Rick Beckett

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Thousand in Seattle support ‘controversial’ anti-poverty scheme | 

Nearly 1,000 gather for Global Partnerships annual luncheon

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.

Microcredit loans.

Rick Beckett, CEO Global Partnerships

“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

Four answers to the question: Does microfinance work? | 

That, in a nutshell, was the question posed to a panel of microfinance experts at a Seattle forum earlier this week, sponsored by Global Washington and aimed at examining “The global implications of India’s microcredit crisis.”

The answer: Yes and no. Of course.

It’s actually an important, if impudent sounding, question given that microfinance has long been heralded as the most powerful weapon in the fight against poverty. It’s especially interesting in Seattle because this community is one of the leading international hubs of the anti-poverty scheme.


Tom Paulson

From left, Rick Beckett of Global Partnerships, Chris Wolff with Accion Int’l, Peter Bladin of the Grameen Foundation, David Roodman and moderator Steve Davis

I think it’s fair to say microfinance is no longer regarded without question as a panacea for poverty. In fact, as I have written ad nauseum, it is in something of a crisis. Continue reading

Microfinance backlash: Identity crisis, evolution or greedy mission creep? | 

Seattle is big on microfinance, but what is it?

The short answer is that microfinance is a set of financial services such as small loans for the poor aimed at helping people get themselves out of poverty.

Sounds fairly straightforward, right? In reality, there’s a fight for the soul of microfinance going on and some of that battle has been playing out here at home.

There has been an explosion of “profit-maximizing” microfinance organizations lately which some say threatens to undermine the credibility of this anti-poverty scheme — if not its fundamental social purpose. But the proponents of profit-driven, commercial microfinance say it is the only way to really grow these services, to reach the many millions more in need of help.

Flickr, TW Collins

Continue reading