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BURO BangladeshBasic Unit for Resources and Opportunities of Bangladesh (BURO Bangladesh) is an organization that teaches poor Bangladeshis microfinance techniques that help them manage their money, operate businesses and obtain social services.

BURO Bangladesh currently serves 1.3 million impoverished people, many of whom are women, operates 644 branch offices in Bangladesh and employs more than 6,000 staff.

Established in 1990, the organization is one of the first microfinance institutions in the country to dedicate 100 percent of its operations to achieving financial sustainability for women and their families through commercial capital.

BURO Bangladesh offers two main programs, a microfinance program and a remittance program. The main goal of the microfinance program is to reduce poverty among the disadvantaged and the poor living in Bangladesh. Some of the features of the program include open withdrawal savings accounts, optional loans and operational and financial self-sufficiency resources.

The remittance program is designed specifically for expatriates who work abroad in order to provide for their families back in their home country. BURO Bangladesh has established partnerships with multiple banks and money transfer services across Bangladesh and Asia, such as Western Union, Xpress Money and Merchantrade products, to provide their clients with products.

Besides focusing on microfinancing to assist with poverty alleviation, they have also implemented other projects to address common issues in Bangladesh. These projects concern issues such as supplying clean water, both for consumption and hygiene purposes; human resource development within companies; and improving health, hygiene, nutrition and sanitation throughout the country.

According to its 2014-2015 report, BURO Bangladesh has successfully helped over one million people. In a country where approximately 36 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line of $2 per day, the organization plans to continue assisting impoverished people, particularly women, throughout Bangladesh until poverty is reduced significantly.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: BURO Bangladesh, Mix Market, Nation Multimedia
Photo: Flickr

MicroSaveThe MicroSave international consulting agency has been operating for more than 20 years. The organization uses micro-financing techniques to create value-led projects and organizations in India in order to counter poverty.

Their team consists of more than 175 professionals in the field, who use their skills to assist professionals in underdeveloped countries. Their work focuses on a market-led approach, which allows them to find customer-driven solutions. They take the time to visit low-income customers personally and to learn about their interests, strengths and circumstances to better help their clients target these customers, along with helping them hone their skills and implement maximum impact in their field.

The MicroSave team aspires to create a world where everyone from different backgrounds and cultures can obtain financial services tailored to their needs, and use these services to create anti-poverty solutions.

Their mission is to strengthen the capacity of institutions in underdeveloped countries through a series of financial inclusion models that help deliver financial services to people in a more effective manner. MicroSave has created a large number of these models to cover multiple fields of business, including sales and retail, small and medium enterprise financing, energy financing and digital financial services. The models connect people with a large range of stakeholders including self-help groups, banking correspondents and community-based financial organizations.

MicroSave also offers training and workshops that teach leaders how to build strong institutions, by effectively reaching out to customers through proper services, marketing, product development and innovation. These workshops provide clients with the knowledge needed to successfully become businessmen and women.

MircoSave’s team is divided into four groups to help apply services effectively. These groups include training, research, finance and risk management. The training group ensures knowledge is leveraged among their clients through preparatory materials, classroom training and certification.

The group responsible for research helps keep MicroSave and its clients afloat by making sure tactics are up to date and reliable in the specific industry they are working in.

The finance team teaches responsibility in finances to their clients, so money is used properly during and after their time with their clients.

Lastly, the risk management group focuses on training clients to work efficiently, decreasing their margin of error.

Over the last few years, MicroSave has expanded its services throughout Asia and Africa, working toward the goal of spreading proper financing techniques, and decreasing poverty throughout the world.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: MicroSave, Bloomberg, Microfinance Focus
Photo: Madhyame

Fonkoze_Bank
Using a unique stair-stepping model, Fonkoze Bank helps put money into the hands of some of Haiti’s poorest people. Stationed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Washington D.C., Fonkoze has operated for 11 years, working with citizens in Haiti to improve their financial standing and rise out of poverty.

Fonkoze Bank was founded by Father Joseph Philippe, a Haitian priest who made it his goal to help rural Haiti become economically stable.

While Fonkoze Bank helps people of different backgrounds, its primary focus is Haitian women, who are considered to be Haiti’s “poto mitan,” or Haiti’s “backbone”. Women are the head of the household in 44 percent of all Haitian homes and are the largest contributors of small commerce.

Fonkoze Bank is divided into 45 branches which encompass all of Haiti. Since inception, the Bank has provided financial, health and education assistance to more than 60,000 people through its four-step model.

Step One: Chemen Lavi Miyo
Chemen Lavi Miyo stands for “pathway to a better life” and is the first step in Fonkoze’s stair-stepping model. During this step, Fonkoze Bank provides women with the tools and resources needed to escape poverty and transition to a life of self-sufficiency.

Step Two: Ti Kredi
Ti Kredi, which is Haitian for “little credit” is where the microfinance portion of Fonkoze’s services comes into play. The six-month program assists women, especially those coming from vulnerable backgrounds, to develop business skills through education and training to help ensure success as micro-entrepreneurs.

On average, 92 percent of Ti Kredi participants graduate from the program. Successful graduates are able to cut their hunger rates by one-third and close to 100 percent of graduates are able to send their children.

Step Three: Solidarity
The Solidarity Program permits groups of five women, called solidarity groups to take out loans to help maintain their businesses during tough economic times.

Teams of five or six solidarity groups will meet a few times a month at “solidarity centers”. The women not only develop plans to repay their loans but also support each other’s businesses in the process. This helps promotes solidarity among micro-entrepreneurs in different geographic locations.

Step Four: Business Development
The final step of Fonkoze’s stair-stepping model is business development. During this step, women are able to take out loans surpassing the amounts they received in the second and third steps. They are also able to participate in a 12-month program giving their businesses the potential to take off and even thrive.

As of 2013, Fonkoze Bank had distributed more than $30 million in loans and continues to positively impact the lives of women who have been unable to access traditional funding from urban banks in Haiti.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Fonkoze, Charity Navigator, Grameen Foundation
Picture: Google Images

people
One of India’s leading do-good organizations is ASOMI, a micro-finance institution focused on transforming the lives of thousands of individuals.  ASOMI provides credit services to those in need of loans to improve their small businesses. Their focus on the disadvantaged section has paved the way for new opportunities for those in need by changing the attitudes of several impoverished communities. Moreover, ASOMI believes that micro-finance is the solution to current socio-political issues.

Some of the loans currently being offered range from individual loans to dairy and agricultural transportation loans, which have helped several families in both rural and urban areas of Assam. The rate of interest for most of these loans is 10%, requiring an initial deposit of 10% of the loan amount. These terms are feasible for many and as of today, ASOMI has made 17,503 loans, covering 26,456 families financially. Urban microcredits are also offered for small shopkeepers with daily payback collections instead of the larger monthly payments.

In these ways, ASOMI’s Microcredit Program has enabled several businesses to reach success, evident in the brand Sorbhog Marka Noodles. When a group of women hoped to manufacture noodles in Sorbhog they needed loans which ASOMI provided. They not only received money for their start-up but were also taught the rules and regulations for manufacturing in the Sorbhog area.

Aside from offering loans, ASOMI also provides a certificate course in management development for each of their existing employees and new loan applicants. This course allows individuals to develop a range of skills including credit management, record keeping and corporate governance. Sorbhog Marka Noodles is, however, just one success story among thousands. By combining loan opportunities with business mentoring, both men and women are able to become micro-entrepreneurs.

ASOMI currently has over 53 branches, an amazing feat considering the organization only began 9 years ago. The organization has support from private Indian finance institutions and government organizations including the Central Bank of India and State Bank of India. This accredited organization hopes to foster sustainable employment opportunities and with over 200 employees working hard on this mission, there is no doubt that it will continue to have tremendous impact for those in Assam.

–  Maybelline Martez

Sources: ASOMI
Photo: Giphy.com

InSight: Generating Micro-Business Financial Identity
A common obstacle for any business owner, regardless of which country they live and work in, is access to credit.

The twenty-first century has brought with it increasing dependence on loans and financial institutions for basic individual purchasing power – let alone entrepreneurial success.

An emergent non-profit organization has taken advantage of cell phones – a technology available to a growing percentage of the global population- to create wide spread access to these vital financial services.

For micro-business owners in the less developed world, there is an abundance of informal transactions and very little access to financial identity. Providing financial identity is something Shivani Siroya, a 2013 TED fellow, CEO and founder of InVenture, describes as the most important objective of her latest venture.

According to InVenture, 400 million people lack access to financial services due to insufficient credit scores, which means that they do not have a clear idea of how much they earn, spend or need to save. In other words? They lack financial identity.

Without financial identity it is not only challenging to manage a business, it is almost impossible to secure loans and credit lines needed to grow a business.

Siroya invented InSight, an accounting tool that enables individuals and small-business owners in the less developed world to keep track of their finances and build a financial identity for themselves. InSight is operated through SMS and compatible with any cell phone, it allows individuals to input their daily earnings and expenses, and utilize financial tracking tools. This process provides proof of growing businesses and the data collected is made available to financial institutions; making connections between those in need and those able to provide large-scale loans.

Siroya was inspired to connect micro-business owners to the credit market by creating a cell phone operated credit scoring service due to the misconception that divided the two worlds.

According to Siroya’s research, financial institutions largely disregard micro-business owners as potential credit recipients due to their “untrustworthiness,” a judgment passed based on the amount of their transactions comprised of cash, which is inevitable without access to financial institutions.

Siroya wants to change this perception and decrease the percentage of micro-businesses that currently operate under considerable credit constraints, which is currently an estimated 85 percent.

This is a dream that is being realized. As micro-business owners in the less developed world start to utilize InSight, their “buckets of receipts” are replaced with income statements on their cell phones.

Perhaps the biggest impact of all, has been for some InSight users who have reported doubling their savings for the first time.

Zoë Dean

Sources: TED Blog, InVenture
Photo: Vintage 3D

Sonata_India
India is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. The country is starting to fulfill its immense potential; the land has been rich in resources and talent for years, and is just now reaping the benefits of promise. However, the country is still struggling on several fronts. One of the issues is the financial situation; the country in general needs assistance in the area. Sonata Finance is one of these programs that intend to assist in the area, and have had varying degrees of success.

Sonata Finance has set a mission for their work. Sonata has pledged to identify and motivate poor people in a cost-effective way and deliver them micro finance services in an honest, timely, and efficient manner. Sonata has vowed to improve the likelihood that poor people can find a way to grow along with the culture, and not be left behind in the economic boom experienced in India.

Sonata has four major ways they work within the country:

1. Income Generating Loans

Sonata offers one basic loan product.  During the first cycle and on average, clients apply for a loan of a maximum Rs. 8,000 (the minimum amount is Rs. 2,000). During each cycle thereafter, the client has the option of applying for up to 120% of the previous loan amount.
The basic loan is repaid in equal weekly installments at “center meetings” held in the local communities. Prepayment of principal is possible but only if the client settles the entire balance of the principal outstanding.

2. Emergency Loans

This product will start being offered to clients during the course of the next fiscal year. The emergency loan is designed to meet events that could put the continuity or effectiveness of the income generating activity at risk. To be able to access an emergency loan, the client must present a good rating in terms of credit discipline. Like the basic loan, the emergency loan must be approved by all the associates in the group. The emergency loan will be granted for a term of 25 weeks with weekly payments and the maximum loan amount is Rs. 2,000.

3. Individual Lending

Sonata Finance provides Individual Loan lending for individuals. Rest of the procedure is same as in group lending procedure.

4.  Money Transfer

Send or Receive money worldwide instantly through Sonata Finance, we act as agent for Money Transfer`s Inward Remittance.

Through these methods of money handling actions, Sonata Finance has attempted to break the financial barrier in India. By providing some kind of financial assurance for the people, they can keep up with the ever-changing economy that has been experienced in recent times.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: Sonata, The Economist, Times of India
Photo: Twisted Sifter

Myanmar Leader Takes Steps to Fight Poverty
The history of Myanmar is one that allowed poverty to thrive and its people to suffer. However, in the past two years, the newly elected democratic government has been taking strides to lift the country from the depths of poverty and destruction to which it had sunk. President Thein Sein made a commitment Sunday to fight poverty and rebuild Myanmar’s economy.

Myanmar has ample water resources, an efficient labor force, an advantageous climate, and abundant natural resources which make economic development a natural reality. President Sein acknowledged this foundation in his speech in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar. He also acknowledged that Myanmar is one of the poorest among the LDC’s (least developed countries). It is going to take hard work, coordinated efforts, and top priorities to lift Myanmar out of poverty.

Poverty alleviation is a priority with the new government. Myanmar was at one time a country full of hope and economic prospects. It was a bright light in Southeast Asia prior to the years of military control that caused Myanmar to fall far behind its neighbors. According to the Asian Development Bank, a quarter of the population of Myanmar lives below the nation’s poverty line.

The plan to alleviate poverty launched by President Sein’s government includes micro-finance loans as a tool to help rid the nation of poverty. Those loans worth several million dollars will be given to households and workers who can utilize the loans to lift themselves out of poverty.  It is a step in the right direction and a glimmer of hope in a nation that has been dark for so long.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Channel News Asia

the-akaa-project
The Akaa Project was started by then college student Lauren Grimanis in 2008. She took the idea of affecting change in rural Africa and created a campus-wide movement. The movement then spread to a full-fledged and funded non-profit organization.

The Project works within the Akaa region of eastern Ghana, working directly with poverty-stricken families in Ghana to alleviate poverty and promote self-reliance. The Project team works to improve the health, education and financial well-being of the village families. Their on-the-ground efforts create concrete change in the community’s day-to-day life.

Major projects have included building a school, enabling access to healthcare, and enhancing the community’s access to finance through micro-loans and small business initiatives. The Akaa Project involves the community in all decisions, projects, and initiatives, and works to ensure the community is involved and empowered through the organization.

Akaa’s founder Lauren Grimanis graduated from The College of Wooster in 2012. She majored in Global Development and Management. She was able to travel to South Asia to learn from social entrepreneurs and NGOs to best understand the most practical practices for rural development.

During her time at Wooster, Lauren and a group of dedicated students developed a strategy to engage the small liberal arts community at the college. They sold handmade village jewelry in the bookstore, organized dodge ball tournaments and dances, and made customized sunglasses to help fundraise. Several College of Wooster students were also able to travel to Ghana to volunteer in the community. They were able to not only spread the word about their organization throughout the college, but also spread knowledge of global poverty and development needs in Ghana and the developing world as a whole.

Lauren’s efforts translated into a school with six classrooms, six teachers, and an educational advisor. Seventy-five children are able to attend on a daily basis. The organization has plans for future expansion. Lauren was also able to install two borehole water wells, placing women at the center of the decision making process. Additionally, the Akaa Project sponsors child and infant nutrition awareness clinics, sexual health education, and condom distribution, among other services. The Akaa Project has also been able to provide eleven micro-loans to women in Akaa, helping to empower women in the community.

For an organization of their size, the Akaa Project is taking substantial leaps forward in providing real development to a marginalized and vulnerable community. They are looking to expand their future operations to bordering communities to help as many people as they can.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: The Akaa Project

Social Enterprise Helping India's Salt Harvesters
Sabras, a social enterprise organization based in India, is using micro-lending to help the country’s poverty-stricken salt workers gain freedom from predatory lenders and non-cooperative banks.

In the state of Gujarat, where nearly 70% of India’s salt is sourced from, self-employed salt pan workers are subject to harsh physical conditions as well as predatory loans leading to little profit. Temperatures reach harsh highs in summer and lows during winter, causing adverse health effects for workers. Since the workers are self-employed, a majority of them need to borrow money from lenders who fix the price of the salt much lower than it normally would be, cutting profits for the salt pan workers down to nearly nothing, most often just 1% of the market value. Most of the banks in the country are not willing to lend to poor people, leaving the workers without options.

Rajesh Shah, the founder of Sabras, recognized these hardships and created an organization that is not only for the poor but mostly owned and operated by the poor as well, with workers holding nearly 74% of shares in the company. Before there was an alternative lender like Sabras, workers were forced to take out loans with interest rates as high as 48%. Sabras’ interest rates are just 12.5% with the ability to purchase advanced solar pumps that allow workers to increase output over the long run.

Sabras has already made a large impact as nearly 70,000 people are employed in the salt industry in Gujarat. Shah contends that the company’s 400 shareholders have seen a profit increase of 400% within the last two years since they used Sabras loans to purchase the solar pumps.

Looking ahead, Sabras hopes to begin including women in the salt industry’s processes in order to increase profits and improve the quality of life for them as well.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian

crowd-funding-kiva-poverty

For those of you who are not familiar with crowd-funding, please let me invite you to try it. Basically, any individual anywhere in the world can easily go online and make a direct financial contribution to another specific individual across the globe to support their needs.

One of the first huge success stories in this practice is Kiva.org, a non-governmental online organization that helps facilitate loans between lenders (like you) and borrowers in developing communities. The borrower, through the help of an independent community group in their area, posts their name, photo, business idea and desired amount of money to start their own business. The money is then collected online and given as a loan – it’s micro-financing from one regular person to another. Generally it’s a small amount of money (perhaps under $500) that can make the difference between someone who is starving, and someone who is immediately pulling themselves out of poverty. Each lender on average contributes $25, and literally within minutes of posting the loan request and bio, the borrower is fully funded.

Since starting in 2005 Kiva has mobilized 883,289 lenders, raised an estimated $398 million in loans, is now operating in 67 different countries and has repaid 99 percent of all money distributed.

A different type of funding group is Samahope.org. They raise money online for surgical treatments in Zambia and Sierra Leone. Again, anyone can go to their site, view the bios and pictures of individuals in need and then make a direct payment to help whomever they specifically want to. The women being supported by this service all suffer from fistula and are in need of medical services. Fistula is a result of prolonged labor during childbirth when tearing in the skin can cause infection and incontinence. It is very much a result of poverty and lack of healthcare and is almost nonexistent in developed parts of the world. The condition is often debilitating and also carries with it strong taboos that further alienate the sufferer.

These sites and other crowd-funding groups allow regular people all over the world to pool their money and collectively bring about real life change for individuals in the most remote regions of the world. It’s fast and easy, any amount of money can be given, the impact is immediate and your sense of having made real change is compelling… Try it.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Kiva, Samahope