Creating entrepreneurs of democracy

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Photos courtesy of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund
>>Authored by Ken Patterson, Director of Global Grassroots Advocacy, RESULTS U.S.

The solutions to some of our biggest problems are often right in front of us, yet out of sight. Take microfinance. Early pioneers recognized that we had a financial system that was serving less than half the population. It wasn’t that the under served weren’t economic beings — it was that financial systems just weren’t fully constructed to serve them. Early on, RESULTS, a U.S.-based global grassroots advocacy NGO, backed these pioneers who were determined to build the other half of the financial service spectrum. The results have been dramatic.

A similar phenomenon exists in most democracies: we have this great idea — that the people will guide elected officials who work for them in government to create policies and spending priorities “by and for the people.” But, we Americans treat democracy as something people should naturally know how to do — like eating or walking. We don’t educate people about how democracy works, show them how to interact with it, or create an environment that encourages engagement. It doesn’t show up in grade school, high school, or college. We treat democracy like it is a moment in time or something we’ve completed: “Oh yeah, democracy, we already have that.”

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#tbt: A look back at the 2006 Global Microcredit Summit

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In an interview, Microcredit Summit Campaign co-founder, Sam Daley-Harris describes what turned him into an advocate for microcredit. In the late 1970s, Sam attended a presentation on world hunger, and he realized that “there was no scarcity of solutions. There was no mystery to growing food or [providing] clean water [and] basic health. What I was hopeless about was not the lack of solutions. I was hopeless about human nature.” He realized, however, that he had control over his own actions, so he started a citizen lobby group called RESULTS (our parent organization), to create the political will to end hunger.

In 1985, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which was then a new United Nations fund, was under attack from the U.S. Government (in a dispute with OPEC), and Sam marshaled his citizen lobbyists in support of IFAD. RESULTS volunteers told their Congressional representatives of the important investments IFAD was doing, including one small women’s bank in Bangladesh called Grameen Bank.

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Global Money Week at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Luis Fernando Sanabria

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Luis Fernando Sanabria, COO of Fundación Paraguaya, tells about his organization’s commitment to serving the youth of Paraguay. He highlights the importance of the youth in Paraguay, noting that half the country’s population is under 30 years old. “They are not only the future, but also the present — especially of our economy,” he points out.

Fundación Paraguaya focuses on developing a self-sufficient school model so that the youth will be prepared to have a successful in life. The organization encourages youth to engage in micro-enterprises and works with other organizations to develop a supportive ecosystem.

“Everything we learn in microfinance and in financial literacy,” said Sanabria, “we put it in our self-sufficient school model. Those are self-sufficient schools for very poor people. We run microenterprises on the campuses of those schools, and the microenterprises are run by teachers and students. They serve 2 purposes: first one is to generate income to sustain the school but second, and perhaps the more important objective, is to better train students to be successful in life…They learn not only about production but about marketing, accounting, packaging — everything they need to run a real enterprise when they graduate.”

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Video Corner | Shamsul Haque on reducing poverty through an integrated approach

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Shamsul Haque of Society for Development Initiatives (Bangladesh) discusses his organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty, and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Haque explains that SDI’s objective is to reduce poverty in Bangladesh through an integrated approach involving components such as microcredit, education, and the environment.

Haque is attending the Summit to gain experience from people in other countries on how they providing non-financial services like health, education, and the environment. “Microfinance plus at least education and health,” Haque said. “If we combine education, health and microcredit ….they [clients] will graduate [out of poverty]. They will be a respectable people in society. That is also our objective.”

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Oradian’s innovative cloud system in West Africa empowers the microfinance community

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>>Authored by Vedrana Legovic, marketing and communications officer of Oradian

Last month, we travelled to Abu Dhabi for the 18th Microcredit Summit, which hosted a number of microfinance and financial inclusion experts from around the world. The summit explored new and effective ways in advancing financial inclusion and featured successes in Africa and the Middle East. One of those success stories is certainly that of Oradian, and we are honoured that the Microcredit Summit Campaign recognised the impact of our work in West Africa. By using our latest cloud-based technology, services, and domain expertise in that region, we increase efficiency and effectiveness of microfinance institutions (MFIs).

We had the opportunity to attend inspiring plenary and breakout sessions and be a part of the arena where so many great ideas were shared. Oradian’s co-founder and managing director, Antonio Separovic, spoke at the “Innovative Products and Services for Financial Inclusion” panel. Oradian creates technology (SaaS software) for MFIs. With our technology, we remove complexity, empower our users, and enable their growth because most of them still use pen and paper.

Antonio discussed Oradian’s experience in enabling ‪‎ MFIs to advance financial inclusion by using our innovative technology. More specifically, he shared our story about empowering microfinance communities in some of the most remote rural areas in Nigeria, our core market, where we have had impressive results with local MFIs in applying our multi-award winning software, Instafin, to their operations.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

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#tbt: Digital services to reach the unreachable at the 2013 Summit

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Highlighting technology innovations in the microfinance sector, the plenary session “Reaching Deeper and Lowering Costs: The Path ahead for Digital Services” at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit was moderated by our very own Sabina Rogers, filling in for Karen Dávila, noted Philippine broadcast journalist.

It was a fun session, using visual aids to represent certain aspects of a value chain for delivering mobile and financial services. A house represented the client and the start of the digital transaction value chain; then images showed the mobile interface for conducting transactions; a sari-sari represented an agent kiosk; a net represented both communications networks as well as financial networks; and a bank stood in for a variety of types of financial institutions.

Speakers were asked to make use of the array to help them illustrate where the companies and organizations the represented fit into the value chain.

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Video Corner | Shazia Abbas on microfinance creating entrepreneurs

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Shazia Abbas of Micro Options (Pakistan) discusses her organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty, and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Micro Options provides microcredit services for agriculture, livestock, and alternative energy (i.e., solar and bio-gas), combining access to capital with skills training with a focus on women and youth.

Abbas says that the Summit is a great forum and the biggest networking event for the region and globally. On her experience in Abu Dhabi, she appreciates “learning how other people are doing this work differently, and especially the opportunities we can leverage. That was wonderful. Every session is very important, and I was confused which to pick and not to pick,” Abbas adds with a chuckle. “I will definitely take some learning that I can cooperate at my organization so that we can deliver even better.”

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Video Corner | Tarik Sayed Harun on reducing poverty in Bangladesh

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Tarik Sayed Harun of COAST Trust (Bangladesh) discusses the role of microfinance to help end poverty and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Harun explains that the poverty rate in Bangladesh has been reduced by 10 percent over the past five years. He suggests that recent research showing that microfinance in Bangladesh contributes approximately 10 percent to the nation’s GDP supports his contention that microfinance has a strong role to contribute to ending poverty.

“[The 18th Microcredit Summit] is very good opportunity to learn from each other and about very good practices from around the world,” said Harun. “We are trying to learn from the good practices and to implement them in our country, my organization. Overall our one commitment is to reduce poverty, so this is a very good opportunity to learn from each other.”

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Video Corner | Lev Plaves of Kiva on measuring impact

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Lev Plaves of KIVA talks with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway, about what he was most excited to learn about at the 18th Microcredit Summit. “What we are most excited about is how much discussion there was at the Summit about how different stakeholders — whether investors or practitioners — are really working to improve how we’re measuring impact,” Plaves says. “That was really great to see, and I am excited to see moving forward how that plays out in terms of people working to really increase how we are quantifying the outcomes we are having as an industry.”

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Sohelia Haque: MFIs better serve the poor than traditional banks

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Sohelia Naznin Haque of Society for Development Initiatives (Bangladesh) discusses the role of microfinance to help end poverty and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.

Haque echoed Dr. Muhammed Yunus, supporting the goals of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and financial inclusion through technological advancement. She explains how SDI reaches the poor in a way that big banks do not, going to their homes and visiting rural areas.

“We go to them, think about or listen to their demands, needs, motives, drives. According to that, we make our microfinance products and try fulfill their demands,” said Haque. “[Commercial] banks’ interest rates are too high, but our interest rates are not too high according to the demand we provide them.”

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Wamda.com: Understanding microfinance in MENA

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>>by Archana Menon | April 3, 2016

“The Arab world has the lowest level of financial inclusion.”

This was the statement made by Dr. Abdulrahman Al Hamidi, director general and chairman of the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) at the opening of the 18th Microcredit Summit in Abu Dhabi in March.

He cited World Bank data stating that 16 to 17 million small businesses in the Arab region have no access to financing and official financial services.

The theme of the summit, “Frontier Innovations in Financial Inclusion,” attracted 1,000 delegates from 60 countries. Jointly organized by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND), and the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the event was held March 14-17.

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Muhammad Yunus: A new economic theory of selflessness

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Ghada Waly, Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity, and Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the “father of microfinance,” got into a heated debate about the whole thesis of economic theory. The two distinguished speakers were on the panel for the “Scaling Business Models for Social Impact” plenary at the 18th Microcredit Summit (March 14-17 in Abu Dhabi).

Businesses have the ability to scale, delivering products and services on a global basis by providing for the needs and desires of their customers. But, the business focus on maximizing profits often lead limited attention to social challenges. Nonprofits have shown the ability to address a large variety of social problems, but the need to raise funds from donors often limits their ability to scale to the level of the problems they seek to address. Social businesses combine these two organizational models, using the power of business to solve some of the world’s most pressing social problems.

Minister Waly argued at the end of the session that businesses contribute to the well-being of society and to ending poverty — whether they do CSR or have a social mission or not — simply by creating jobs, paying taxes, and so on.

“Those companies that do not even do CSR [corporate social responsibility] but provide a service that is needed for society. Be it a pharmaceutical company or garment company, if they employ people, pay them fairly, and create jobs, this is good enough and this is very much needed. So you need everything.”

Prof. Yunus countered that human beings are both selfish and selfless, and the business world and economics can be structured to lift up the selfless side of human nature.

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Muhammad Zubair Mughal: Islamic microfinance is for everyone

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Muhammad Zubair Mughal of Al Huda Center of Islamic Banking and Economics attended his first Microcredit Summit. He discusses Islamic microfinance, the role of microfinance to help end poverty and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Mughal learned from the Summit about different techniques for poverty alleviation. Specifically, he appreciates the focus on financial education, insurance, and integrating health service.

Al Huda is dedicated to developing Islamic microfinance, poverty alleviation, and social development. “There is a misconception that Islamic microfinance is only for Muslims,” said Mughal. “No. Islamic microfinance is a system which can be utilized by Muslims and non-Muslims for poverty alleviation and social development,” Mughal concludes.

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Alia Farhat: Microfinance serving Syrian refugees in Lebanon

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Alia Farhat of Al Majmoua (Lebanon) discusses her organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty — in particular with the Syrian refugee crisis — and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.

Al Majmoua was founded in 1994 and is the leading microfinance organization in Lebanon, managing a portfolio of US $52 million. She believes that microfinance is part of the value chain to end poverty and that MFIs need to provide more than just finance to end poverty. Al Majmoua offers microinsurance and savings products as well as to entrepreneurship and financial literacy training.

Farhat describes how Al Majmoua, which means “the group,” has evolved from its group lending origins to its current work with refugees. Lebanon, a population of only 4.5 million, has seen an influx of 1.3 million Syrian refugees over the last three years. “We needed to do something” to help, she explains, so they started with non-financial services to women and youth such as vocational and entrepreneurship training.

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Bdour Alhyari: Enabling the poor to participate in development

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18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Bdour Alhyari, business development manager for Microfund for Women in Jordan, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.


Bdour Alhyari of Microfund for Women (Jordan) talks with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway, at the 18th Microcredit Summit. Microfund for Women launched a Campaign Commitment in 2015. Commitments are specific, measurable, and time-bound actions organizations take to support the Campaign goal to help 100 Million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. “It is in our mission to enable and empower women at so many levels,” says Alhyari. “We thought we need to be part of this Campaign and commit to act, encourage others to commit to act.” (Learn more here.)

Microfinance plays “a great role” to help end poverty, says Alyhari, because it enables the financially excluded to gain access to the financial system. “Eighty percent [of the world’s population] are not allowed to access finance. Microfinance provides them with financial resources to enable them to participate in the development of societies, of communities. They [beneficiaries and clients] take the money. They create businesses, they continue their learning, their education, to enable them to be part of the development cycle. Gradually this will help to better livelihoods.”

Finally, Alhyari reflects on her time at the 18th Microcredit Summit. “The Summit has brought so many different expertise from different parts of the world,” she says. “We have shown our experience in microinsurance [and], providing the caregiver program, and we heard about other examples in microinsurance, green energy, and so many other topics, [such as] youth. It was a good platform to have this exchange to look at the expertise of each other and learn from it.”

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