Teaching a Woman to Fish – Grameen America

Having signed up for nearly every progressive leaning mailing list, I’ve learned that there are both pluses and minuses to these affiliations.  The daily deluge of requests for time, money and other forms of support tend to put you in a constant state of “cause-related triage.”  Should I text 90999 to send $10 to the Red Cross to help with Japan’s relief efforts or should I send it to help Mac McClelland of Mother Jones go to The Republic of Congo? (And how would I feel if I supported the MoJo effort and something happened to Mac?)  Or maybe I should spend all day following up on the multitude of requests to berate political leaders with my beliefs.  (One interesting outcome of that process has been that I’ve been added to the mailing lists of those who I often vehemently oppose.  Imagine receiving missives which assume you are one of the faithful when you are anything but.)  One organization constantly chides me for not signing up for their phone service which purports to align with my views, while repeatedly pointing out that the other carriers are waging an all out assault on democracy.  (Serenity now!)

Fortunately, in the turbulent sea of causes, there is at least one group of organizations for which my support has never wavered.  Actually, the support originates with the individual who created the organizations and it radiates out to everything he has touched.  That fine man is Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the economics professor turned Nobel Prize winning banker to the poor.  Dr. Yunus initiated Grameen Bank in his home country of Bangladesh, when he learned that he could free forty-two people from indentured servitude by lending them the equivalent of twenty-seven U.S. dollars.

Dr. Yunus recently initiated Grameen America, a U.S. based version of microfinance.  The infographic below explains the Grameen concept.

For further information: The Model – Grameen America

Check out these stats from the Grameen Foundation website:

  • 9.4 MILLION…
    …of the world’s poor have been helped by our MFI partners, allowing them to begin their journey out of poverty.
  • MORE THAN 1 MILLION…
    …microloans have been generated through our Growth Guarantee program. (Estimate based on average loan size.)
  • $160 MILLION…
    …in local currency has been leveraged to support microfinance programs in 13 countries.
  • 25,000…
    Village Phone operators are working in six countries around the world.
  • 600,000…
    …clients are supported through Mifos at microfinance institutions around the world.
  • MORE THAN $4 MILLION…
    …in in-kind services have been contributed by 440 Bankers without Borders volunteers in countries around the world.

A documentary, “To Catch a Dollar,” was released, which details the first year of Grameen America.  Check out this short trailer for the film.

The folks at Grameen are running a contest to select their next city.  Click here to cast your vote.

I’ll close this post with one of my favorite photos.  Last summer I had the good fortune to see Dr. Yunus speak in support of his latest book, “Building Social Business” at an event hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  If you ever have the opportunity to see him speak, I assure you it is worth moving heaven and earth to get there.

Dr. Yunus and I at his book signing. (Chicago, IL - 2010)