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Grameen Foundation USA: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists

Grameen Foundation USA

Washington, DC

President: Alex Counts

Previous winner: 2005

What it does: Grameen supports 52 microfinance partners in 22 countries, guaranteeing their loans and providing training and technology. Grameen Technology Center distributes software to further help emerging business owners: Its MTN villagePhone lets local entrepreneurs in Uganda and Rwanda buy cellular-phone minutes at wholesale rates and resell them to other villagers.

Results: More than 1.1 million families received loans through GFUSA's network. In 2003 and 2004, 35% of its lending partners' clients escaped poverty within five years of joining the program.

Social impact: A-
Aspiration and growth: A-
Entrepreneurship: A
Innovation: B+
Sustainability: B+

Winner's Statement

Grameen Foundation USA is at the forefront of fighting poverty among the world's poorest people through microfinance. Since 1997, we have spread the power of microfinance in 22 countries through our global network of 52 partners, impacting an estimated seven million lives in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East. Through our Grameen Technology Center, we also develop breakthrough, sustainable technology to meet the needs of poor communities around the world, and expand the reach and efficiency of microfinance communities.

Sometimes called "banking for the poor," microfinance breaks down the barriers to credit and other financial services for very poor people who lack the collateral required by traditional banks. It brings hope in two ways: First, it taps into their nascent entrepreneurial skills and gives them the opportunity to develop self-sustaining businesses that generate income and change their lives. And secondly, microfinance's multiplier effect--loans are repaid and the money is used over and over again for more loans--increases the value of each dollar in defeating global poverty.

Surprising to many, not only are the loans repaid, but the repayment rates of 95 to 98 percent are much higher than those for student loans and credit cards in the U.S.

Spearheaded by our Grameen Technology Center, GFUSA's Village Phone brings affordable telecommunications to rural villages. Initially pioneered in Bangladesh by Grameen Bank, GFUSA's first successful replication of Village Phone was launched in Uganda in 2002. It now has more then 3000 phone microbusinesses established, serving many more thousands of villagers. We have also published the first ever Village Phone Replication Manual, a blueprint designed to spark a global movement. Equally exciting is the new collaboration with Nokia designed to accelerate efforts to make universal access in rural areas of Africa a reality. We are planning a second replication in Rwanda in the near future.

Private capital is essential to the growth of the microfinance industry. Through our Capital Markets Group, we support the rapid expansion of leading poverty-focused microfinance institution (MFIs) around the world by tapping into the vast resources of the financial and capital markets. As part of these efforts, in 2005, we launched a new Growth Guarantees Program that will make up to US$50 million available in credit guarantees to microfinance institutions around the world, potentially unleashing $300 million in capital resources for microfinance institutions.

GFUSA also focuses on increasing MFI efficiency and improving their outreach. We set up management information systems that enable MFIs to provide more client services, and through our Mifos project, we are also developing a universal, flexible management system to help MFIs standardize operations and increase their effectiveness in serving clients.

Our innovation, efficiency and effectiveness have earned GFUSA several industry awards: 2006 and 2005 Social Capitalist Awards; the Accenture Economic Development Award from the Tech Museum of Innovation for our technology programs; and a four-star rating from Charity Navigator in recognition of our sound fiscal management.

Our triumphs and lessons learned over the past eight years now guide us in our ambitious strategic plans for 2008: reaching five million new clients, ensuring that 50 percent of clients escape poverty within five years of joining a microfinance institution, and delivering three innovations that will transform the microfinance industry.

Grameen Foundation USA is pleased to receive a 2006 Social Capitalist Award from Fast Company magazine and Monitor Group and thanks them for recognizing the significant social impact of microfinance, particularly just as the UN's International Year of Microcredit is ending.

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The above Winner's Statement was provided by the profiled organization.