There is a series on microfinance that is being hosted by Berkeley over the next several months, starting this Wednesday, which I’m going to be listening in on. I took a econ class on the subject back in 2000 during undergrad at MIT, but didn’t realize then how big of a field it would become over the next decade. I’ve continued to find it interesting with the success of organizations like Kiva, the involvement of organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the controversy over whether or not microfinance can/should be for-profit, or must only be not for profit.
One of the readings for the upcoming lectures is five years old, but covers a good part of the history of microfinance, the differing philosophies on how it should be implemented, and the change it does/doesn’t make. Many times, the people being served by microfinance are women – because they are unable to get funding otherwise, because they are often the head of a household in poor countries when their husbands are off working elsewhere, and because they are more likely to repay their loans. Depending on how they are implemented, these programs can be the catalyst to help individuals realize they have the power to make and create business and value – something that I think is important both in developing parts of the world as well as here in the US.