Microfinancing is considered one of the most effective strategies in the fight against global poverty. And now, in Small Loans, Big Changes, author Alex Counts reveals how Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus revolutionized global antipoverty efforts through the development of this approach. This book presents compelling stories of women benefiting from Yunus’s microcredit in rural Bangladesh and urban Chicago, and recounts the experiences of different borrowers in each country, interspersing them with stories of Yunus, his colleagues, and their counterparts in Chicago.
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Praise for Small Loans, Big Dreams
"I was enthralled to see the difference a few dollars loaned with no collateral in Bangladesh could benefit and change Chicago's poorest of the poor. I learned how pennies defeated myths about the poor. This book will renew your belief in the American dream and show that there can be economic liberty and justice for all—here AND abroad! This story must be told and retold—and then updated again as the successes pour in. Please keep fast-forwarding!"
—MIKE ENZI, U.S. Senator, Wyoming
"Counts moves past facts and figures to show the human side—and human cost — of poverty. By focusing on the experiences of individual women, Counts demonstrates the power of microfinance to bring opportunity where it otherwise would not exist, and ultimately transform people's lives. I am pleased to be able to support Grameen, as I believe its important work addresses one of the critical issues of our time."
—Pierre Omidyar, founder and Chairman, eBay, cofounder and founding partner, Omidyar Network
"Microfinance is the most effective and noble tool for combating poverty. It builds on the strengths rather than the perceived weaknesses of poor communities. In this memorable book, Alex Counts tells of working with Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer of the movement, and he illustrates his analysis with fascinating and inspiring tales of how the process has worked."
—WALTER ISAACSON, President, The Aspen Institute
"In Small Loans, Big Dreams, Alex Counts humanizes, through deft storytelling and solid analysis, the borrowers as well as the leaders of the microfinance movement. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize broadened the awareness of microfinance and Grameen. This book deepens ones understanding of this emerging industry, and lets the reader see that it is about not just transactions, but transformations—of people and of entire economies."
—PAUL MARITZ, former senior vice president, Microsoft Corporation
"Small Loans, Big Dreams provides a powerful and poignant glimpse into the real world of microfinance. From the well-told stories, we learn that the success of Grameen and microfinance is not just having innovative business models nor good intentions. Rather, it is organizations' and people's willingness and ability to touch the lives of individuals—to hear their stories, to understand their needs and aspirations, and to provide them with an opportunity to improve their own livelihood that makes the Grameen model and similar programs such a successful poverty-alleviation tool."
—MARGE MAGNER, founder and Managing partner, Brysam Global Partners
"At a time when 'change' is the watchword, here is a story of the devotion and tenacity it takes to turn a powerful idea into a powerful reality."
—JANET McKINLEY, retired chair, The Income Fund of America, Inc.
The stark reality of global poverty—the poorest half of the world's population owns less than one percent of its assets, and that nearly one billion people subsist on less than $1 per day—rarely registers even a ripple in the international media. Western attempts to stem hunger and poverty are often piecemeal and ineffective, applying band-aids rather than finding permanent solutions. But Muhammad Yunus, visionary founder of the Grameen Bank, has demonstrated different and more inclusive ways of approaching the problems that confront humanity. In creating Grameen, he turned the conventional wisdom of traditional financial institutions on its head: instead of seeking out wealthy people with collateral and excluding the poor, Yunus sought out the impoverished and excluded the rich. His approach, known as microfinance, has revolutionized global antipoverty efforts.
In Small Loans, Big Dreams, Alex Counts presents compelling stories of women benefiting from Yunus's microcredit in rural Bangladesh and urban Chicago. He sets the stage by telling the story of Grameen's founding by Yunus, describing the environments in which Grameen Bank and the Full Circle Fund—a bold effort to apply the same principles in Chicago—and their clients operated. He then recounts the experiences of different borrowers in each country, interspersing them with stories of Yunus, his colleagues, and their counterparts in Chicago. These fascinating accounts not only show the power of the strategy, but also prove that it is no panacea that absolves governments and businesses from their obligation to consider the needs of the poor. Instead, microfinance emphasizes that other sectors think about the implications of its success for their own work—which may be based on flawed assumptions about the poor that the success of microfinance has disproved.
Microfinance has the potential to reach truly massive numbers in the years ahead. But in order to grasp future opportunities and challenges, it is essential that people everywhere understand just what it takes to build a large microfinance institution like Grameen Bank, and how this allows for market-based poverty reduction through the principle of self-help. To that end, this book provides a straightforward, inspiring, and accessible guide.
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