Thursday, December 18, 2008

What is Microfinance? First thing I think of is...

I thought I'd do a little informal research and get an idea of what people think microfinance is all about.

I asked the question over on Linkedin and so far answers include:

"Microfinance is basically purchases made in small bundles. Like in $0.10 increments. It is very popular already in video games and on social networks.

"When I hear "microfinance," I think of small loans given to people who are starting small businesses, or who are located in poor areas or countries.

"it's about businesses too small to be in the crosshairs of a bank, much less an angel investor. Yet some businesses just need a few hundred bucks to get going, if you can believe it.

"I think "boring". I am more interested in the big bucks business.

"I believe the assumption is that its in the context of the developing world


What do you think, when you think microfinance? Would love to know your honest answer.

Also, there's just a little over 2 days left to enter the Beyond creative challenge. A short post or photo could win you a wonderful prize - and at this stage the odds are good!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

World Poverty for Dummies

I have two copies of World Poverty for Dummies to give away as part of the Creative Challenge. Back in September when I signed up as a volunteer Ambassador with Women's Opportunity (Opportunity International Australia) this book was endorsed on the recommended reading list.

World Poverty for Dummies includes an overview of world poverty, a history of poverty, covers topics such as women, bribery, the slave trade, human trafficking, impacts of climate chaos, economics and the levers of change, with ideas on how you can personally take action. The book contains a blend of statistics and personal stories by four authors who have worked almost exclusively in organisations dedicated to helping other people. Authors are Sarah Marland, Ashley Clements, Lindsay Rae (World Vision) and Adam Valvasori.
From Chapter 8 "Women: The World's Poor"
Women are the poorest of the poor, the oppressed among the oppressed."
"One of the most effective ways to end poverty is to work directly with women. Because women run the households in almost all societies, any improvements in their lives flow on directly to the lives of their families. Helping women helps entire communities"

How microfinance and trade banks help to bring"... a bunch of women in a particular community together , dispenses small loans to help those women set up a micro-businesses or grow their existing businesses. The loans may be as little as US$100 and are used to buy things like a sewing machine or livestock....."

"These microfinance programs have much lower rates of loan defaults than are experienced by large commercial banks. And they work. It's been proven that with a tiny injection of cash in the right place, whole communities can work their way out of poverty."
It's such an educational and interesting book, and you don't have to do much to be in the running to win a copy. Simply submit a blog post, comment, or picture for this Creative Challenge before 21st Dec 2008, or make a tax deductible donation (over $2) towards a microfinance project for a group of women in the Philippines (if you do both, your name gets entered twice!)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hopeful

It's nearly three months into my Women's Opportunity Ambassadorship already. I have been learning about the way microfinance works, how trust banks work and how donations can be "recycled" once loans have been paid off.

I have discovered the incredible strength of these women in the Philippines, their ability to rise above their circumstances and desire to see a better life for themselves, their children, and their communities.

I consider it a real honour to be involved with this project, on behalf of these families in the Philippines. It's not easy either. I'm learning about fundraising, about using social media for fundraising and awareness and trying to find ways to get the word out.

I appreciate every bit of advice I get, from people like Gavin Heaton who gave me some timely social media marketing advice for the Slideshare project. I am amazed how, in the last three months, people from Scotland, USA, Australia, Sydney, Spain and the UK have contributed to be a voice for these women through their participation in creative projects on this site and even financially. It amazes me even more, because it has happened so easily despite my circumstance of being a busy part time working mum with young children in Australia, far away from many of you.

And now there are only two weeks left for people to create a simple response to the Beyond creative challenge. It's a busy time of year, and perhaps the topic is a little complicated for this intense time of year. Still, I'm hopeful that a few more interesting stories, thoughts, photos and even tweets will appear in the next two weeks :)

Please give these women the gift of five minutes. Set aside some time in your day, grab a hot cuppa and think about what it means to think "beyond". I'm sure you'll come up with some great examples, once you put aside a few minutes. You can read more details to get you thinking in the original post. It's a small thing you can do, to help create hope for people who are desperate to work their way out of poverty.