Sometimes, an idea is just so simple and good, it makes you slap your forehead and wonder why no one thought of it sooner. Professor Muhammad Yunus, the “father of microcredit”, spent years developing the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh with a financial concept that turned business lending on its head: lend self-selected groups of women up to $3,000 to get their small businesses off the ground.
The goal all along was to eradicate poverty, not to make a profit. Yet the loans perform positively, with repayment rates in excess of 99%. And this concept can work in any economy, and any culture, from its origins with 7.5 million Bangladesh borrowers to Grameen’s presence in 38 countries and over 100 million microcredit loans.
To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America, is Gayle Ferraro’s fourth independently produced feature documentary, covers Dr. Yunus’s travails in bringing his banking model to the New York just as Wall Street was disintegrating and the ensuing financial crisis desecrated opportunities for those trying to scratch out a living. The film provides a window into socially compelling stories and describes how Grameen dispersed small loans to groups of five women to pursue their business ideas. Following the Bangladeshi model, each group became its own loan committee, with the women making weekly payments and contributions to a mandatory savings account as they built their income-generating activity. In one year, the Jackson Heights branch of Grameen America grew to loan over $1.5 million to 550 women.
These stories are not fiction, and we don’t need to be spectators. The panel discussion included at the end of the “story” part of the film also includes information about kiva.org, which has as its mission to “empower people around the world with a $25 loan.” Here’s how complicated it is: 1. Choose a borrower, 2. make a loan, 2. get repaid, 4. repeat. They are leveraging the power of social media to make a loan every 11 seconds, have more than 56,000 followers on Facebook, and received Charity Navigator’s highest rating.
Business owners – along with individuals – can empower themselves by making a difference in others’ lives, and there are no complicated implementation plans required.