of the “Great Recession.” Developing countries and emerging economies have, on the whole, experienced average growth rates of more than 5 percent thus far in 2012 and will continue to propel the world’s progress, according to financial forecasts. So – this is good news for everyone, right?

Not necessarily.

Although a country’s national economy may grow, the poorest of the poor often remain completely disconnected from the financial, political and social systems in place. Without active bank accounts, the poor cannot easily save or access other financial services. In rural villages, people may not have easy access to healthcare and can quickly fall victim to external shocks such as disease or natural disaster. Without these services, poor people around the world cannot reap the benefits of overall economic growth.

During my time at Grameen Foundation and through my studies in International Development during this past year, one fundamental lesson has stood out: Though economic growth is certainly important, growth does little to reduce poverty if the poor lack access to essential services. This illustrates a key principle that development practitioners dub “pro-poor growth.”

[caption id="attachment_2143" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Michael Castellano served as an intern at Grameen Foundation this spring. Michael Castellano, shown here during a trip to Australia, served as an intern at Grameen Foundation this spring.[/caption]

Pro-poor growth involves forming development policies and strategies that target the poorest of the poor and offer new ways of connecting them to financial markets. Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize laureate and founder of Grameen Bank, stated, “The direct elimination of poverty should be the objective of all development aid. Development should be viewed as a human rights issue, not as a question of simply increasing the gross national product.”

Witnessing Our Impact in Nairobi, Kenya

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.

SEAMO holds benefit for Fonkoze

February 05, 2010

Charlene Balick is a Technical Program Officer for Grameen Foundation based in Seattle, Washington.  She has spent considerable time in Haiti working with Fonkoze.

On Thursday, 27 January, my co-worker in the Grameen Technology Center, Scott Everett , organized with some other members of SEAMO (Seattle Microfinance Organization) a benefit to raise funds for Fonkoze.  The event was promoted by other Seattle organizations including Seattle Greendrinks, Re-Vision Labs and Seattle Works.   I was thrilled to have a chance to be a part of the lineup and share stories and photos of clients I had taken during visits to Fonkoze over the past year and half.

Update: Economic Recovery in Haiti and the Americas

January 29, 2010

Alberto Solano joined Grameen Foundation in October 2009 and provides leadership and management oversight for our portfolio and activities across the Americas.  He is leading our economic recovery efforts in Haiti.

Today, Leigh Carter (Executive Director of Fonkoze USA) and I gave a briefing about the current situation and role of microfinance in economic recovery efforts in Haiti.  I also spoke about the role that microfinance plays in relief and recovery efforts after natural disasters and Grameen Foundation's work in the Americas region.

Leigh currently serves as Executive Director and CFO of Fonkoze USA, which is the US-based support partner of FONKOZE.  Leigh provided an overview of Fonkoze, the current situation in Haiti and its long relationship with Grameen Foundation.

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