This post comes from Steve Wanta, Executive Program Director for the Whole Planet Foundation. Steve oversees the existing portfolio of microfinance programs and analyzes new projects for funding.
In this edition of Dispatches from the Field, I travel to Indonesia and meet with clients from our partner, Grameen Trust, to profile three very different clients, each of whom has their own story.
Microfinance means different things to different people. At the most basic level, it is the provision of financial services that are tailored to people without access to formal banks. Whole Planet Foundation chooses partners who design programs focused on alleviating poverty for the world’s poorest entrepreneurs, specifically in communities where Whole Foods Market sources products.
Whole Planet Foundation developed our strategy of supporting microcredit through our partnership with Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Trust, which started in 2005. This experience has allowed the small Whole Planet Foundation Program Team to effectively identify and provide funding to partners in 39 countries on 6 continents.
There have been many lessons learned over the past six years since Whole Planet Foundation began, and two have been very clear to me. First, all microcredit is not created equal. We take great care to fully understand the mission and methodology of each of our partners before we authorize funding. Our goal is to support the expansion of programs to reach microentrepreneurs at the bottom of the economic pyramid who currently do not have access to financial services. Our team lives in and travels throughout the developing world to conduct site visits and meet with the leadership, staff and, most importantly, the clients of each potential partner.
Second, we also recognize that it is about more than just an absence of capital for the poor. Rather, microcredit is a system that allows the $214 (average loan size) to flow into and out of the hands of the very poor. It is this system that converts capital into a tool for development rather than a roadblock. It is a simple concept that takes the intelligence, compassion and commitment of the microfinance institutions to implement and the courage of the microcredit clients to improve their lives.
I hope you enjoyed this video from my travels in Indonesia. Got questions? Let me know.