Each semester, students enrolled in the Global Microloan Program will update this site with their weekly program logs and final student presentations. The Spring 2011 student teams include Information Technology and Communications, Marketing and Fundraising, Accounting and Audit and Finance and Risk Assessment.
Accounting, Program Audits and Enterprise Development:
Oluwabukola Ayeni, Diego Salvado, Diedre Smith, Qiudan Yu, Alexander Zugaro, Kamya Chandra*
Finance and Risk Assessment:
Elizabeth Janson, Alexander Lam, Rita Mannino, Marco Sementilli*, Mary Sheehan, Victoria Xu
Technology and Communications:
Axel Folz, Kevin Garcia, Joseph Hwalek, Cynthia Shivamber, Alina Rizvi*
Marketing and Fund Raising:
Gamal Ahmed*, Shyon Bose, Katherine Cartagena, David Law, Nicole Tonis
Log # 1
By Axel Folz
Being able to say that I’m a part of the Spring 2011 semester class of GLOBE managers is special to me. When I talk to my friends about the class they don’t seem to understand why I would put myself through an extensive amount of work that this class requires, I just laugh because they are so self-interested and naïve that they don’t envision what this type of class is capable of. It is a class that I’ve always dreamed of taking during my college career. Being a part of this where everyone has the same interests and values that I’ve lived by all my life makes me feel at home. In this class, I can freely converse with my fellow classmates on an issue that this world has struggled with for so long, poverty.
To me this quote by Muhammad Yunus has resonated to the deepest part of my heart, “microcredit is a program for putting homelessness and destitution in a museum, so that one day our children will visit it and ask how we could have allowed such a terrible thing to go on for so long.” This is what I hope to work on because obviously poverty will not disappear all at once, it’s a gradual process that needs contributions from people like myself. My mother currently runs a non-for-profit organization called Share Joy Foundation that deals with the most impoverished people of Haiti. Personally, I was suppose to take a trip down there this past winter break but was unable to because of a disease outbreak that made it too risky for me to go. But I’m optimistic that this coming summer I will be able to travel there in hopes of assisting in any way possible.
Not only is it a student managed microfinance class that I find incredible in itself, but it’s also a class where we learn about the principles and processes of microfinance a growing industry in this day and age. I’ve learned already that microfinance isn’t solely based on handing out loans. Now in countries like Haiti that have been devastated by natural disaster, micro-insurance programs have been budding out along with savings programs which can prove to be more beneficial and effective than the loans themselves. These microfinance institutions have taken brave steps in lending money to the poorest of the poor and it’s proved to be successful with usually a greater than 90% payback rate on the loans. Sure there are dilemmas that need to be faced and perhaps regulations that need to be implemented but microfinance as a whole is increasing every year in hopes of achieving not just Muhammad Yunus’ dream but so many other individuals that hope to see poverty erased from today’s society.
Log # 1
By Nicole Tonis
Walking into the first class I had so many thoughts and emotions running through my mind. I was excited, nervous and thrilled to be a part of such an amazing opportunity. I am not a fan of buying a textbook, reading it on my own and preparing for a test. I find hands on work so much more beneficial and being a part of GLOBE is the perfect place to be involved with hands on work.
Coming into GLOBE I didn’t know what to expect. My initial reaction was I can’t wait to help people. After just two short weeks I have come to realize that GLOBE is so much more than giving out loans. Yes our main objective is to help people living in poverty receive a small amount of money to help relieve their families from poverty. The short term goal is for these people are to receive a loan to help them with immediate relief. In the long run we want to be able to actually lift that family from poverty so that the vicious cycle can finally end. Along with small collateralized loans Microfinance involves many other financial services including savings products, insurance, disbursement and payments, and appraisal of borrowers and investments. I find insurance a very important aspect of Microfinance. There are many different circumstances that can cause a borrower to be unable to repay the loan. Among these reasons are natural disasters such as a fire, the products bought were stolen and the business itself was just unsuccessful. Microfinance is a completely new idea for me. Learning the concept and how microfinance works I am very surprised that this concept hasn’t become mainstream.
Being on the marketing and fundraising team is very exciting. Our group has so many amazing ideas and new exciting ways to promote GLOBE. Our goal is to raise a record number of donations this semester so we are able to give out more loans than any other semester has. With that being said we have major shoes to fill from the GLOBE managers in the Fall 2010 semester and we are very excited for the challenge.
I have some personal goals for this class as well as group goals. Along with gaining knowledge of what microfinance is and how this program works, I want to help people. Every day I try to put a smile on at least one person’s face. Through this class I hope to be able to put a smile on the face of someone who thought they were completely buried in mud and never thought they would be able to get their head out from under. I want to be able to speak about GLOBE with that same sparkle in my eye and the extreme passion that Dr. Sama has for this program.
Log # 1
By Elizabeth Janson
By the time you reach your junior and senior years of college you have a good picture of what you want to do with the rest of your life. Whether you decided to pursue being a doctor or an accountant, you have taken several steps to become familiar with your chosen profession. In the process of making all these major life decisions you often times find out more about yourself than you perhaps planned to.
My college career has taken me into a variety of directions which have all molded me into the individual that I am now. I attribute many of my opinions, both personal and political, to the course work I have completed. As a business major most of my course work is concentrated in finance, marketing, and management. All these classes are aimed to acquaint students with the world of business in modern economies including those of the United States, Europe, China, Japan etc. and very rarely do we touch on the subject of third world nations that live in poverty.
For far too long we have viewed the one dollar a day threshold community as an unfortunate occurrence in history. It is a topic that is meant to break hearts and make one feel lucky about their own life, but hardly ever to people see the potential of change and the improvement of the lifestyles and economic strength of some billion plus individuals who make up the poorest of the world.
GLOBE is just the opposite of everything modern business schools choose to teach. GLOBE shows its students, partners, and entrepreneurs the great potential for change. It is a course offered by St. John’s University which empowers all parties involved; it is a platform for change to take place; an opportunity to look pass emotions of heart break and moves individuals to become activity participants in social improvement. For my classmates and me GLOBE single handedly presented a new and unusual opportunity to study business and let us all do something we perhaps never imagined we would do before.
GLOBE on a personal note was the kind of class I have been longing to take. A class which engages partners to empower students with donations which then students allocate to third world entrepreneurs, which are then used to support families through small business operations. It is a cycle of empowerment which leaves every party feeling important to a uniform cause.
As the first few weeks of GLOBE got under way everyone in the class began to see how important their roles were going to be. We as students were all soon to take on major responsibilities, to such a high magnitude I can’t even begin to fathom many of us had before. Divided into four teams: finance, accounting and enterprise, technology and communications, and marketing, all of our roles would soon blend together to create a homogeneous effort to help alleviate global poverty.
As a finance major, naturally I chose to be a member of the finance team. Within just a few short meetings with my team and Dr. Sama, my teammates and I realized quickly that all our prior knowledge of finance was basically out the door. We could only draw on the founding principle of finance: risk and reward. As the finance team we are tasked with assessing the risk of both the countries we work in and the entrepreneurs who seek our loans. The reward in this equation is quite different than that of modern finance. Our reward as the GLOBE finance team is if we make a smart investment, our smart investment criteria is such that we provide loans to responsible individuals. In return these individuals can create a small business which can help support the entrepreneurs and their families and helps their surrounding community.
As the coming weeks unfold it will be interesting to see how, as the finance team, we manage and mitigate risk and allocate loans, and as a class, we empower entrepreneurs around the world. This real world experience is unlike anything offered at St. John’s University. The GLOBE class of Spring 2011 is sure to make the best of this opportunity.
Log # 1
By Kamya Chandra
It is quite easy to talk.
So easy, in fact, that most of us do. Most of us, on the rare occasion that we glance outside the little bubble that is our everyday life, give poverty a fleeting glance and decide that one would rather it did not exist. ‘We should work towards building a better world,’ we declare. Some of us, when accosted with images and stories of those less fortunate, engage in activities that, while enjoyable, merely work to assuage our guilt. That Saturday at the elderly home, we decide, was hard enough to make time for. Fewer still decide that poverty is a societal ill that needs serious attention, and then go forth to give it that attention. They dedicate their lives, their livelihoods, their entire beings to the cause of working to bring basic human dignity and rights to those who, through the lottery of birth, do not have it. It is within this third category that I wished to fall when I signed up for GLOBE – the group that actually places heart and soul towards an endeavor. To this end, GLOBE would merely be a stepping stone in a lifetime that would be dedicated to use what skills were gained through the benefits of education towards the cause of benefiting all mankind, and achieving the maximum of human potential.
Yet it is easy to talk. It was easy, at the interview, to explain that with all the economics, finance, accounting, and statistics classes I took, I could handle running a section of a business. It was easy to say that I knew and understood what microfinance was, how it worked, and who it benefited. It was easy to explain why I wanted to do it. It is easy to say I wanted to spend my life working on the vague, theoretical concept that is poverty alleviation.
Once we began working, though, it was clear that I had underestimated everything. The knowledge base needed was far more detailed than the superficial understanding of microfinance as ‘lending to the poor’, as we discovered after reading the handbook, and listening to lectures. It is about building awareness, about respecting dignity, and about creating sustainability. The actual application accounting practices and principles when operating a business is challenging, and can at times be far different than Kimmel, Weygandt, and Kieso suggested in Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Makers. The names on the excel file are real, actual people that really, truly have your money!
Despite being overwhelmed, there was still that queer sense of excitement. The excitement that comes with doing something new and important, the excitement that comes with beginning to accomplish something you have dreamed of for a while, the excitement of seeing opportunity and being given responsibility. In spite of the disappointment associated with not being ready to pick up the reins and go gung-ho at the start, I hope the excitement will push me to learn faster. I have no doubt that there will be stumbles and pitfalls along the way, but as long as the excitement lasts and the passion remains, perhaps there is hope?
But then, it is quite easy to talk.
Log # 2
By Alina Rizvi
Often we read things for our classes and we have trouble making a connection between what the author has written and our private lives. However, in Banker to the Poor I was able to find a connection between what Muhammad Yunus was writing and my own personal life. Now I know what you are thinking, how can I possibly make a connection between my life and a book about poverty? My connection however, has more to do with the lives of the women in Bangladesh.
I was born in Pakistan, not too far from Bangladesh, and my family practices Islam, just as many of the families in Bangladesh do. In Islam, a strong emphasis is placed on the role of the male to provide for his family. In Islam women’s jobs begin and end in the home. Islam often allows men to have more control than women, even allowing men to have multiple wives. In fact, my grandfather, who I never got a chance to meet, had four wives. My grandfather was an educated and successful lawyer, therefore he was considered responsible enough to lead many homes. The fact that he was able to provide for all four of his families meant that his wives’ main responsibilities were to look after the kids and look after the home. Unfortunately my grandfather passed away fairly young, leaving all his wives including my grandmother to be single parents. In this day and age, it would be right to assume that the mother in this situation would be the one to go out and look for work. However, with the way things work in Pakistan, my grandmother didn’t have enough of a skill set to go out and provide for her child. There was never an emphasis placed on her education or her ability to do a job. Therefore it was my father, who took on the responsibilities of the household. It is not to say that my grandmother wouldn’t be able to perform a job but it just wasn’t and sometimes still isn’t normal for a woman to go out and work especially if she is a widow.
Everything that Muhammad Yunus wrote in his book about women is so inspiring to someone like me, who has seen firsthand how hard life can be for women. The stories of Nurjahan and Mufia are something that will probably stay with me for a long time. Microloans may not be able to directly affect every woman’s life but I know it would bring hope to people like my grandmother, who dream bigger and brighter for the generations after them.
Log # 2
By David Law
We are in the fourth week of the semester and we have already met our fair share of successes and challenges. Also, I have been able to expand my knowledge of the microfinance industry through the lectures and supplementary readings.
It’s very exciting to read about Muhammad Yunus’ experience in starting up Grameen Bank and his thought process behind it. He took a different approach from the financial banks by targeting women and changing the payback structure of the loan. By targeting women, he single handedly broke some of the social norms in Bangladesh and gave them a sense of empowerment. Naturally, it was hard for him to extend loans to the female population because the husband usually handled the financial aspects for the family. However, after his efforts, he was able to convince them to take the loans. His research and experience also revealed that women were better than men in terms of repaying the loan. Part of his explanation was that when men received the loan they usually focused on themselves. However when women received the loan, they looked out for the welfare of their children and family. In addition, Yunus structured the payback period to make it easier for those taking out the loan. I found his experiences to be very interesting because it tied in with the marketing team’s research paper. Our group decided to research microfinance’s impact on women and children.
Our marketing team has really been gelling these past few weeks. We have great plans for this semester and although there are some challenges before us, we know that we can overcome it. Yesterday, the marketing team set up a bake sale and was able to raise a substantial about of money. We were met with challenges along the way, but we raised $217.50! Right from the beginning, we had issues with where we were going to set up. Originally, we were going to be in the D’Angelo Center, but our team liaison informed us that it was overbooked and were moved to the Marillac Cafeteria. When we got there, we saw two other tables already set up. Later, another student organization showed up. This meant that we were fundraising against four other organizations. Despite all the competition, we were able to raise a substantial amount of money. During class today, Dr. Sama mentioned that this amount would be able to fund two to three loans. I’m starting to realize the importance of the marketing team because we are responsible for bringing in the funds to distribute the loans, and also for raising awareness for the GLOBE program.
A number of GLOBE managers from the other teams were able to lend a hand and I want to thank them for their help. It also gave us a chance to get to know interact with the other teams. We also were visited by a number of GLOBE alumni’s and GLOBE GAP participants. It’s great to know that we such a dedicated support system. They offer a lot of help and insight and they make us feel like we are part of something special. I’m starting to see some decent progress from our group and I hope that we can continue this for the rest of the semester.
Log # 2
By Mary Sheehan
As I have been reviewing the loans for the Congo I have noticed that there is not a lot of information given and that you really need to read between the lines and research a great deal. I was looking at one of the loans from the Congo and the women made chikwange. I had never seen this before and I was unsure of what exactly it was. After some research, I discovered that it was a common dish made in the Congo consisting of cassava prepared in banana leaves. I have realized that not only am I working to help these people, but in turn, in an indirect way they are helping me. I am learning a great deal about these cultures and their economies. After last week’s class I thought more about how culture plays a big enough role in the loan process.
I believe that in order for us to truly be able to assess the loan applications affectively we need to understand the culture and society of the particular area that the loans are coming from. Because our society and culture is so different our perceptions and understanding of their culture might be skewed. We can’t compare business situations here in the United States to business situations in the Congo because the culture and economy is so different. So I have been reading up on the Congo so that I can try to access the loans through the eyes of a person from that area. Of course this is combined with my knowledge of finance and economics and what I have been learning in the class to access the loans well and make the right decisions.
On top of the reading that I have been doing I thought that it might be a good idea to talk to someone from one of the areas that we have been working with. I have been in contact with a friend of mine. He is a priest at my parish and he is from Nigeria. I have been explaining to him what our class is about and what we have been working on. This coming week I will be meeting with him to ask him some questions about what the businesses are like and what the culture is like. He also has some other friends who are priests from other areas and maybe I can get some information from them as well.
From the reading assignments this week it was Muhammad Yunus’ book Banker to the Poor that jumped out at me again and moved me. In chapter 5 he talks about how he put the loan applicants into groups. I think that it’s important to create some sort of support and learning system for the applicants. It allows them to connect with each other, to support each other, and to learn and be able to use that knowledge to help improve their business. Money is only so good, if you don’t have the knowledge or understanding of how to properly use it, it will not help. Or it will only help for a short amount of time. These people also need drive and support. Within the groups, the applicants had people who were in solidarity with them; they helped each other and kept each other going. That is very important. Muhammad Yunus trusted the innate goodness of these individuals and gave them a chance when others wouldn’t. He understood human nature and what drives people to succeed. With that knowledge he was able to do what others couldn’t, give people a fighting chance.
Log # 2
By Diedre Smith
“Even without microfinance, poor households’ lack of collateral does not mean a complete lack of access to financial intermediation.”
Armendariz, Beatriz and Morduch, Jonathan. The Economics of Microfinance, 2010 p.67
These lines reflect a dominant truth about the culture I live in. Before assessment is given to these lines, one must understand that in order to help any group of people, one must know and understand the culture of that group. Culture as we are taught, is the pervasive and shared beliefs, norms, values and symbols that guide everyday life.
Why is culture important in microfinance? In answering this question I thought about the situation that exists within my country- Jamaica. Let us remember that, two important development objective of microfinance is to reduce poverty and to empower women or other disadvantaged population groups. To achieve these objectives require that the microfinance model be altered greatly so as to accommodate the culture of the group.
From my experience, at an early age you are taught how to save and as you grow older you learn how to invest. Throughout my primary school years (age 3-13) you become accustom to ‘thrift clubs’. Within thrift clubs, you are basically encouraged to save a portion of your lunch money. Your teacher gives you a ‘thrift book’ (a mimic of a typical bank account book) and each deposit is recorded. Throughout high school years (age 12-17) you somewhat become weaned into the dominant microfinance scheme ‘Partner’. What we see here is a culture based on the importance of saving which gradually develops from an early stage.
Close family ties and relationship along with distrust in ‘institutions’ play a key role in steering most people away from borrowing at banks. Instead of going to ‘institutions’ much emphasis is given to community or group assistance which eliminates collaterals, interest rates and uneasiness due to not understanding banking terminology or even worst- not being able to read or write. Armendariz (2010 pg. 68) distinguishes between Rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCA) and credit cooperatives stating that ROSCAs are simpler and are built on informal understandings among friends and acquaintances, while cooperatives typically have a formal constitution and degree of legal status. I find both forms of microfinance models within Jamaica however the greatest participation among the poor is within what we call ‘Partners’ which somewhat resembles a ROSCAs model as outlined by Armendariz.
A ‘Partner’ is basically a partnership among a group of people to save collectively. Usually an established member of the group manages the partnership and is referred to as "the banker". In most cases as I’ve observed, the bankers are always typically women. Each member of the partner contributes a regular sum daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Every day, week, fortnight or month, one member of the partner receives the total amount contributed by the partners over that period. The banker often decides the order in which each member will get their ‘draw’ or ‘hand’ and at other times if a member is in urgent need of cash the banker may alter the order. What we can see here is a culture based on trust in ones neighbor. To divert all your trust from a bank and into the hands of community members says a lot about Jamaicans and their desire to seek institutional help. Secondly, we can see a culture based on understanding and responsiveness. Partners work in a way that says ‘I am your partner and I will help you’. If a member needs cash to pay a hospital bill every member will understand your need and will make adjustments in the order of cash allocation.
As I begin to delve more into understanding microfinance, I must admit that the simply system of ‘Partner’ has its place within the Jamaican culture as a form of ‘the poor assisting themselves’. I find the system commendable and as a goal I aspire to conduct research into the ways in which a viable microfinance model may assist a larger group within Jamaica’s economy.
Log # 3
By Cynthia Shivamber
Muhammad Yunus believes that it does not matter where in the world a borrower lives, the problems and consequences of poverty are the same everywhere. However, Yunes believes that access to microcredit provides borrowers with the opportunity to change their own lives. This week’s reading from Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus made me realize that credit gives borrowers much more than just opportunity. Borrowers attitudes change dramatically from when they just discover microfinance to when they actually start their own businesses and first repay a loan.
Initially, when potential borrowers are introduced to the notion of microfinance they seem to have the same response. They are scared. It sounds too good to be true for a complete stranger to approach you, and be willing to lend money to help you start a business. While this could be seen as passing up an opportunity, in the mind of a potential borrower, they are avoiding trouble. As time goes by and they become comfortable with the concept of microfinance, fear and uncertainty still may prevent them from taking out their first loan. They may be afraid of upsetting their husband or afraid of being unable to repay their loan. Many times potential borrowers need to speak with locals who have previously borrowed loans form microfinance institutions and need to be approached multiple times before they are convinced microfinance is a viable option. The borrower now acknowledges that there is an organization functioning to eliminate poverty, has already achieved success with the local community, and believes in her ability to repay the loan.
Now the question becomes if the borrower believes in herself to start up a business to repay the loan. Once a borrower takes that risk and starts making payments there is a character change. Microfinance gives borrowers hope for a brighter future. The borrower becomes confident not only in the organization but, more significantly in herself. Microfinance is not only providing a means of escaping poverty but, is simultaneously empowering women. In addition, women participating in a microfinance program may have the chance to co-sign together with other women in the community encourage friendship.
As a member of the Technology and Communications team, I would like to find or develop effective methods to reach potential borrowers everywhere to inform them of the benefits of microfinance and a way to provide them with testimonials of those who have taken advantage of microfinance in the past. Since some borrowers do not know how to read or write, touch screen kiosks that would show informative videos of microfinance, actual videos of current borrowers, and could even display healthcare information would be good ideas for the future of the microfinance industry. I want potential borrowers to feel confident and to feel safe if they decide to take out a loan. This can be done by teaching them how to avoid being taken advantage of by microfinance organizations who function primarily to make a profit.
Log # 3
By Katherine Cartagena
I would love to share an anecdote about a significant experience that I had in Colombia when I was younger. I was sixteen years old when my vacation in Colombia turned out to be an extraordinary experience helping out the poor along with two fathers from the Jesuit congregation in Colombia. My plans in Colombia were to travel to three different cities just to sightsee and tour around. The third day I was in Manizales, Colombia I went to church with my grandmother. To my surprise she was friends with all of the Fathers from the church. After mass was over, we met up with Father Alberto who wanted to meet me. When I met him, he told me that he was starting a mission in two days in the poorest neighborhoods of Manizales. Father Alberto was talking about the great charity activities that they were going to have in these neighborhoods and asked me to join him in his mission. I went back to my grandmother’s house and thought about whether to stay in Manizales and work with Father Alberto or travel to three other cities to sightsee. After pondering for a while, I realized that I wanted to do something different and not just have a typical vacation. I decided to work with Father Alberto and help the poor.
The charity mission that Father Alberto and Father Carlos were sponsoring was five days long. I witnessed poverty like I never imagined it to be. I was sensitive and emotional the first two days because I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. My job consisted of going door-to-door and interviewing the families, and then giving them a huge bag of groceries. When interviewing the families, it was very touching and sad to hear about all of the problems that they’ve confronted. I was so blessed to be able to listen to these families and be able to share my opinion and give them advice. At the end of this mission, I realized how lucky I was to have so many opportunities at my disposal. I learned to appreciate my parents more, and to appreciate the food I ate, the house I live in and the friends I have. After everything was over I asked myself many questions like “How can I end poverty?” and “How can I help to reduce the pain these families suffer everyday from hunger, and lack of education?
To my surprise, I was not the only person that had also been asking themselves these types of questions. Reading Muhammed Yunus’ book, I realized how brilliant the man was and saw that all of the questions I’d asked myself as a sixteen year old were being answered gradually as I was reading “Creating a World Without Poverty”. Yunus wanted to use social entrepreneurship and business towards helping to eliminate and alleviate poverty. He talked about Grameen Danone Group, a social business that makes high- nutrition, low-cost yogurt in Bangladesh. Danone was exempt from taxes and founded a social mutual fund that did not guarantee to maximize returns at first. I believe that all businesses in developing countries should adopt this social aspect when starting because it helps a lot of people in many ways as Yunus stated. Poverty can be reduced little by little and Yunus’ goal of eliminating poverty will become more of a reality. Yunus’ goal is to develop market capitalism by means of making the unconventional conventional, running an initiative for a Social Dow Jones Index, Social MBAs and other ideas for increasing the visibility and feasibility these businesses.
Log # 3
By Marco Sementilli
It has been 2 weeks since the GLOBE class has met in the classroom, but there has been A LOT going on during this time. To start, the Finance Team has approved 6 loans from the Congo. It was an interesting experience, with one horrific mistake, which I will explain later.
It was exciting and difficult to go through these loan applications to find the best candidates for funds. I wanted to help every single applicant, I wanted to give everyone the chance to live their lives outside of poverty; I simply could not. There is no teaching a student who the best applicant is, or what kind of applicants we should look for. You look at these pictures, and in most of them you can see sadness in their eyes. And it hurts to look at, because your first inclination is to accept it. But then the next thing you know, out of the 34 loans you looked over, you have 34 approvals. So there needs to be some sort of guideline. You need to accept the fact that not everyone will get a loan, and it’s a bitter realization. So I read through all of these loans and had a list of 14 or so applicants that I felt would benefit from a loan. After meeting with the rest of my team, we brought this list down to our six loan acceptances (or so we thought).
We thought we had everything going as planned. We reviewed all of our loans, we made our decisions and sent them away for approval. Since I am the liaison for the Finance and Risk Assessment Team, I will take full responsibility for our actions. We made the mistake of approving two loans that have already been accepted last semester. This embarrasses me. All I needed to do was look at the portfolio for loans issued by GLOBE and I would have seen that these two individuals have already been approved. For a student-managed class, we often forget that everything is on the student’s shoulders. This isn’t a normal class where the professor tells you what needs to be done and you do it. This is a class where the students tell fellow students what needs to be done, and it is done. This was a mistake that could have been avoided quickly, but instead we let it slip through. There needs to be a huge attention to detail in a class like this, and we didn’t even think to check. One thing is for sure, a mistake that was made this week will most certainly not happen again for the rest of the semester.
The most exciting part of the past 2 weeks was learning that I was chosen as one of the GLOBE student fellows for the trip to Vietnam in May. I was sitting in my car at a red light when I grabbed my phone, saw that I had an email and reading “Congratulations.” I started shaking in excitement, repeating “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God” over and over. Words cannot describe what I was feeling when I read that email to find out that I was chosen. I knew that I was a perfect candidate for this role, but it was up to my peers to decide. I can’t wait to spread the word about GLOBE and to meet potential loan applicants. It will surely be a once in a lifetime experience. Traveling to the other side of the world for such a good cause, to represent my country, my university and my school program… the only word that comes to mind is amazing!
Log # 3
By Oluwabukola Ayeni
“Some see microfinance as a source of major social transformation. Others see it as the seed of a revolution in banking access. True believers push for both.” – (Armendariz and Morduch, 2010, p. 239)
As a business major in college, the school curriculum usually educates students on the major goal of corporations, which is to maximize shareholders’ wealth. Microfinance is not commonly taught due to the fact that it is not the approach that most institutions take when it comes to achieving these goals because truth be told, it is not as profitable. Thankfully there are people whose goals are to actually provide for the community and of course uplift people living in poverty. Microfinance nowadays is seen as the revolutionary turn of the business world but with every bright idea, there are disadvantages.
Microfinance institutions statistically are not as profitable as commercial banks which is one of the main reasons a lot of people do not follow in that path. However, there are certainly those who believe that all that can change, viewing microfinance as the new world initiative for world peace and better living. Sadly, microfinance is not for everyone. It may seem easy the way NGOs and Grameen Bank are operating in Bangladesh, India, and Kenya, but keep in mind that the amount of money given in loans in those countries are fairly small. It would be great to establish a microfinance institution here in the United States providing for the poor but in my opinion, the same results will not be achieved. The standard of living here in America is much higher compared to countries in Africa and third world countries in South America. Whereas a $150 loan can provide a strong foundation to start a business that provides for the whole family in Nigeria, $150 is just a week’s worth of groceries, not merely enough to rent a store nor an apartment. It seems unfair but that is just the way life is.
As microfinance continues to rise and flourish, there is a great chance that developing countries will soon grow out of their title of being poor countries. When the people are able to live decent lives and there is little to no more people living in poverty, the average income of countries will increase therefore resulting in an increase of the standard of living and GDP. Ultimately, if microfinance continues to grow, there may come a time where there will be no need for microfinance institutions. Unfortunately we have not reached that time. I am looking forward to the weeks ahead as always. Although my group may not deal with loan applications or informing people of GLOBE and what microfinance is about, we still have a purpose and duty that affects our donors and borrowers.
Log # 4
By Kevin Garcia
In the past weeks, I have been able to learn many different things inside the classroom from both lectures and my peers. In recent news outside the classroom though, Muhammad Yunus and Grameen bank have been in the spotlight facing scrutiny from the Bangladesh government. Muhammad Yunus is the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner and the founder of Grameen Bank. His work has been recognized by so many people because of his belief that even the poorest of the poor should have access to some sort of credit.
Muhammad Yunus was terminated by the central bank of Bangladesh for violations that include his appointment to his position. The central bank did not approve his role as managing director so they exercised their right to terminate him. Government officials have been keeping a close eye on both Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus. In addition, government officials elaborated by stating that Grameen Bank was lacking staff that should be watching over all of its loans. Many say that Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank are being targeted because of Yunus’ public criticizing of government officials. Grameen bank currently lends to over $10 billion to all of its borrowers. This could mean certain unsteadiness for the future of Grameen till Muhammad Yunus’ role is figured out.
I do not understand how the Bangladeshi government would allow this impeachment to continue any further. Muhammad Yunus has played critical role in microfinance and making it well known to greater masses of society. I personally have not done enough research to feel completely comfortable sticking to Yunus’ side because he could have very well made these mistakes. It is now in the hands of the government and will ultimately affect the future of Grameen Bank.
Log # 4
By Gamal Ahmed
Spring break is chance in college to break away from all your classes and let go for a week. In many instances this week away is needed and very appropriate; however GLOBE doesn’t fall into that “escape me please” umbrella. This isn’t a class or a topic where anyone can afford to take a week off, so even for those of us who weren’t still around campus, we continued to contribute as much as possible to our team’s success. As a marketing team we were able to finally meet with the representative from alumni relations. This was a very important meeting, because St. John’s alumni base will be vital to our team achieving our fund raising goals this semester. The alumni relations representative helped the marketing team to refine our campaign techniques by encouraging us to develop taglines along with an “elevator pitch”. These quick high impact ways to describe GLOBE will allow us to inform as many people as possible about what GLOBE is without losing their attention span first. Soon we will also be having our second bake sale of the year and we are eagerly looking forward to matching the success of the first one in which we raised over $200.
With a chance to step away from class for a while, there has been less personal interaction amongst the class and more time to read about microfinance. While I’m sure many of my classmates will discuss the assigned readings I want to discuss a few articles that I have seen a pop up that pertain to GLOBE as much as any of the texts. First the “father” of modern day microfinance Muhammed Yunus has been removed from his position as head of the Grameen, after founding it more than 30 years ago. The fact that a person who recently received a Nobel Peace Prize, founded the bank, and is seen as the father of the field could be removed from his position shows the current state of microfinance in a few ways.
First, microfinance especially in areas like India has become a highly scrutinized field in which all invested have begun to monitor those involved more intensely than ever. And secondly this shows the growth that microfinance has experienced. There is no question that this idea and is bigger than one man, this industry has stepped out of the shadow of Mr. Yunus and can survive well after he stops acting as a guiding light. The concern that I have about this incident (and other attempts to regulate the industry) is, how much is too much? Microfinance is supposed to be finance with a heart, with compassion, but if there is no compassion for those who are giving the loans is it possible to have compassion for those receiving them? The other supplemental article that I wanted to comment on was one that quickly highlighted things from the “State of Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2011”. Mainly I wanted to discuss the Seal of Excellence for Poverty Outreach and Transformation in Microfinance. I am glad to see that just like our GLOBE class, the world of microfinance which is so qualitative in nature is taking steps to monitor, regulate, and estimate success through a more quantitative approach.
Log # 4
By Alexander Lam
This week in GLOBE we went to an event hosted by the Microfinance Club of New York. It was a great experience. The event was hosted at Columbia University and my first impressions of the campus were nothing short of amazing. Once we stepped out of the elevator and out of the first building that we came in from, it felt as if we were teleported out of Manhattan. The atmosphere was nothing like the city. There were very few people around, it was quiet, and it was surprisingly spacious. Columbia and its location definitely set the precedent for the upcoming event that we were all anxious to be a part of.
As we walked into the forum, we decided that we would sit in the back rows, knowing that our class would take up two whole rows easily. I looked around the room and thought to myself, these people who are about to present must be incredibly knowledgeable, and they were! The people who were presenting were well experienced and leaders in their fields. They were especially well versed in collecting data on the effects of microfinance. The panel also talked about ways in which microfinance institutions were able to branch out into other programs to help the poor, which were not credit related. Some of the programs that were talked about included education and technology.
When they were talking about the non credit programs, it led me to think about the numerous programs that I read about in Creating a World Without Poverty by Muhammad Yunus. The Grameen Family of Companies shows and proves that there is much more to credit when it comes to helping people in poverty. Companies such as Grameen Telecom and Grameen Phone that provide telephone service, Grameen Cybernet that provides internet service, and Grameen Kalyan that provides health and welfare are some examples of this.
One of the panelists had asked a question that I thought summarized the whole discussion. He asked, “What is the best way to spend one dollar?” and how it relates to “How to reduce death rates by two thirds?” I felt that the event was centered on this particular paradox. What are the true factors that are lifting people out of poverty? As said in the discussion, microfinance targets driven entrepreneurs, however wouldn’t these people with these particular characteristics fight their way out of poverty without intervention nonetheless? After studying randomized trials, about what works and what doesn’t, the panelists of professionals’ curiosity showed me that there are many questions still left unanswered and that there are many more factors than just money that lead to lifting people out of poverty.
Log # 4
By Diego Salvado
Last week we didn’t have an in class meeting but that doesn’t mean that the accounting team didn’t keep working. During our Spring Break, we discussed our weekly update for Dr. Sama and kept working on the research paper. Furthermore, Kamya (our great team liaison) and I are working on small business ideas for our future entrepreneurs. The first thing I did was to start documenting myself with the situation of different countries where GLOBE operates. Not every country can use the same business ideas because every population has different needs and cultural differences. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a country in which is extremely difficult to find a business plan that could be successful. The country is dominated by political instability and a civil war that takes many lives each year. If you add to that the lack of infrastructure and the difficult operating environment, creating a successful business is really hard. We know that we are working with enthusiastic people with really low resources that probably live in rural areas. So we are researching and hope to find ideas for businesses that can be profitable and based in agriculture.
For today’s class, we all went to Columbia University to attend a panel discussion about Microfinance and Development held by the Microfinance Club of New York. The discussion didn’t disappoint any of us who went to learn more about microfinance. There were three guest speakers, Mr. Mac Arthur, Mr. Kalim and Dean Karlar. Each of them answer questions about microfinance and also the informed the work of several MFIs around the world. For example, Mr. Kalim told us about BRAC –founded by an accountant in 1972 after the war- and its work in Bangladesh. It showed how their operations took place in most countries that suffered recent conflict or disasters. Dean Karlar told us how microfinance is not taking people out of poverty. Also, that it is really difficult to measure the impact on microfinance because there are several macroeconomic, political and social factors that affect the GNP per capita. Overall, the event was very informative and I learned a lot from what the speakers had to say.
Log # 5
By Joseph Hwalek
In David Bornstein’s book How to Change the World, he writes about social entrepreneurs and how long they’d existed in history without being recognized. These entrepreneurs weren’t viewed in a business light but, more in the sense of sociology their contributions to helping society. I think it’s interesting that these people didn’t get recognition but, to this day some of their inventions are still important. For example, Rowland Hill and his modern idea of the postal system that still used today. Also, in the next chapter titled “Are They Possessed, Really Possessed, by an Idea?” Bornstein quotes Drayton saying “I don’t believe that conceiving an idea and marketing it are different,” which really strikes me. As a marketing major, it is an interesting concept to think about in relation to marketing and conceiving an idea, both being long processes. I think that last chapter also mentions some really good points and that it is definitely a tough job to be a social entrepreneur because you don’t receive a lot of recognition.
As for team work, the IT team has been working very hard together. The group works well together overall and we have been working diligently on our video series. We created our midterm Powerpoint presentation and we are very excited to show the class some of the work that we have been working on. The research paper is exciting and I think that we chose a great topic that is applicable to our group and that will help us understand developing nations and their technological needs.
I am excited to move forward and learn more about microfinance and to hear what others have to teach about the subject. I have recently thought about microfinance and working with microfinance after graduation because I realized, after the lecture last week, that there are more opportunities in microfinance than just lending.
Log # 5
By Katherine Cartagena
I always enjoy when we have guest speakers come in our class, especially when they volunteer to talk about good causes. Dr. Barret P. Brenton was our guest speaker for the night. He came to speak about poverty mapping and the benefits Geographical Information Systems. It was a very interesting topic that can help our class map certain aspects of poverty and help develop GIS to locate new loan applicants.
What is Poverty mapping? It is defined as “The spatial representation and analysis of indicators of human wellbeing and poverty within a region, is useful in a variety of ways” (Worldbank). Poverty mapping can show many dimensions of poverty and its determinants. The maps releases disaggregated information that in a lot of cases are left out. The maps are legible because they are made easy to understand particular complex figures, statistics and data. It is a fantastic tool because you can find exceptional and valuable information about a region.
Moreover, you can learn about poverty determinants and selecting interventions. You can pretty much find out any information that you want from these maps. For example, a map can distinguish territories in which development has been falling back, others maps can help identify where food programs are needed and emergency response. Dr. Brenton emphasized that the key for the use of GIS for poverty mapping is so that the people who are interested to work with local communities can have straightforward information. Also, poverty mapping can give justification to why some cities, areas, or community deserve more attention and would benefit more than others when organizations or companies are doing investments to alleviate poverty.
In conclusion, I absorbed and assimilated Dr. Breton’s lesson in poverty mapping and GIS. Before tonight’s presentation, I had no prior knowledge of such an amazing tool that will help GLOBE in many ways. I will certainly apply what I learned tonight and help come up with a map that can help us find donors, and a map that can help us nominate new areas where we can provide loans!
Log # 5
By Victoria Xu
The past week has been a busy week for the Finance & Risk Assessment Team. We had to research deeper into our final paper topic and compile a presentation for the mid-term progress report. My group and I met during the past week to discuss who would be saying what and gave a brief run through on how we wanted to present our PowerPoint. We will be presenting on the six loans that we chose to present before the Steering Committee as well as introduce our paper topic.
Last Wednesday, GLOBE managers met with the University Treasurer. At the meeting we were informed of our organization’s budget status in a detail report. We took a look at the fiscal year of June 2010 to March 2011 and saw how transactions, such as donations and expenditures, were recorded in the detailed activity document. We were pretty amazed by how many incoming donations were given to the program from donors, and how some chose to remain anonymous. In another course, anonymous donations were discussed in class. My professor said how normally there will never be an anonymous donation because people want that publicity and acknowledgement from the media to show their generosity.
We also attended a microfinance lecture at Columbia University last Tuesday. The lecture was very interesting and informative, and the questions that were raised by the audience were answered well by the panel. What I learned from the event was that microfinance alone cannot solve the entire world’s poverty related issues. It can only accomplish so much because it is such a small institution. Microfinance is still a very new term to most people. Many are still unaware of what microfinance is and the impact it could possibly have on another’s life. Tomorrow there will be a GLOBE informational session and I’ve already invited many of my business friends to attend. I would like them to learn more about GLOBE and perhaps apply to become future managers in the program.
Log # 5
By Qiudan Yu
When I was reading Dr. Yunus’ book, “Creating a World Without Poverty,” I found that he corrected one of my very fundamental misconceptions about microfinance. I have recently been thinking of what different types of criteria we should use to filter our borrower applications for the program. However, I ignored this essential fact: most of those who are in extreme poverty, but are able to still keep themselves alive, must already possess a certain level of survival skills.
At Dr. Yunus’ Grameen Bank, credit always comes first. This is a very unique approach among all of the microfinance institutions. Grameen Bank concentrated on credit, which means literally handing out cash to poor people as the very first step in helping them work their way out of poverty. Dr. Yunus accounts his belief as follows, “I firmly believe that all human beings have an innate but generally unrecognized skill—the survival skill. The very fact that the poor are alive is a clear proof that they possess this ability. Rather than teaching them skills we focus on help them make the most of their existing skills, to weave, to raise cow…” (113 Yunus). The cash they raise through these practices then becomes a tool, which they can use to unlock other abilities.
However, we should also notice that not everybody is aware of his or her essential skills. I always remember that Dr, Yunus mentioned a story about a village he visited in Bangladesh, when he came to our campus a few years ago to give a speech. Those women had been ignored by the male figures and were impacted by the repressive attitude in their community for so long that they no longer held confidence within themselves anymore. Dr. Yunus accounted that when these women were offered money, they didn’t even know what to do with the money because, they were too scared to be put on the spot. Thus in cases like this, it is our responsibility to encourage them and make them get rid of their fears and realize their great potential.
I think our team put together a very good mid-term report today. I realized that everyone is contributing and that the results will be the fruit of our teamwork. I found the essence of teamwork, as regards to leading and influencing others in your team, is actually taking the initiative and doing the most of work first by yourself. I found in GLOBE that taking the initiative is very important. Before I communicate with my teammates and ask them to do something, I always check to see if I am done with my part of the work because I would have no right to tell my teammates what to do if I have not done my part of our work yet.
I really enjoyed the panelist discussion last week and our guest speaker Dr. Brenton’s presentation today in regards to GIS. I think that GIS is definitely a certain aspect we should take into consideration when looking for potential profitable businesses in all geographical regions. I think our team can probably do more research on this and apply it to our borrower’s business development in the future.
Log # 6
By Cynthia Shivamber
The readings from David Bornstein’s “How to Change the World” highlighted some of the characteristics entrepreneurs possess that make them successful advocates for the microfinance industry. Entrepreneurs who had a desire to achieve long term goals that had meaning to them were found to be more successful than the average entrepreneur. At the same time, they made strong decisions and did not hesitate to take a step back to analyze if they were heading in the right direction. An entrepreneur’s motivation was a key determinant of their success in addition to their concern for quality and efficiency.
An entrepreneur’s willingness to share credit really determined if an entrepreneur was functioning for the purpose of a greater good or only to be recognized. Social entrepreneurs develop the power to break through established structures and use their talents to redesign existing organizations to make a difference. However, some challenges they face, especially for long term goals (in decades), include two/four year election cycles and publishing demands. Yet, the micro-finance industry could not have been so successful without funding and research from governments and universities. Muhammad Yunus’ employment at an educational institution, for example, influenced his decision to start the Grameen Bank.
The most admired qualities of social entrepreneurs are their strong values and selflessness. They help to shape society by collaborating different skills and experiences to form realistic solutions. According to Bornstein, “Faced with whole problems, social entrepreneurs readily cross disciplinary boundaries, pulling together people from different spheres, with different kinds of experience and expertise, who can, together, build workable solutions that are qualitatively new.” To prove the importance of collaboration, Bornstein gave the example of an emergency phone service for street children that is likely to fail without the cooperation of hospitals and police. It seems whenever social entrepreneurs to run into a bump in the road, they their drive causes them to search for alternatives until their visions become a reality.
Log # 6
By Nicole Tonis
When asked what a business entrepreneur is, anyone would be able to briefly describe what a business entrepreneur does. When asked what a social entrepreneur is, not many people would be able to describe what they do. And if you do get someone who knows what a social entrepreneur is, it is unlikely they will be able to name a social entrepreneur or what a social entrepreneur is. It’s unrealistic to say that I would be able to educate the world on social entrepreneurship but, I would like to come in contact with at least one person every day and explain to them the importance of social entrepreneurship. Without social entrepreneurship a lot of the things that we take for granted today wouldn’t exist, and it’s important to realize that.
Reading Chapter 8 in David Bornstein’s How to Change the World, Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, I realized how much of an impact social entrepreneurs have on society. There has been a lot of research conducted about business entrepreneurs. The research has been extensively carried out that their talents have been nurtured by value systems, government policies and institutional supports. But little research has been done on social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs are often considered saints. There are tales and stories that have been passed down about their work but, no extensive research. However, that doesn’t mean they have gone unnoticed.
Business entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs reflect different attitudes. Social change is concentrated on how ideas move people rather than on how people move ideas. Social change is based on the idea and not the individual, whereas business entrepreneurship is based on the individual who has an idea. An idea is like a play. It needs a good producer and a good promoter no matter how good the play is. If you have an amazing idea you still need to be able to promote this idea or the idea will be gone very quickly. The idea of children having health protection was a long and gone idea when James Grant came up with the idea of “children survival”. Now children need to make it on their own with hopefully the help of their parents. The same goes for global warming. Cars that were driven thirty years ago were much more eco-friendly than the cars that are driven now. Instead of caring about the economy everyone cares about their “look” and their wealth. People now drive SUVs and sports cars, though these cars omit more pollution into the air and are not safe for the other passengers that are in the car.
James O’Toole the author of Leading Change: The Argument for Values-based Leadership observed that groups resist change as much as the body resists an infection. The reason for this is because many groups feel that if they go through with the change they will lose their power. One study was conducted where the institution would greatly improve from the changes but, the group still resisted. An example of this is with the postage system in the early 1800s. Rowland Hill knew that the postal system in England had to be changed and never gave up on his efforts. In the end, not only did England benefit from more than a 5,000 percent increase from this change in the postal system but, the rest of the world benefitted as well. The trend behind every social change is a strong willed and extremely persistent person who is passionate in their belief for change.
Mary Lasker was the driving force behind the creation of the National Institutes of Health. Her efforts were tremendous in helping to promote blood pressure treatments. She convinced President Nixon to educate the public on the effects of blood pressure and the treatments available. Her efforts probably saved countless lives. Not all of Lasker’s efforts were considered to be good by everyone but, people make mistakes and those mistakes lead to greater social changes.
It is sad that these people have done so much to help the greater good of society and their efforts go unknown. Now the world is worried about how much money you can make rather than helping people. We need more people who are persistent to make social changes in this world. Without these wonderful strong willed individuals, social entrepreneurs, this world wouldn’t be the way it is today.
Log # 6
By Rita Mannino
Between having a guest speaker and the midterm progress report presentations, last week was a busy and eventful week. After reading the article that had been sent to us on poverty mapping, I didn’t know what kind of presentation to expect from our guest speaker, Dr. Brenton. Fortunately, he had a lot of insight on the subject, which made the topic very interesting. I was surprised with all the new technology that we have involving mapping and specifically poverty mapping, which I had no idea existed. Information that can be retrieved from some of the sites that were recommended is amazing, and can be extremely helpful in helping us develop our research papers. One of the sites that really stuck out to me was ‘GapMinder World,’ which showed the movements of the population according to different countries in a set timeframe. Our team is definitely considering using information from these sites and incorporating it into our research.
The midterm progress report presentations given by three out of the four groups were all very good. It was interesting to visually see what each team had been doing and what they’re currently working on. In regards to the Finance and Risk Assessment team, I was excited to let the whole class learn a little about our new borrowers. I really hope that they are successful with their endeavors in entrepreneurship and I’m anxious to hear feedback from the Daughters of Charity to hear how they have progressed because of our loans.
This week’s reading spoke to performance management and the different areas that affect performance management. More specifically, it highlighted the role that delinquency, productivity and efficiency, and risk play into performance management. This reading was interesting because it points out all the different aspects that are relevant to the Finance and Risk Assessment Team. One of the Marketing Team’s goals was to increase donations by $3000 this semester, so in order to do that, we have to display that our funds are being used correctly and that we are efficiently following up on our loans and the repayment of the loans. Attracting new donors plays the biggest role in achieving this goal, but in order to do so, we need to be successful in both productivity and efficiency management. Being part of the Finance and Risk Assessment Team, I can only speak from this point of view. The reading pointed out different methods of increasing efficiency in the MFI, and I feel that with the size and structure of our class, we are implementing some of the points that were made, on a much smaller scale. Hopefully, GLOBE will have a management information system that is linked directly with the Daughters of Charity in the future, but for now, we’re being efficient with what we have.
Log # 6
By Diedre Smith
“The future looks bright after all!”
Just imagine; our goals of poverty alleviation alongside advanced technology
In last week’s class, Mr. Brenton, the associate director of Center for Global Development provided us with insightful information on web-based poverty mapping and the geographic information system software (GIS) and how such resources may be utilized for developmental goals.
“In a technologically advanced age such as this; there’s no reason there should be initial time lags in finding solutions to issues such as poverty.” Often times, what we see happening is that in order to implement social programs or operations time is lost doing research on identifying the target group and market of the most vulnerable. Time is spent on understanding the country’s context, poverty levels, economic and political stability just to name a few.
But after Mr. Brenton’s presentation, my reaction was, “Wow! I had no idea such wealth of information was lurking at my finger tips.” The GIS mapping software helps you understand and visualize data to make decisions based on the best information and analysis. With the software, you are able to visually see how poverty, income, literacy, standard of living, just to name a few is distributed within a country. The software gives you just about every relevant data you may need to set up a social operation geared at poverty alleviation. What this means, is that without having to do tedious years of research (which at this level, I am incapable of doing); I can develop a social program for the most vulnerable areas in my country. Since all relevant data is available to me; and trusting that it is accurate, current and is a true representation of the country’s context I don’t see why there should be initial impediments in addressing social issues. All we need is the idea or vision and a motivated and sound social entrepreneur.
What’s so interesting to me is that, I really don’t need to be a statistician, a politician, a policy advisor, a researcher or even working with social organizations to know where help is needed.
What I envision, is a future in which countries will be able to effectively address areas that need greater assistance where poverty alleviation and other social issues are concerned. Moreover, such resources and techniques will prove beneficial to developing countries that lack the expertise and funds to continuously conduct research on the country’s progress.
Imagine if social organizations and government agencies can easily pinpoint areas that need social help. Imagine a situation in which developing countries are now able to distribute social programs more efficiently and effectively. I can, and what I see, is a bright future.
Log # 7
By Axel Folz
It is now getting to crunch time! The final presentation is around the corner, research papers are being worked on, and yet there is still so much more to be accomplished from now until the end of the semester. Our previous class session had students from a college in Florida who came to visit and see what our microloan program was all about. This was very inspiring because I was able to notice how people are starting to become aware of this wonderful program, worldwide. They had numerous questions about who we lend to, how we communicate with them and so much more which truly showed their interest in the cause. We received our newest promotional item that day too, the bottle cap opener, which proved to be perfect timing as many of the visiting students bought something to help support GLOBE. The proceeds equaled enough to help a new borrower!
Along with our class last week and all that went into it, this week proved to have an abundance of work. Everyone in the IT team continued their research for our paper and began typing up our contributions for it. We also did our weekly reading that we will present on in class this week. The reading which came from “The Banker to the Poor” by Muhammad Yunus was very interesting. Our chapter had to deal with the Grameen enterprises that they got involved with over its lifetime. Some examples being the fishery project that they took over in Bangladesh to increase fishing, allowing the poor to become economic factors in the world. They also entered the cell phone industry where they owned a for- profit and a non-for profit called Grameen Telecom. Basically each village would have a telephone lady where people could come and pay to use, like a village pay phone. She would receive good income from this and the villages would become better connected with the world. Grameen has also started many other enterprises that have alleviated many people from poverty.
Today the IT team will be meeting the Marketing team to film a video mainly for St. John’s alumni, which will better describe what our program is about and inform them of how they can get further involved. Hopefully it will be helpful in gaining more donations so we can expand our program and gain more awareness from it. Overall, this has been a productive week, a week that will be rewarding once it’s all said and done.
Log # 7
By Gamal Ahmed
Microfinance is at a critical stage, we are at a point of definition; this era in microfinance will be one that sets the tone and determines the path of this field for decades to come. Today we learned that the “father” of microfinance Muhammad Yunus was officially ousted from the Grameen Bank in India which he founded decades ago. For many of us who believe in Mr. Yunus this is a sad day and at the same time it is a deeply symbolic one. In our assigned readings we often see authors discuss the importance of the “idea of microfinance” and maintaining its integrity and goals. The readings encourage us to remember that microfinance and all those who participate in it need to remember that the dream is bigger than any one bank, borrower, or business. Today with the departure of Muhammad Yunus from his brainchild and possibly from his role as an active member of the microfinance world, we will see just how much bigger the idea is than any one man.
The world of microfinance, its institutions, and GLOBE all seem to have come to another very important stage. For this field and this class to have longevity, to have people believe in it we must begin to be able to measure (measure against some form of standard) who is most worthy and ready for microfinance and second when we have reached a level of success on an individual and communal basis. For our GLOBE class this is something that we have discussed a lot and oftentimes becomes the topic of discussion that takes up huge parts of our class. The difficulty in measuring data in microfinance is the usual standards and techniques used in finance are the same ones that have helped to marginalize those that microfinance aims to help. We have to attempt to turn the qualitative date into some form of quantitative measuring stick. We know that it is important for a good social enterprise to be as efficient as possible in measuring who they lend to and in what form. For GLOBE, measuring success will become particularly important, because we will need to show donors that their money is making an impact in developing nations and that we are getting a return on our loans this is not just a donation program. Secondly, it will be important in order to keep recruiting top level students, because students will need to know that this program is actually real, that the time and effort they dedicate will make a difference in someone’s life while at the same time developing their skills and knowledge in the field. Another difficulty for classes to come is the fact that microfinance borrowers and businesses are started at a disadvantage so it will take longer than we are used to for the effects and success of microfinance to manifest into some clearly visible.
The Marketing team was able to collaborate with the IT team this week and finally shoot our one minute Youtube commercial for our email campaign with development. The filming is now done and the editing should be finished by the end of the week. This was a very important step, because the video and the email campaign are both something that classes may be able to use in the future and more importantly for this class, the email campaign to alumni will be essential to meeting our fundraising goals for this semester and drawing attention towards the accomplishments of GLOBE to those who can help us financially.
Log # 7
By Elizabeth Janson
A topic which has repeatedly come up during the semester has been whether or not the Finance and Risk Assessment team should reform the current loan application. Several different proposals have been explored including whether or not more questions should be asked of the applicants or whether we should make the Daughters of Charity responsible for providing more in-depth analysis and reporting on the candidates. Another idea that has been considered focuses primarily on whether or not we should require our loan applicants to be formally trained before receiving a loan and whether they need to adhere to specific guidelines in implementing their businesses.
Originally the Finance Team came to the conclusion that since the applicants were already ambiguous in answering the questions on the application, that it would yield no material information that would help our decision making process. We however firmly believe that we need more quality information rather than a quantity of information and believe that the Daughters’ opinions and character testimonial would offer valuable insight that would aid in the assessment of the loan applicants.
The Finance Team strongly objects to requiring loan applicants to meet certain criteria and adhering to special limitations upon receiving their loans. As expressed in “Banker to the Poor” by Muhammad Yunus, requiring loan applicants to perform formal training and to meet specific requirements aside from repaying their loans is a waste of time and ultimately discourages loan applicants from applying. We believe in true entrepreneurial spirit that it is important to be a means and not an end all. Applicants should use the loans they receive as a means to perform a business rather than to make the loan process something that takes over the applicants’ lives and requires them to go out of their way to attain funding.
All in all I believe the most important idea discussed this week in “Banker to the Poor” and in our class practicum was that distances wield a great effect on our business operations and that of organizations such as Grameen Bank and the World Bank. I believe that without sustainable presence in an impoverished area that we ultimately miss out on a lot of valuable information which is material to the decisions we make as a micro finance institution. Therefore I believe that if the Finance team were to make changes to the loan application that it would be in our best interest to consult the Daughters of Charity who have much more insight and an objective opinion about the loan applicants who are best suited to receive a loan.
Log # 7
By Alexander Zugaro
Over the past week, the Accounting team has decided to keep all information we obtain posted to a Gmail account group that only the accounting managers can see. We decided to do this so we can all help each other out on the various tasks that our group receives. For example, my Excel file that I developed that keeps track of all our financials is now posted to this group. Now whenever one of the accounting managers obtains information on cash inflows or outflows, for example any revenues we acquire, they can update the excel file once they get the information. This makes the accounting team more efficient and timely with our information. Additionally, thanks to the marketing team we are able to bring in more income, which will give us stronger leverage to send out future loans.
The Accounting team is also currently working on finishing the first draft to our research paper and keeping tabs on the outflow and inflow of funds for GLOBE. Also, we are still trying to compose possible business ideas for borrowers. We decided not to construct specific plans for the borrowers because every country's economy and way of living is different and it would be hard and very time consuming to construct different business plans for each country.
While completing the weekly reading for this class, I came across an issue regarding Microfinance. In the book The Economics of Microfinance there was a section in chapter 9 that talks about the impacts microfinance has on a community and how they are measured. In the text, it states that before any microfinance organizations began operations in India, 69% of the baseline sample from urban areas in India had at least one loan outstanding. This shows that loans are already in effect in some of these countries that microfinance participates in. In Northeast Thailand, households that will later become microfinance borrowers tend to already be significantly wealthier than their nonparticipating neighbors before the MFI’s programs start. It is stated that the wealthiest villagers are twice as likely to become borrowers than their poorer neighbors. This theme is the same in Peru, where microfinance borrowers start off considerably wealthier than their nonparticipating neighbors. In Bangladesh, over half of those who chose not to participate did so because they felt that they could not generate adequate profits to reliably repay loans. As you can see there is a large “untapped” population that could seriously benefit from microfinance programs but, aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity. It is in the best interest of these microfinance organizations to be able to tap this market otherwise estimated impacts on income and empowerment will be misreported.
Log # 8
By Kevin Garcia
Muhammad Yunus is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word. He is able to fashion such great ideas and implement them and it is easy to say not many (or anyone else for that matter) could replicate all of his work. When Yunus was confronted with a challenge in Chapter 12 in “Banker for the Poor,” he accepted the challenge and moved away from his comfort zone of banking. He had never been involved with the fishing industry but, he was happy to accept the challenge.
Yunus is truly a social and business entrepreneur and sees every industry as an opportunity to capitalize on. This next venture was able to help the many people in Bangladesh that used trade as a main source of income, but were not making profits substantial enough to feed their families due to money hungry vendors. Yunus wanted to take total control of the market so he was able to reach out not only to fabric makers but, clothing makers. He was able to help both by helping them thrive off of each other.
His next venture was providing phones to women that would be able to sell the service in their communities. This venture led to Yunus being a phone service provider within Bangladesh. The key to Yunus’ many successes is that he is not afraid to branch out of his comfort zone. When he sees an opportunity to invest in a project that will help a community, he goes in full force and puts in all of his effort.
Log # 8
By David Law
I can’t believe that it is already the second week of April. The semester went by really quickly. It felt like just yesterday that we had our first lecture and I had to introduce myself to the class. So today, I took some time to reflect on what my team has done in the span of 3 short months. Thus far, we have organized two successful bake sales. For each one, we were able to raise over two hundred dollars. For the last fund raising event of the semester, the marketing team was planning to set up a table at the annual Spring Fling event on campus. Approximately three to four thousand students attend this event, so this is a great opportunity to get the GLOBE Program some exposure. It would be a great chance to raise awareness around campus and to show our fellow students what the GLOBE Program is about. Hopefully, we will be able to sell a chunk of our promotional items here.
Another accomplishment this semester was designing and ordering the promotional item. We ultimately decided to go with a bottle opener because we wanted an item that we could market to our fellow classmates. We were able to order 150 of them and each one cost just under a dollar to produce!
Just this week, we finished all the components for the email campaign. We completed the email content, subject line, elevator pitch and script for Scott’s team. In addition, we collaborated with the IT team to create a promotional video to ask Tobin College of Business alumni for donations. In the video, we explained a bit about what we do in the program and why we need their help in the form of support and donations. In addition, we highlighted one of our borrowers and told her story and how a loan would help her business grow. We ended with a montage of words which described GLOBE.
Today in class, we learned about what a social entrepreneur and about some of their characteristics. This tied into one of the readings our team did last week, from the David Bornstein book. This chapter talked about the Ashoka organization and what it took to become an effective entrepreneur. They looked at four factors. The first is their creativity. The second is their entrepreneurial quality. Is this person ready to dedicate thirty years or perhaps even a whole lifetime to this idea? Also they have to know how to answer the “how-to” questions. Ideas may be challenged by obstacles and the entrepreneur should know how to navigate around them. The third is the social impact of the idea. Will this idea carry on when the entrepreneur is gone? The last factor is their moral fiber. They examine their ethics and commitment.
As the semester comes to an end, I’m really excited to see how we can finish the semester strong. The next thing we need to plan is the end of semester presentations. We have high hopes and we want to impress the people and potential donors with our work.
Log # 8
By Mary Sheehan
After talking about the GLOBE course at Accepted Students’ Day and to the prospective students I realized that I might want to consider a career in microfinance. Prior to taking this course I thought that the only way that I could help others and do service is through charity events or other organizations, but I realized that there is a whole new world of microfinance that exists and is rapidly expanding. GLOBE and microfinance excites me because it’s a way for me to apply my field of knowledge to something that is helping others. After graduation I will continue to learn more about microfinance so that I can someday down the line obtain a job in that field. I would also like to hopefully donate some money to these worthwhile organizations that do this work. I have a true passion for service and microfinance gives me the perfect combination of service and business work. At the end of May I will have spent four years acquiring all of this knowledge about the financial world and the economy. I hope that I will be able to use it to help others. Imagine if the whole world had the view and commitment that the Grameen Bank members do, to help others when they are in need. If each one of us believed this and helped each other we would make such amazing strides.
After reading the many articles about Muhammad Yunus in the news recently, I decided to take a closer look at Grameen Bank. When I viewed the website I came across the ten indicators that the Grameen Bank employees use to evaluate whether the borrowers are lifting themselves out of poverty. According to the website a Grameen Bank member has lifted themselves out of poverty if there family meets the ten criteria that are specified. What is interesting is that these criteria would seem so basic to us. The criteria include having three regular meals daily for a year, maintaining a minimal annual income, and one stating that the children must attend school and having access to safe drinking water are just a few. I think that the criteria are effective in determining whether the loans are improving the lives of the members. After reading through all of them I considered whether they could be used in our class as an analysis for the effectiveness of our loans. The only criteria that would need to be changed would be the currency and income requirements, they would need to be calculated and set specifically to the particular country we are analyzing.
In one of my other classes called Training and Development, we discussed creating an evaluation for a training program. I think for GLOBE eventually an evaluation similar to the one that Grameen Bank created would need to be put in place so that we could look and determine how effective the loans have been. This is important because in order to move ahead and make progress in the program an evaluation needs to be created and put into action so that we can make sure that the loans are doing their job and if not what can done to improve this.
Log # 8
By Quidan Yu
As the semester is approaching its end, I felt like I should not miss out the chance to go to any other inspiring events and learn more in this great program. When I knew that MFCNY is hosting another free event called Linking Microfinance with Micro Insurance: Opportunity and Challenges, it instantly caught my attention. The corporate building of Mayer Brown, the sponsoring company of this event, lies in the center of the city with a premium window view. At the beginning, it was hard to believe even the world most prestigious law-firm is getting involved in the microfinance market. Before the panel discussion starts, there was a nice reception where I talked to several players in the field of microfinance.
One lady I talked to works for Morgan Stanley and she told me that Morgan Stanley now has a department that is specially designated for microfinance service development. Another woman I talked to at the event works for Opportunity International, a non-profit microfinance institution that builds its own banks in developing countries. It is only when I see it with my own eyes that I started to believe that even the world most renowned companies, have also started to enter the microfinance and microinsurance market. I think the participation of these leading financial institutions might be the best proof that microfinance and microinsurance are viable businesses with great potential to be successful. I found this reception really broadened my view and the way I look at microfinance and microinsurance.
I found the following panel discussion really educational and intriguing for the following reasons. First of all, although all the panelists are involved in the microinsurance field, they have different approaches to the market. The first panelist, Dr. Kwon, is a professor at St. John’s University. He gave us a brief and comprehensive overview, during which I learned a lot about the academic and research sides of microinsurance. The second panelist is a participator in a financial inclusion fund, exclusively microinsurance investment. His firm manages a 130 million dollar fund that is used to invest on various microfinance or microinsurance projects.
They have 19 investors ranging from international financial institutions, governmental and commercial investors. When they filter the projects to invest their fund, they evaluate the project based on the social impact it generates on the local community. One of their recent investments is made on a company who works for HIV prevention in South Africa. The rest of the two panelists are the ones who actually work for a microinsurance company. They gave us more details on how a micro insurance company runs and a lot more insights from a business perspective. Ms. Casey Gheen said, “In developing countries, microinsurance is more about access, while in developed countries, it’s more about awareness now.” Ms. Hallie Harenski also noted, “From the underwriting perspective, microinsurance has the same profitability as any other business will do.” Both of the above panelists agreed that technology and innovation is best way to expand microinsurance quickly.
I think this great combination of panelists from various areas of the microinsurance really gave me a comprehensive understanding of microinsurance from different aspects. I can also foresee its future development together with the microfinance industry. Linking microfinance institutions to microinsurance as its distributor definitely sounds like a genius idea to me. By tagging an extra dollar to the interest of the borrower, microfinance institutions are creating a mutual benefit for both of the institutions and the borrowers. In case of a life insurance purchase, the borrower’s family can still get some financial compensation when the breadwinner in the family has lost his or her life. The MFI can also reduce its default risk in the case of sudden death of the loan borrower. As Dr. Kwon has noted, “the microfinance service process will develop theoretically in the following order: microlending (credit), microsaving (investment), microinsurance.” I firmly believe that the collaboration of microfinance and microinsurance will help greatly to ensure economical prosperity and stability in developing countries.
I also found that this event made me realize how much I have learned from GLOBE so far. I found that I have no problem communicating with other field players I met at the reception and understanding what their business is. I also found that I have become very familiar with microfinance terminologies that came out of the panelists’ description such as credit scoring, operation risk, and underwriting processes. I am really grateful that I joined this great program, as it has granted me so much distinctive financial knowledge and experience.
By Alina Rizvi
We are exactly two weeks away from the final GLOBE presentations and now more than ever, the pressure is on. The weeks have literally flown by and as much as I want to believe that we can accomplish every goal we set, the truth is there isn’t enough time! However, as I look back I wouldn’t change a thing. We were ambitious in setting goals and the fact that we weren’t able to achieve everything shows not our lack of determination but rather our enthusiasm. We have completed a number of tasks successfully and I am proud of what were able to do this semester. I can’t speak for everyone in my group but I know that there is no shame in being too ambitious. It is just a reminder that a program like GLOBE can present many challenges and time constraints that we are up against. Time is always a challenge, especially in a program like GLOBE because it requires having to constantly keep a close eye on so many different elements.
This semester was especially difficult because in all of my six classes, I have had to work on a group project. I initially expected GLOBE to be the most difficult group project to complete because we only meet once a week but, the wonderful IT team has been the easiest group of people to work with! I know that for me personally, GLOBE would be a lot different without them. With so much going on in our own lives, it’s sometimes easy to forget that collectively as GLOBE managers- we are all responsible for staying true to our mission of alleviating poverty. My group members are all dedicated and hardworking, so it’s nice to have my colleagues to remind me of that. I can’t wait to stand up with my fellow group members on May 3rd at our final presentations and show all of the GLOBE supporters, GLOBE alumni, and future GLOBE managers what a driven team and a great mission can truly accomplish.
Log # 9
By Nicole Tonis
Last week the Supreme Court ruled that Muhammad Yunus is no longer is the managing director of the Grameen Bank. The Supreme Court stated as manager of the bank he has over stayed in violation to the bank law. The law for commercial banks in Bangladesh is that managing directors need to retire at the age of 60; Yunus is currently 70 years old violating the bank law. The Grameen banks board appealed the case in order to keep Yunus as the managing director. The Supreme Court has to make a decision on this appeal but that appeal is most likely to be rejected.
Yunus has been under attack for quite some time now. The Norwegian government had suspected that Yunus was escaping taxes. Yunus had denied that he was doing anything wrong financially. When the Norwegian government looked into this problem they found no misuse of funds or corruption. Yunus had handled the situation very well and his followers wanted him to continue to stay as the managing director of the microlending bank that he had founded. Yunus didn’t want his bank to have a bad name and would have done whatever it took to keep the bank in good standing even if that meant he should resign.
A lot of people have been disappointed with Yunus’ actions. For example, Khandaker Ibrahim Khaled, a prominent economist and former deputy governor of the central bank, stated that Yunus should have went through the steps to find someone to become the managing director instead of trying to remain the managing director himself. I feel that Yunus is not only the managing director he is the founder of this institution. He has different feelings towards the bank than any other managing director would. It is hard to find someone to precede him that will have the same passion, love and dedication to the bank as he does.
I am very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision. The law states that a managing director has to retire at the age of 60 but Yunus is not just a managing director of the bank. He is the owner and founder of this institution. If he isn’t allowed to be the managing director because of the law he should still be able to have a role in the institution since he has such a love for this cause. I also think that because Yunus will not be involved anymore with his bank there will be a lot of apprehensive borrowers and donors during the upcoming months.
Log # 9
By Rita Mannino
This week in class, we discussed the different challenges that microfinance institutions face. One of the challenges that I noted was the difficulty in obtaining the client’s information, due to both illiteracy rates and language barriers. Being part of the Finance and Risk Assessment team, this was definitely one of our biggest challenges in vetting through the loan applications. At the beginning of the course, before we delve into any of the applications, I had an idea of the scarcity of the information that would be on applications. It was only when we actually started reviewing each of the borrower’s applications that I was able to really see what limited information we would have in some cases. As Dr. Sama pointed out in class, the everyday challenges that are being faced by some of these big microfinance institutions, are also being faced in our classroom. We are fortunate enough to have the partnership of the Daughters of Charity, helping us with our borrowers. But there is only so much they can do and we continue to face these challenges, as other large MFIs are doing.
Another interesting point that came up in class tonight was the importance and need for transparency. In many of our business courses, we learn about the relevance of transparency over and over again. In order for our program to grow, we need to promote clarity and transparency within each team, just as it needs to be promoted and enforced among other MFIs.
On a final note, thinking about how quickly the semester is ending is truly upsetting. Dr. Sama mentioned in class tonight that her lectures are done for the semester and it made me reflect on how much knowledge I’ve gained since the start of the class in January. I will leave the more lengthy reflection for the final log, but I will truly miss coming to class every Tuesday night to talk about microfinance.
Log # 9
By Oluwabukola Ayeni
Just two more weeks until our final presentation! I can’t wait until graduation next year so that I can diligently represent GLOBE on my graduation gown I am truly proud of GLOBE and what my team and I have achieved so far. This week Dr. Sama gave a lecture about microfinance products and transparency which relates to the Chapter 6 in the Microfinance Handbook. Nowadays, the availability of saving services at Microfinance institutions is now being questioned. According to Joanna Ledgerwood, there are two main reasons why saving services are usually not available at Microfinance Institutions. First, because there is the misleading belief that the poor cannot and do not save. Second, many institutions are not legally allowed to mobilize deposits.
Surprisingly to know, microentrepreneurs save for a lot of reasons including investing, social and religious purposes, and for retirement. In order for GLOBE to even consider developing saving services, we would have to ensure our clients that the saving services are convenient, liquid, and secure. Also, we would have to obtain licensing and fulfill reserve requirements. Unfortunately, we are currently not able to provide these assurances due to the fact that GLOBE is currently managed by students that vary every semester.
GLOBE is a successful microloan program that creating real positive impacts in the lives of people. Dr. Sama and the rest of the class are constantly working to ensure the longevity of this program. The day of the final presentation is near and I am looking forward to giving great insight and advice to the next accounting and enterprise development team of Fall 2011.
By Deidre Smith
There are only two classes left, but my role and work as a GLOBE manager will not be confined by mere academic requirements.
This week our focus for the class is on the saving aspect of microfinance. According to Ledgerwood, savings mobilization is considered to be a crucial factor in the development of sound financial markets. Rural and non-wealthy households in particular have become the focus of policies to promote savings. However, given the income level of the poor (and I am not referring to the ‘poorest of the poor’) I find it a bit unconvincing that designing saving services for the poor will be of great success. I do not mean to be pessimistic, however, through observation I cannot entirely agree with this. Mobilizing the economy to save is great, but in reality given the economic conditions that exist, is it a feasible goal?
Moreover, what portion of the poor’s income is there left to save? My doubt stems from the Jamaican saying, “From hand to mouth”; which translates to mean, I work just enough to provide for the family and to make ends meet. This is the reality that most low income earners face. It’s not that they are unable to access saving services from conventional banks rather it’s a situation in which their potential deposit is needed to meet living needs.
Offering the poor saving services is great because good saving programs can contribute to local and national economic development and can help improve equity. For the individuals living in poverty themselves-- I’m not sure how much it can benefit them, with such low levels of income.
Surprisingly, throughout my readings little attention is given to the importance of education. In today’s competitive world, I believe providing educational opportunity to all members of society will serve as a crucial factor in breaking the cycle of poverty. An educated population secures for themselves, a higher income level and thus a better standard of living. This avenue of breaking poverty cycles has never failed. Thus, in my opinion, the best way to alleviate poverty is through access to education.
Log # 10
By Joseph Hwalek
Looking back on the entire semester I think that participating in GLOBE has been one of the greatest experiences that I have had at St. John’s University. I think that the lectures were always informative and Dr. Sama had such a passion for this subject that it was always interesting. Not only did she teach us about microfinance but she brought in real world experiences that helped us learn. I think that my favorite lecture dealt with multiculturalism because it discussed the idea that by understanding the lending products that are needed to match the traits of borrowing populations meaning that by understanding these products we can create a more sustainability in the microfinance industry.
I enjoyed the team that I worked with because we always had a good laugh while getting our work done. I think that the group had individuals with different strengths and weaknesses and we played off of those well. The team liaison, Alina, was great and always made sure we were on track. I think that the books that we read were chosen well and encompassed many of the concepts that as young entrepreneurs we needed to learn to learn about microfinance.
The Muhammad Yunus books were great and it was good to hear from one of the first microfinance focused individuals yet the Microfinance Handbook and the Economics of Microfinance gave us the scholarly sides of how microfinance affects communities. The event at Columbia and the speakers that came into the class allowed us to learn by hearing firsthand accounts of microfinance and other areas in which it affects the world than just lending money. Lastly, I think that working on the IT and Communications team played off of some of my strengths and also tested some of my weaknesses and allowed me to learn and grow as a student. I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a manager in this class and would take the class over again if I could.
By Katherine Cartagena
I can’t believe that this semester has come to an end and now all the managers are getting ready for the big presentation day on May 3rd. As I’m writing this last log I want to reflect upon all the amazing things that happened with the marketing team, Dr. Sama, the entire class, and the university. First, I want to acknowledge all the great efforts that the Spring 2011 managers made to improve the program and go beyond limits. With out the consistent teamwork, discipline, passion and dedication of the whole class, this semester would have not been as wonderful and productive as it was.
Second, I want to congratulate my team for the hard work we all contributed. Everyone was responsible, fast, and efficient. We all worked together very well, understood our ideas, brought innovative thoughts to the table and accomplished many tasks. With the motivation and thrill of my team we were able to execute amazing bake sales, brand awareness, a pitch GLOBE video, an elevator pitch, a rap song and our upcoming presentation event!
Furthermore, I would also like to congratulate Dr. Sama for the leadership she had to run the entire program. Her lessons about microfinance were always very interesting and a great learning experience. It was my one time opportunity to learn about such a lucrative topic like microfinance. But most importantly Dr. Sama transmitted both the passion and the desire to help those in need in developing countries overcome poverty. I will take all of the knowledge I learned during this semester towards helping to alleviate poverty by taking action and being proactive. I would like to thank Dr. Sama for this.
In conclusion, this semester is very unique from all the others. It is my last semester of college, but what makes it different is the fact that I was part of this honorable program and by own means this makes me different from all the students at St. John’s. I’m happy to leave St. John’s knowing that I made a difference and I will cherish all of the moments lived in GLOBE!
Log # 10
By Mary Sheehan
St. Vincent de Paul so eloquently said that “the poor have much to teach you. You have much to learn from them.” Looking back over this semester in GLOBE I realize how true this quote actually is. If we all look back at our experiences we realize how much this class has changed and shaped our lives. It has given me the passion and drive to use my finance major and knowledge to help others. It has given me a deep appreciation for all that I have. Through this class you learn a gratitude for the simple elements in life, like food, that we all take for granted. GLOBE has also helped me to truly see how precious and valuable a person’s life really is no matter what their circumstances are. Each individual no matter how poor still deserves the same respect, kindness, and time that we show each other. Out of all the reading it was Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus that really touched me and taught me a great deal. It taught me that everyone deserves a chance, and we can give hope to these people by giving those people loans so that they can make a life for themselves. We need to see the good in others and trust that they will take the loans, use them, and pay them back. The poor are forgotten and cast aside by so many people, but they have a drive to live and survive. Microfinance institutions and organizations give the poor an opportunity that others won’t.
This class is a perspective maker, life changer, and door opener. We live in a capital driven world. We take classes to learn so that we can get a job in a company or corporation to make money for other people and for ourselves. Microfinance and this course enable us to extend capitalism to others through these loans. It is giving them an opportunity to have what we have but in their very own towns and communities. It is not philanthropy, but giving others a chance.
Each class lecture helped to build each of our own microfinance tool boxes. We applied what we learned in class to the work that was being done. In the future we can refer to our tool box and use the skills and knowledge we have acquired; like poverty mapping, micro insurance, or risk and performance management just to name a few. The guest speakers and microfinance club of New York event helped us to explore new vistas in microfinance. I am very fortunate that at the beginning of my career I had the opportunity to participate and make a difference.
This course opens one up to use their talents for an amazing higher good, to help others and make a difference. It pulls together three aspects of one’s own being; heart, mind, and soul, and uses them together. Most of our classes don’t do that, we just use our mind. GLOBE helps to fine tune that moral compass that we all have, in doing so it benefits not only others but ourselves. It is truly a gift to be able to be a part of this wonderful course. Many may not have the opportunity to experience microfinance or this class.
It’s shocking to realize how little it takes to make a difference in someone’s life and help these people achieve a better life. To some of us $100 dollars may mean money to buy school books or a new gadget, but for these borrowers $100 dollars means hope, survival, a step up to a better life, or simply a chance. Everyone deserves a chance in life, no matter what their situation is. Throughout my life I have learned about poverty and the statistics that are out there. But it wasn’t until I took this class and read the stories and loan applications that all that I have learned and read became real to me. It has opened my eyes and let me see the world through different lenses. Once that door is opened, you are always aware of the poverty and need out there, you can’t close the door. There are some that try to suppress that drive to help, but you are always aware of others and their need. As human beings we are made to be compassionate and kind individuals.
I am never going to forget the people that I have helped and GLOBE has helped. I will carry their stories with me forever. This class and the borrowers have left a mark on my heart. I will look back on this class and all that I have learned with deep appreciation and gratitude for all that it has taught and given me.
When the class first started and we were reviewing the loan applications I felt a huge weight on my shoulders. I was dealing with real people’s lives. In previous classes I have had to deal with real life situations and work out problems and find solutions but nothing is quite like GLOBE. As a member of the finance and risk assessment team I have had a hand in analyzing and deciding on which applicants will receive a loan. Our team researched Vietnam and Bolivia and learned so much about the cultures of Nigeria and the Congo. What I value most about this course is that it is a hands-on approach to learning that brings together the academic and Vincentian components of this university.
Robert Frost, the great American poet, eloquently spoke about the decision making process we are all faced with in his poem "The Road Not Taken". He likened the choices we are faced with, such as choosing to take a class or not, to the road which diverged in a yellow wood. The two path choices were similar but one road was grassy and wanted wear. He chose that one! I had applied for GLOBE once before and did not get it but this past fall I decided to apply again because it was something that I wanted to be a part of. I chose GLOBE, and it has made all the difference!
Log # 10
By Kamya Chandra
Excitement. Anticipation. Optimism. Hope. These were some of the emotions that surged through me when we began working on GLOBE in January - I was confident that this group, this class of students, was exactly what the program needed to propel it into nothing short of Hollywood-style saving the world. Whenever I listed the classes I was taking to friends and family, I always started out with GLOBE; I explained the nature of the program and my designated role in it with more than a little pride in my voice. It was, after all, a way to finally learn how to apply the skills gained from hours of Wall-Street-oriented business classes towards the improvement of social betterment. The adrenaline was pumping - there was work to be done.
That excitement was perhaps the strangest thing about the class. No matter how passionate you may be about accounting or how much you claim to love the study of developing nations, you can only do so many adjusted trial balances and research papers before you start to wonder about the point of it all. Yet GLOBE, as a class, was exciting, and we knew why. We knew that every task we performed, every form we created, every impact evaluation we monitored, and every financial literacy tool we crafted went directly into the field and changed people’s lives. Communication within the team for the final presentation became vital not because we sought temporary approval from our professor, but because we knew that the presentation could actually influence a donor to contribute to our program and (to toy with a cliché) help those desperate to help themselves. The idea that you are performing tasks that aren’t simply for a grade (or even just for a ‘greater understanding’ of the subject matter), but for the betterment of people’s lives made it almost easy to be self-motivated, innovative, and responsible. GLOBE is not just a class, it is a project.
At the same time, it would be incorrect to say that GLOBE isn’t a class. It remains one of the most academically enriching programs on campus – enormously informative in a short space of time, and immensely didactic for every student. GLOBE teaches you not only the basics of microfinance through texts that are written by the founders of the industry; it also provides you with opportunities to meet with expert practitioners and scholars of microfinance through various events, conferences, and panel presentations organized in the New York area. Because the industry is new and rapidly changing, it is important to have not only the textbook version but the on-the-field version. GLOBE gives you both of those perspectives.
In addition, the amount of personal growth that I experienced through GLOBE was unparalleled. It taught me how to be a leader, how to assign tasks based on an evaluation of individual team-member’s strengths, how to step outside of my business-student shoes and think of finance and money in layman’s terms. It forced me to understand the meaning of teamwork in more than just a ‘we need to complete this assignment’ way; it showed me how cooperation, negotiation, and collaboration really work in a way a group project/term presentation for a typical Management class never could. Perhaps the most difficult thing it taught me was the importance of compromise – no matter how much you work towards goals, sometimes things are out of your hands, and you must simply wait or settle for something else in the interest of the program as a whole.
This we understood near the middle of the program. We all wanted to craft business plans for the most common entrepreneurial ventures (fishing, sewing, and jewellery-making) so that we could help our borrowers start and run a business even if they did not come up with business ideas themselves. There was no way we could have feasibly achieved this goal, because we had no idea how business operations worked in the region, nor did we know what challenges the entrepreneurs would face while running their business. Instead, we had to settle for the creation of the mid-term business evaluation form that would ask our current borrowers how they conducted operations and what challenges they faced, in the hope that the accumulation of such data would aid future GLOBE classes in writing accurate, useful, and location sensitive business plans. It was frustrating to have to settle, but it taught us a great deal about goals, unrealistic expectations, and the dangers of presumptive modeling
To say that the semester whizzed by, would be a massive understatement! Because the excitement and adrenaline never left, it felt as though we were constantly racing the clock and constantly needed to work on eight things at once. Before we knew it, it was time to wrap up the semester, reflect on our experiences, and give recommendations to future GLOBE managers. I may spend an hour, a week, or a year explaining to them the ways to make all of the logistical and managerial operations and procedures run smoothly, but at the end of the day I wish to leave them with one message: Go into GLOBE wanting to change the world, and it will change you.
It seems like it was just yesterday, walking into D'Angelo Hall for the first GLOBE class of the semester. I would explain to you what I was thinking, but I wasn’t thinking of anything. I did not know what to expect from this class. The only thing I knew is that I was given this opportunity to help alleviate poverty to budding entrepreneurs. I was excited for the chance to work with other gifted students, I was nervous of the unexpected, but most importantly I was anxious to start.
Prior to the start of this semester, I really had no idea what microfinance was. Obviously, I was able to put the two words together, micro and finance, and know I was dealing with finance with low monetary values. But this class was different. The past four years I was programmed to think of finance as maximizing shareholder profit, bottom lines, more money; you get the idea. But, with GLOBE, you need to forget about everything you learned with finance. This was such a new way to think about things. Instead of thinking in terms of how much money can I make, us GLOBE managers needed to think of things based on how many people we can help. We needed to use our resources as efficiently as possible that way we could maximize our total dollars used for loans.
The experiences that I had in GLOBE are ones that I will never forget. It truly did change me as a person. I was always focused on money; having more of it, making more of it and always having it. But as soon as I stepped into class, I realized that it really isn’t all about the money. I can make a few hundred dollars in a day with my insignificant weekend job. This is good because I will have money to spend throughout the week. This was the old way of thinking. Now, when I make money, the first thing I think of is "Wow, this can go towards a few loans!"
Although I am extremely excited that I am graduating, and that I can take a little break from school longer than a few months, I wish I could still attend GLOBE. This isn’t a class that you dread going to, it is a class that you actually look forward to. Even though class was supposed to end at 9:35, no one ever had a problem staying until well after 10:00. There was so much work to do, with so little time to do it, that you never realize how late you were still in class until you actually walked out. I am lucky though, I get to enjoy the GLOBE experience for an extra two weeks more than my fellow managers. I will be spreading the word about GLOBE on the other side of the globe (literally). I can't wait for the Vietnam trip. It is going to be an experience of a life time. I am looking forward to do all that I can to help those in need.
Now it is time for a few special thanks. First and foremost, thank you Dr. Sama. You are one of the few professors that truly do care about what you do. You are passionate in your teaching and you really care about the success of your students. You make the lectures engaging and keep everyone entertained. You get us discounts any chance you get! For all of this, I say thank you.
Second, I would like to thank my fellow team members for a great semester. We were strangers at the start of the semester but came together to make THE BEST finance and risk assessment team GLOBE has ever seen! (Yes, I am partially biased, but what can you expect!) We came together as a close knit team, had our ups and downs, and overall had an amazing semester.
Third, I would like to thank my fellow GLOBE managers from the Spring 2011 semester. We were quiet at the beginning of the semester, but once we broke the ice and got to know each other, we were one big coexisting group. For this, I give a big round of applause (even if I am the only one clapping).
Lastly, I would like to thank St. John's for providing me with the trip to Vietnam and the opportunity to act as a student fellow. I am extremely grateful that I was selected to represent our school on the other side of the world. I will not let anyone down.
This marks the end of the GLOBE semester, but it doesn’t mark the end of helping those in need. The things I learned will last a life time, and so will be desire to help.