>>Authored by Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign
Last week, Beth Rhyne posted a well-deserved tribute to Alex Counts, who recently retired as CEO of Grameen Foundation. I’d like to add to her thoughtful articulation of Alex’s contributions to microfinance and the lives of people living in poverty.
I once sat with Alex at a dinner in Dhaka that brought together many different strands of the Grameen family. Our table included several of the board members of Grameen Bank, women clients of the bank. They laughed at Alex as he talked with them in Bangla, and then let us know exactly what they thought about how the government was treating Prof. Yunus. As I watched their delighted conversation, I was struck with how it traversed so many traditional barriers of gender, age, caste, education, experience and income. It was just Alex and his friends, who were not only clients of Grameen but were also mothers, daughters, board members and business owners. He wanted to learn as much as he could from them.
Alex brings that combination of insatiable curiosity and human connection to all that he does. It allows him to reach across boundaries and embrace new technologies and products. He knows the challenges faced by families living in vulnerability with limited income, but he also knows their vitality and determination. This has led to Grameen Foundation pioneering the Progress out of Poverty Index and creating a Tech Lab and touching the lives of more than 25 million people around the world.
I am looking forward to what comes next for Alex, in books he writes, bluegrass and soul music he promotes, and in advice he gives us at the Microcredit Summit Campaign.
A Toast to Alex Counts
November 11, 2015
>> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI
It’s important to recognize the work of others, but so easy to let the days slide by silently – until a major transition occurs.
Last week there was such a transition, in the form of a gala to recognize the achievements of Alex Counts, founder and for 18 years, CEO of Grameen Foundation. So I decided to mark the occasion with these thoughts.
The story of the organization’s founding is a simple one, reflecting the naiveté and boldness of youth. As a recent college graduate, Alex moved to Bangladesh to apprentice at the Grameen Bank. On returning home to the U.S. seven years later, in 1997, and with $6,000 provided by Muhammad Yunus, he started the Foundation to carry Grameen Bank’s work for the very poor into countries around the world. He didn’t know what he didn’t know, as is the case for most entrepreneurs, social and otherwise. Grameen Foundation operated on a shoestring in those early days.
But that’s not why I’m writing this post. I wanted to recognize Alex from a more personal point of view.