Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Two Books on Micro-finance

Yesterday, I returned to a topic I have touched on before, that of micro-financing. Two books have been recommended to me on the topic.

The first is A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot, and The Business Solution for Ending Poverty by Philip Smith and Eric Thurman. I am in the middle of reading this as I write the blog post and might add more as I make my way through the book.  The first interesting point is that this is a book by two business men who bring their background, values and analysis to the table. A Billion Bootstraps came out of years of frustration witnessing huge amounts of financial aid pouring into countries without any significant differences transpiring and certainly without any suggestion of sustainable solutions.

It seems to be a great introduction to the field without getting bogged down in statistics and models. If the goal of this book is to promote an understanding and passion for micro-financing, I believe from the first few chapters and the complimentary reviews, that it is doing its job.

A second book, The Economics of Microfinance, (2nd Edition) by Beatriz Armendáriz and Jonathan Morduch, has been recommended to me by two friends who are both academics and I believe is a more theoretical and empirical treatise. I have not read it, but while reading reviews, I felt it deserved a reference if only because of the great quote below.

“Microfinance is the most visible anti-poverty intervention of the last 25 years. It has been extremely successful in effectively delivering financial services to the poor, reaching more than 150 million clients (mostly women), often in countries where very little else works. This remarkable achievement has led many to believe that microfinance could be what everyone has been looking for: a transformative solution to the problem of poverty itself. And, not surprisingly, it has attracted its share of criticism, some even arguing that microfinance is no better than a new form of usury. It is high time that some serious analysis and solid evidence be brought to bear on this important and passionate debate. This is what Beatrice Armendáriz and Jonathan Morduch do masterfully in this book, drawing on very recent research and their own extensive experience. This should be required reading for microfinance friends and foes alike, or anyone wishing to understand what the issues really are.”
Esther Duflo, Department of Economics, MIT

Whichever book serves your needs, it is an empowering first step to educate ourselves in this exciting field, to understand its potential and help spread the word. Do you know of other sources that we can share?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

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