The Asian Pacific Microcredit Summit Meetings

Trip Start Jul 26, 2008
Trip End Sep 27, 2008

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Asian Pacific Microcredit Summit was incredibly outstanding - the best conference I have ever attended and a peak experience for me.  These summits are pivotal events in microcredit progress. There was much discussion of elements relative to building credibility of microcredit in the world and that the industry create its own rules and controls (including truth in lending statements and code of conduct) to control some of the elements that are entering the industry due to its tremendous success of microcredit. These elements are interested in making a profit whereas microcredit as created and built by Grameen, BRAC, ASA and many more is there to be a social business - solely designed to alleviate poverty and other challenges of the poor - while at the same time making enough money to serve the poor and to be self sustainable.  Alternative programs that serve the Ultra Poor were presented and excellent debate on the alternatives (Grameen Beggar Program compared to the BRAC Ultra Poor Program).  Much was focused on transparency -  something that has been deeply interwoven into microcredit - but new elements are not following this example - I assume because that if they were totally transparent it would be detrimental to the success of what they are doing.  There was much discussion of interest rates and what is reasonable.  The case made by Yunus and others is that interest rates should remain within 10 - 15% above the cost of money in each country (enough to be sustainable) with others making the case that if we are to make a dramatic impact on the 2 billion or so people in the world in poverty - there must be higher incentive for large institutions and investors to put the amount of money necessary into microcredit to truly have a major impact in alleviating poverty.  Another key issue is getting everyone reporting their interest rates in the same and simple way so that the borrower, investors, boards, etc all understand and can compare them.  There is a lot of focus on how to measure "out of poverty" ranging from a very complicated set of statistical formulations and adjustments to a simple Grameen style 10 indicator measurement (does the borrower have roof over their head, clean drinking water, food, clothing, all kids in school, latrine, etc).  It was interesting that by the end of the conference I found myself having my own ideas on these subjects and speaking up in the smaller (maybe 100 people) breakout sessions.  I also found myself thinking about those who were there as any other job for them versus those that were there because of their passionate calling to help those less fortunate.  I found that some spoke from their hearts and others like they were just bankers and statisticians.  I found myself wondering if one of my contributions isn't to help bring more soul/heart to microcredit. 

One of the highlights of the Summit was hearing Ingrid Munroe speak on Jamii Bora in Kenya.  Besides Professor Yunus she was the most inpiriational of all the speakers.  She really gets it.  Here is a link to her speaking at a previous summit.

It was wonderful to reconnect with those I had previously met in Bangladesh or microcredit friends I have gotten to know in the United States as well as many that will be kind enough to share their programs with me in during my six weeks in India and finally one week in Bangladesh.  This is an incredible network and I am appreciative that I am becoming a part of it.

The conference center is one of the best in the world - having recently hosted the global warming summit.  The speakers were the who's who of microcredit - starting with Yunus (Grameen) and Chouwdrey (ASA), Daley-Harris (CEO of the Microcredit Summit), Counts (Grameen Foundation), etc.  Abed (of BRAC) was on the agenda but had just returned from Africa and was not feeling well.  There were many that are less known but are the top individuals in their particular specialty.

I think it is hopeless to report further on the Summit and only the most involved in microcredit would be interested in those details.
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sarahblackmun on

Marty, your post moved me very much. Here's a distinction you might find useful. Jill Martinez pointed out to me that calling people 'poor' does them a disservice. They may be poor in money but not in spirit, or joy, or family. (I have seen a similar observation about calling anyone a 'slave,' which does not represent the whole of that person's being.) I had wondered why writers use the phrase 'living in poverty,' instead of 'poor,' and now I know.

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