This Man is a Rock Star

Grameen America Founder and Nobel Laureate, Professor Muhammad Yunus, inspires action at the The Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, NYC. More »

Business blooms for Sabina

With disciplined savings into an account set up at a commercial bank through Grameen America, Sabina had the capital to invest. More »

Professor Yunus Cuts the Rope

Professor Yunus launched Grameen America in 2008 in the wake of the financial crisis. Four years later, we have reached 12,000 families and counting... More »

 

Corporate Giants Go Social

It is no secret that the rising ‘millennial’ generation is more likely to purchase products and services from companies that are making a positive social impact. According to a U.S. Trust Report, 69% of millennials use their investments as “a way to express social, political and environmental values.” Many companies, whether to attract consumers or because of redefined strategic goals, are changing the way they operate in order to incorporate consumer values such as gender equality, education and financial inclusion.

Photo Credit: The Wall Street Journal

Photo Credit: The Wall Street Journal

Barclays

On July 10th, Barclays launched a ‘Women in Leadership’ ETN to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. This ETN, the first of its kind, is designed to highlight companies with diverse gender leadership. The idea is to empower and encourage women leadership in the corporate world. The ETN tracks an index which is composed of US-based companies with either a female CEO or 25% of females on the board of directors.

“Women are significantly underrepresented in corporate executive leadership, yet a growing body of third-party research suggests that gender-diverse leadership may correlate with relatively stronger corporate performance, as compared to companies with less gender-diverse leadership”

- Barbara Byrne, Vice Chairman in Investment Banking

MasterCard

The MasterCard Foundation pledged to provide financial support to 15,000 high school and university students. The scholars are primarily African females, 6,000 of which are set to enroll by December 2014. The 10 year program offers “holistic financial, social academic and leadership development support” and the goal is to inspire young leaders to create social change through education.

Read more about the program here

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo announced a partnership with Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Borders to expand its Global Fellows Program. This is a global consulting program where employees volunteer their professional expertise to microfinance and poverty-focused organizations.

Prudential

Prudential attended a meeting with the US Advisory Board and G7’s Social Impact Investing Taskforce at the White House in June. This meeting was dedicated to impact investing, and Prudential committed to building a $1 billion impact portfolio by June 2020. Some of the areas that Prudential invests in are affordable housing, sustainable agriculture, and microfinance institutions.

In July, Prudential also announced that it will provide an $850,000 grant to the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) Wealth-Building Policy Project. This project aims to strengthen financial literacy in Hispanic communities through research and advocacy.

Bringing Microfinance to Life for a Younger Generation

Guest Post by Hannah Gallen, Development and Communications Summer Intern

IMG_1387Although microfinance organizations such as KivaU and YAO are beginning to take an educational focus, student microfinance initiatives—let alone high school microfinance initiatives— are few and far between. I am a rising high school senior at the Riverdale Country School in Bronx, NY and am also the Co-President of Zawadi by Youth. Zawadi by Youth is one of the only high school student-run 501(c)(3) microfinance organizations in the US. We have been in existence since 2008 and thus have nearly 6 years of experience “testing the waters” for the (momentarily) small community of high schoolers aspiring to become involved in the emerging field of microfinance and social entrepreneurship.

This also means that Zawadi members are familiar with the various setbacks that accompany the mission to promote awareness of microfinance amongst our age demographic. One of the most prominent is that out of the array of service options offered high school students, microfinance can seem the most abstract. As an emerging movement, the concept of social entrepreneurship requires an explanation that no matter how reduced always manages to seem daunting to the average high school mind. At least for the moment, it is much easier for young people to actively participate in a hands-on local service project than it is for them to actively distribute loans as part of a larger mission to advance financial inclusion. Until recently, the closest Zawadi by Youth has been able to come to that kind of direct, hands-on involvement with microfinance has been through group Kiva lending.

In December of 2013, Zawadi members travelled to Boston to meet with several MFIs as well as to present a $3,000 group loan sponsorship to the MicroLoan Foundation at their gala event. This in itself was an incredibly exciting opportunity for us. However, months later in June of 2014, a Zawadi by Youth leadership team actually travelled to Malawi to work with the group of female microentrepreneurs whose loans we had directly sponsored (special thanks to Envoys and the MicroLoan Foundation). In the rural village of Salima, we sat down with this group of six women to hear about and witness their respective businesses in action. We also supplied each woman in the group with a mosquito net. Hearing from the women themselves about being able to send their children to school or provide a new tin roof for their home undoubtedly made microfinance come to life for our groups’ members. Their sense of personal empowerment came through so strongly in their stories of success; whatever they chose to spend their profit on had been their choice.

IMG_1390 2While this unique experience served to demonstrate the importance of taking the abstract value of microfinance and making it concrete, I believe that it is possible to make that value less abstract through education. Ideally, high schools will one day prioritize the discussion of financial identity with and amongst students, stressing the importance of financial inclusion. I will be teaching a course at my high school in the fall entitled Social Entrepreneurship: A Sideways Look at Capitalism. If not to exclusively spotlight microfinance and the classical Grameen model, I intend for this course to emphasize the importance of taking an innovative approach to solving any issue.

Please visit at www.zawadibyyouth.com or find us on Facebook to learn more.

Celebrities for Social Development

There has been a tremendous amount of celebrity buzz about social development and women’s empowerment recently. This week’s roundup covers Grameen America Board Chair Professor Muhammad Yunus’ visit with Pope Francis and fellow Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, John Legend’s involvement in a women’s empowerment campaign, and the billionaires’ “Giving Pledge.”

  • Professor Yunus traveled to the Vatican City to meet with Pope Francis and other influential leaders to discuss a new global economic policy addressing unemployment, poverty, and dependence on state charity. Read the full story here.
  • Professor Yunus then went to Myanmar to meet with fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner and politician, Aung San Suu Kyi. The two spoke about the future of social business in Myanmar and its role in the country’s development.
  • John Legend showed his support for the female empowerment campaign #OperationGirl by featuring a variety of women of all ages in his latest single You and I (Nobody in the World). The Grammy award winner voiced his goals for the project in a statement: “Through #OperationGirl we hope to amplify the voices and impact of the many organizations doing great work on behalf of girls and women.”

John Legend participated in female empowerment campaign #OperationGirl

  • The new age of philanthropy: 60 Minutes featured a segment on the Giving Pledge established by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates. The pledge requires billionaires to give away 50% of their net worth either during their lifetime or in their will. Over 100 people have signed on to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charitable organizations. Find out who signed the pledge.

 

 

Meet Marcus Berkowitz, Director of Strategy & Expansion

Muhammad Yunus“My mother has been financially independent since I was a toddler. A lot of what I’ve been able to do in my life is a result of that. I’m a good example of how supporting women can benefit society generally — whether you’re a man or a woman, the effect trickles out.”

Marcus graduated from Pitzer College with a degree in Latin American Studies and Economics. After graduation, Marcus managed a team at a small bike shop and learned all about ‘the guts’ of a small business. The shop had taken on a lot of debt, which gave Marcus an interesting perspective on the good, the bad, and the ugly of paying off debt at a small business.

This experience enhanced Marcus’ fascination with microfinance and led him to apply for a KIVA fellowship in Latin America. Marcus landed in Chimbo, Ecuador where he worked with KIVA and the Cooperative San Jose to identify impact investment opportunities and streamline client data. After the fellowship, Marcus came to Grameen America where he used his experience to help improve impact measurement and data management tools. Now Marcus is involved in operational expansion and technology implementation.

What is Marcus’ favorite thing about working at Grameen America? Its “awesome staff” and “young, startup culture where everyone does what needs to get done.”

“It’s exciting, inspiring, and often surprising to work with people with 25+ years of experience in an industry that is so young. Learning from them is fascinating”