On Wednesday, October 21, Columbia University’s NetImpact Group hosted a discussion at Lerner Hall on “Models of Microfinance”. Accion was represented by Erica Dorn, Coordinator of their Kiva partnership; Kiva was represented by Sierra Visher who is Kiva’s translation team leader; Grameen was represented by Daniel Brodhead, Communications Director; and I represented United Prosperity. Sara Smolley, NetImpact’s head, opened the event with some remarks about the importance of microfinance, and Nevin Shetty, Co-Coordinator of United Prosperity’s New York Chapter, moderated the panel. There were about 50 to 75 people in attendance, most of whom were students though there were some working folks in the audience, too.
The panel discussion highlighted some differences between the various organizations: Kiva, Grameen, and Accion were all supporting lending in the United States while United Prosperity’s focus is on those living in absolute poverty in developing countries. In addition, United Prosperity exclusively provides guarantees while the other organizations tend to have a focus on micro-lending. Kiva and United Prosperity tend to rely more on volunteers while Grameen and Accion had larger full-time staffs. The discussion also touched on topics including the rapid growth of the industry, challenges to expanding microfinance, and the potential of cellular technology in expanding opportunities for the poor.
I’d like to thank the United Prosperity’s New York Chapter and Columbia’s NetImpact group for organizing a terrific discussion!