This past fall I took a second online course (first one) from the Chalmers Center in order to further my knowledge of international development. As the title spells out, the seven week course explained the principles of creating financing opportunities and enterprise training opportunities among the world's poor.
There are three main ways that this is done:
- Providing funds through micro loans, rotating funds, or savings opportunities
- Partnering with large scale microfinanciers and microenterprise developers
- Promoting either of the opportunities with existing organizations
These are a few points I thought I would share, and this is by no means a comprehensive overview of the course. In the research that I looked over, microfinance (MF) and microenterprise development (MED) endeavors were most successful in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa while in Central and South America there was not nearly the success. My very generalized reasoning for the cause of this disparaging difference is the sense of pride that individuals in the first three continents have for repaying loans as compared to the lack of trust among the Latin American communities.
Another point that really affected me is how MF and MED suddenly, in the past decade, became considered the cure all for missions and development in the two thirds world. There are many wrong ways to implement this and many organizations have done more harm than good as everyone rushed to get their programs in place to receive support from the first world - any organization that wasn't doing this was clearly knocking on the wrong door.
The target for MF and MED in almost all cases was women. Men felt more comfortable defaulting on loans or misusing the funds. Women felt more responsible for repayment and also took more advantage of the opportunities to feed their family and pay for other essentials.
In the end, I was certainly inspired by the success stories. The poor can be a fiercely determined and innovative strata of society, even when faced with nearly insurmountable odds.