This memoir chronicles the quest of Bob Harris as he follows his Kiva loans to their destinations around the globe. Bob describes his journey leading up to committing nearly a year’s salary to microfinance, and how he feels about this process now, years into his (continuing) journey. International Bank of Bob is a thought-provoking read that maintains a light-hearted, comical voice. For more information on hosting a Bank of Bob book club, check out our events page.
This memoir of the Nobel Peace Prize-Winning founder of the Grameen Bank reads like a novel, and it’s a great introduction to microfinance for a newcomer. Yunus describes how his life evolved from being an economics professor in his native Bangladesh to committing his life to the plight of the rural poor.
Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
Half the Sky is unique in its ability to inspire, inform and catalyze action against female opporession. Kristof and WuDunn profile women in Africa and Asia who face intense obstacles to escaping poverty and finding empowerment. This is a great resource to expose someone to the interconnectedness of poverty, women’s rights and microfinance. Check out these book club discussion guides from Care.org and GlobalWomenGo.org.
Katie Smith Milway
A lovely first introduction to microfinance for children of all ages. One Hen tells the story of a loan and the difference it makes in a young boy’s life. The interactive website is full of tools and curriculum for parents, kids and educators.
This story describes the challenges of one young and talented girl in Bangladesh. It is appropriate for youth, and looks at different cultural themes. Rickshaw Girl is thought-provoking and filled with lessons for younger audiences.
Polak challenges traditional top-down poverty alleviation methods and proposes a different set of tools that are already proving to be effective at lifting millions out of poverty.
Novogratz describes her personal journey from the world of international banking to understanding and combating poverty. The title, The Blue Sweater, comes from a moment Novogratz describes as the beginning of her journey; when she sees a young boy in Rwanda wearing a sweater she once owned and had donated to Goodwill years before. Be sure to check out Novogratz’ TEDTalk.
Daryl Collins, et al
This book tracks the lives of several families and individuals living in poverty for the duration of a year. The goal of the book is to provide some insight into what causes poverty and how those living in it find ways to survive.
This chronicle follows the lives of four African women over an extended period of time as they pursue entrepreneurship for the first time. Taking the less-travelled and challenging path, the women work with One Acre Fund to try and escape the chronic “hunger season” they annually face.
Smith & Thurman
A Billion Bootstraps takes a look at the microcredit boom and how its approach compares to a more traditional charity approach to poverty alleviation. The book also describes how lenders can maximize their impact by thinking like an investor.
In a controversial follow-up to his first book, The Elusive Quest for Growth, Easterly explores an alternative reality behind charitable giving. The author criticizes the traditional approach to poverty alleviation and explores alternatives.
Jeffrey D. Sachs
Economist Jeffrey Sachs explores the degrees of posterity in the world today and provides some positive and realistic directives for fighting poverty. This book is an inspiring and empowering one, in a genre that is often overwhelming.
This book strikes a balance between Sachs' optimistic call-to-action, and Easterly’s pointed critique. It is an exploration of what can be done to alleviate poverty that also recognizes that the current approach is not working.
Websites and Organizations
CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest)
CGAP is a consortium of 33 public and private development agencies working together to expand access to financial services for the poor in developing countries.
CGAP is a resource center for the microfinance industry, where it incubates and supports new ideas, innovative products, cutting-edge technology, novel mechanisms for delivering financial services, and concrete solutions to the challenges of expanding microfinance.
CGAP publishes many papers on microfinance which are available for download at this site.
FINCA International Founder John Hatch developed the village banking method, which uses the philosophy "Give poor communities the opportunity, and then get out of the way!" The village banking method is unique in the responsibility and autonomy given borrowers in running their banks and in its emphasis on community, as well as individual, development.
Grameen Bank started in 1976 when Prof. Muhammad Yunus loaned $27 to 42 women in a village in Bangladesh. Today Grameen Bank has 5.89 million borrowers and has disbursed over USD $5.4 billion with a 98% recovery rate. As Grameen Bank is now a formal bank it is often viewed as the ideal development of a microfinance institution. For an overview of Grameen Bank visit http://www.grameen-info.org/bank/GBGlance.htm. This site also includes a number of papers Prof. Yunus has written on microcredit and social entrepreneurism.
The Microcredit Summit Campaign
The Microcredit Summit Campaign is a project of RESULTS Educational Fund, and was launched to reach 100 million of the world's poorest families with credit for self-employment and other financial and business services by the year 2005.
The Campaign publishes an annual report "The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign" which documents their progress towards achieving this goal. You can download the latest report here. [PDF]
The Microfinance Gateway
The Microfinance Gateway is managed by CGAP and is a comprehensive source of information for and about the microfinance industry including research and publications, discussion groups, specialized resource centers, organization and consultant profiles, and the latest news, events, and job opportunities in microfinance.
If you are new to microfinance and would like to get more involved in the industry, this is a great way to find events and organizations in your area.
The MIX (Microfinance Information eXchange)
The MIX is a not-for-profit private organization supported by CGAP, the Citigroup Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Rockdale Foundation, and other private foundations.
The MIX intends to address one of the key challenges of the microfinance industry: the lack of reliable, comparable and publicly available information on the financial strength and performance of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), which underpins the development of the market for microfinance services.
This is a great place to get more information about specific microfinance institutions.
The United Nations Capital Development Fund Microfinance website is a great resource for basic facts about microfinance, as well as learning what the UNCDF is doing in this area. It also offers an in-depth Microfinance Distance Learning Course for people new to microfinance.
United Nations International Year of Microcredit 2005
The International Year of Microcredit 2005 called for building inclusive financial sectors and strengthening the powerful, but often untapped, entrepreneurial spirit existing in communities around the world.
Check out the official UN website for this event to see what you missed.
The Virtual Library on Microcredit
This resource began as a homepage on Informal Credit Markets and over time became The Virtual Library on Microcredit, one of five programs of the Global Development Research Center.
Today the Virtual Library on Microcredit is a repository of information on alternative, non-conventional financial systems and microfinance/microcredit issues. A great place to find microfinance book reviews, papers and news and events.