MFI

Remember that guy?

Microfinance used to be a big deal. Lauded as a “teach a man to fish” model, it was seen as a way to support the world’s enterprising poor in building sustainable small businesses.

Although microfinance likely existed quite some time before it caught the world by storm, its banner year was arguably 2005 when the United Nations elevated it to world consciousness level by announcing it the year of “micro credit”.

The next year, 2006, Muhammad Yunus, considered the father of microfinance won the Nobel Peace Prize – for peace, not economics (this is something I’m pointing out because while microfinance is an excellent idea in theory with a heart of gold, its actual economic impact is still tbd).

The following years resulted in the springing up of microfinance orientated non-profit organizations. See here for a list of 50~.

Turns out the verdict isn’t as much of a resounding success as the original hype would have had us believe – but hype, media, is always overblown. So let’s take a look now at what folks are saying now.

The Good

There’s still hope and there’s real impact, we just have to regulate better to ensure continued success.

The Bad

The idea undermines itself in practice; the system was too ideal and is corrupted by the players.

Obviously the middle road is a bit of a cop out, so I’ll go ahead and say that I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed, but it’s solid reality check that there is no silver bullet for global poverty.

Plagued by the troubles of execution, all good ideas are wasted without good execution. Execution is hard and considerations of execution should go hand in hand with ideation. Let any product or project manager assure you of that – the devil is alive and well in the details that derail you.

In any case, it’s too soon to call it quits but it’s certainly late enough in the game to realize the deep seated and systematic limitations of implementation and the complexities of local politics and cloudiness of personal profit. The debate, the doubt for now should be taken with a grain of salt. Change, meaningful change, often can take lifetimes — I just hope it’s within mine.

 

2 Comments

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