Poverty seen through different eyes

Mohammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in establishing micro-credit programs and the development of social businesses in Bangladesh over the last 40 years. Today, the methodologies created by Professor Yunus are being used throughout the world. In Bangladesh alone, Grameen Bank has provided of $80,000,000 in loans to over 8,000,000 recipients. These initiatives empower individuals, especially women, to work their way out of poverty. I have been fortunate enough to attend two of his training seminars during the last two years. It is his work that inspired us to look at our work with children and adults with disabilities and their families from a more holistic perspective, including the focus on poverty reduction.

You can find a seemingly endless amount of information on the internet, but I would recommend two books by Yunus worth buying and reading. BankertothePoorand BuildingSocialBusiness.I would also recommend you review the trailer of a new documentary, BonsaiPeople (only 4 minutes) at www.bonsaipeople.com/. If you have read our blogs on the micro-credit loan programs and the social businesses we have started in Kenya and Tanzania and now Romania, you will realize that I have become an unapologetic raving fan of Professor Yunus. Few strategies that have been created by governments, foundations, or the academic world have produced nearly the outcomes of this new view of the world.

One of the themes he touched on in one of the workshops two weeks ago was something like the following, paraphrased:

Once we got started (making micro-credit loans), I began to realize that we needed a structure on how to teach others how to do this work. It is really very easy. We just decided to do the opposite of what traditional banks do. Banks want to see collateral; we decided that we would not ask for collateral. Banks want to make sizable loans; we decided to make very small loans. Banks are interested in making profits for their investors; we don’t retain any profit, we use profit to reinvest and grow our capacity to make more loans. Banks have highly punitive rules for loans that are late; we created incentives to reward loan recipients who pay on time and or early. Banks build big offices and expect you to wait in line, fill out a lot of paper work, and pay high interest rates; we bring banking services to the immediate neighborhood of our loan recipients and we charge smaller and easily-understood interest rates. Banks do nothing to help you with understanding how a small business can be started and be profitable; we decided we should take that training and support to the neighborhood as well.

So what is the outcome of all of this? Check out the data on the internet yourself. If you have questions or comments please send them to us. While you’re on the internet, you will also find his critics. As the saying, goes: “No good deed goes unpunished.”

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