It didn’t used to be controversial.
But one way to say this is that nearly one thousand people turned out for a Seattle event Tuesday to celebrate and support an anti-poverty scheme that many experts in the aid and development community contend doesn’t work.
“We have something like $70 million in loans to 57 partners in 12 countries, serving about 2.2 million clients each of whom support on average a family of five people,” said Rick Beckett, president and CEO of Global Partnerships, a Seattle-based organization and one of the biggest practitioners of microfinance anywhere.
The organization, founded in 1994 by local philanthropists Bill and Paula Clapp and focused primarily on assisting the poor in Central America, held its annual fund-raising ‘Business of Hope’ luncheon yesterday. Nearly a thousand people were estimated to have attended. The organization raised $540,000 for microcredit last year and hoped to do better this year.
I asked Beckett how he has been able to dupe so many folks: Don’t all these people know that many experts in aid and development say microcredit loans don’t work to raise people out of poverty? That it’s a sham, and even an abuse?
“That’s sort of a leading question, isn’t it?” he laughed.
The rise and fall of the public image of microfinance has been misleading at both ends of the spectrum, Beckett said. Continue reading