Peer Power

Bruno and Micaela Rivas

Here is the second article in the “Trends in Social Innovation” project I’ve been working on for The Philanthropic Enterprise.

Eleven years ago, Bruno Rivas left Mexico City to make a better living for his family in San Francisco. He landed a job at a restaurant and began making some money, but couldn’t figure out how to break out of a cash system into a marketplace driven by credit. Every week, he would receive payment in cash, a large portion of which he would send back to his wife Micaela in Mexico via a check cashing service, often incurring a fee of 10 to 20 percent of his paycheck. With the money he kept for himself, he was able to purchase items for daily provision, but without a means of building credit, he struggled to find a way to fund larger purchases or take bigger steps toward financial health.

But then four years ago, Bruno learned about the Bay Area-based Mission Asset Fund (MAF)—an organization that has garnered nationwide recognition for its nontraditional approach to lending—and decided to join a peer lending circle, or “cesta populare” (“community basket” in Spanish).

Read full article here.

Microfinance in America

Grameen Bank Founder Muhammad Yunus

Presenting the first article in “Trends in Social Innovation”–a webzine I’ve been developing for The Philanthropic Enterprise. Enjoy this first piece and check out the magazine for similar stories.

In 1976, while visiting poor households near the village of Jobra, Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus, Fulbright scholar and professor of economics, realized that a small loan could multiply exponentially in the hands of a skilled worker. Experimentally, Yunus gave a total of $27 USD to 42 Bangladeshi women to purchase bamboo that they made into furniture and sold. Each of the women earned a profit of $0.02 USD. Noting this small—but potentially huge—success, Yunus founded Grameen Bank, the world’s first modern microfinance operation, offering miniature loans to turn poor people into entrepreneurs. Since then, upwards of 12,000 microfinance—also known as microcredit or microenterprise—organizations have sprung up all around the world, ultimately helping 137.5 million poor families pull themselves out of poverty.

This model has grown most rapidly in developing nations, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

But these days it’s no longer simply poor women in third world countries who benefit from microloans, but more than 170,000 individuals in America.

Read full article here…