Social Capitalists: ACCION International

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

ACCION International

Boston, MA
CEO: María Otero
www.accion.org
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ACCION International is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty.

A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. Today, ACCION’s partner microfinance institutions are providing loans as small as $100 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 25 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the United States. In the last decade alone, our partners have disbursed more than 17.9 million loans totaling more than $12.3 billion; 97 percent of those loans have been repaid. We witness the results of this work first-hand, and frequently: steady income, children in school, better health, a solid roof overhead.

Since its first microloan more than 30 years ago, ACCION has seen its outreach and impact increase exponentially. Earlier this year, our partner network reached a watershed of 2.5 million active clients and is well on its way to surpassing 3 million by the end of 2007 – a full year ahead of the schedule called for in our strategic plan. Our operations in Africa, India and China continue to expand, as do those closer to home: Today, the U.S. ACCION Network is the largest provider of microfinance in the United States. Our goal is to ensure that the people of both the developing and developed world have the chance to work their way up the economic ladder with dignity and pride.

ACCION continues to build upon its pioneering work by bringing awareness of this critical poverty-alleviation tool to a broader audience, whether through publishing, conferences, or other thought-leadership fora. At the same time, ACCION is assisting its 35 partner microfinance institutions and others in the field to develop and introduce new, high-quality products and technologies such as savings and remittances, microinsurance and home improvement loans, as well as new distribution channels such as cell-phone banking and ATM cards – all to ensure that banking becomes accessible to everyone.

To guarantee that microfinance attains true scale and sustainability, ACCION is strengthening the connection between the resource needs of institutions and the capital markets, helping to develop microfinance as a commercial asset class so that it can become an even more effective tool for helping to alleviate poverty. Through a family of social investment vehicles, both debt and equity, ACCION creates mechanisms that enable socially responsible investors to participate in its efforts to promote financial inclusion.

Despite our progress, we know that much more can be done. Nearly 3 billion of the world’s poor live on less than $2 per day. By our estimates, as many as 750 million to 1 billion of them could benefit from financial services – provided they are given access. Encouraged by our results but mindful of the work that remains, ACCION continues to seek ways to help millions more help themselves. We envision a world in which financial systems work for the poor in the same manner that they work for the rest of us – so that they, too, have the tools they need to create a livelihood and secure the safety and good fortune of their families.

To learn more, call (617) 625-7080.