Field Notes - Living Grameen

A Dream Fulfilled

Life has a way of leading you. I had lunch with a friend who had returned from the Peace Corps in Niger. I had just finished my Master’s in Public Health and I was perplexed about how to get started with a “career.”  I needed ideas how how to define our work – the work of Ananda Foundation. I had no formal experience in nonprofits or in funding international development projects. He recommended a book. A book that would change my life and my thinking.

Upon reading the inspiring journey of David Bornstein’s The Price of a Dream, I longed to meet the intellect behind the idea and the heart behind the motivation of Professor Yunus, the founder of Grameen. I yearned to experience with my own eyes, what makes Grameen tick, the technicalities and methodologies employed through the strategy of microcredit, a key tool used in poverty alleviation programs around the world. My hope was to gain insight from participating in the dialogue and to use that knowledge to enhance Ananda’s current and future microcredit programs.

During March 2003, I had the unique opportunity to participate in the International Dialogue Program held annually by the Grameen Bank in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I wanted to learn more about the inner workings of this institution started by a single man who had faith that if poor village women were afforded the same opportunity as privileded folk –the opportunity to access credit and a basic loan, they could not only uplift themselves but they would pay back every taka of the loan. Ananda Foundation has awarded grants to finance microcredit projects.

As Executive Director, I wanted to experience first hand how a successful microcredit program operates so that I could better appreciate the work of the NGOs we support and grasp an understanding of what poverty means to populations who are at the bottom of the social hiearchical ladder–the landless poor. Microcredit is a strategy that has evolved over time to help give the poor back their lives by giving them the tools to become self-employed (through loans and training). Microcredit loans involve giving small loans to women to start their own business.

The Grameen program brings together individuals from around to the world who are interested replicating Grameen type projects. Individuals are taught the principles behind microcredit, microfinance, and social entrepreneuship for poor landless women. The course is highlighted by an experience in the field seeing Grameen in action. There are visits to bank branches, interviews with bank managers, case studies with borrowers, and documentation of a branch’s history.

Participants are introduced to the levels and stages during the process by which Grameen operates. The following excerpts are from my personal journal. I wanted to share them with you because I feel they illustrate a revolutionary strategy used in poverty alleviation. Grameen replication projects are currently employed in over eighty countries of the world including the United States. I hope you enjoy reading these thoughts and become inspired in some way to help alleviate global poverty.

–Field notes by Levani