Nonprofit Radio for December 19, 2022: Grameen Team Dream


Alex CountsGrameen Team Dream

In his brand-spanking-new book, “Small Loans, Big Dreams,” Alex Counts recounts the story of Grameen Bank’s wild success moving millions of people out of poverty by elevating microfinancing for the poor. Alex tells the story and shares valuable lessons beyond economic development.



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[00:02:03.49] spk_0:
And welcome to Tony-Martignetti non profit radio big non profit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast. Oh, I’m glad you’re with me, I’d be stricken with galactose EMEA if you tried to sugarcoat the idea that you missed this week’s show, Grameen Team dream in his brand spanking new book, small loans, Big Dreams Alex Counts recounts the story of Grameen Bank’s wild success, moving millions of people out of poverty by elevating micro financing for the poor Alex tells the story and shares valuable lessons beyond economic development. tony take two take time for yourself. We’re sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot C O. It’s a pleasure to welcome back Alex Counts. He is the author of the book, Small loans, Big Dreams, Grameen Bank and the micro finance revolution in Bangladesh America and beyond His other books include Change the World Without losing your mind and when in doubt, ask for more which we talked about on this show. In 1997 he established Grameen Foundation with the support of nobel laureate dr Mohammed Yunus became its President and Ceo and ran the Green Foundation for its 1st 18 years now. He’s an independent consultant to nonprofits including the India philanthropy alliance and an adjunct professor at johns Hopkins University, He’s at Alex Counts and Alex counts dot com. Welcome back to the show Alex Counts. Pleasure

[00:02:11.83] spk_1:
to be here. I love what you do, tony and just so looking forward to the conversation

[00:02:16.17] spk_0:
Oh. Thank you absolutely yes, we have the hour together. My pleasure as well. Thank you, Congratulations on the book.

[00:02:23.78] spk_1:
Well, it’s it’s great to have it out there. It’s a you know, it’s a third edition um but it was so, so much needed to be out there because so much has happened since the second edition really feels like a new book and it was about quadruple the work, I thought it would be to get it out, but it was more than worth

[00:02:53.85] spk_0:
it. Absolutely more than worth it. Of course, of course. Alright, let’s start with a basic understanding what let’s acquaint folks with what microfinance is. So we know everybody’s on the same page to start. Sure,

[00:03:55.37] spk_1:
well, you know, mike as some histories of microfinance explain this, my book isn’t one of them that, you know, the, the idea of bringing financial services to people that are excluded from them as a way to help them self actualize, get out of poverty, get more control over their lives goes back Hundreds of years. People have been trying it in fact, um the pawnshop in its origins several 100 years ago was an effort to bring financial services and it kind of morphed into something that’s now kind of seedy, but in its modern incarnation, Muhammad Yunus and some other innovators in the seventies said we want to bring financial services, especially loans to people who lack collateral are illiterate. Poor women have all the disadvantages in, in country of Bangladesh where he started and we want to design a bank. Uh that is, is not just has them on a, like a kind of little charity program, but it’s actually designed especially for them and gives them financial services, things you and I take for granted alone when we needed a place to deposit our money, insurance services, makes it available to them. And what they found is

[00:04:07.05] spk_0:

[00:04:36.65] spk_1:
are so hardworking and so grateful for it that they really prioritized paying back the loans, depa visiting money when they had extra and it made for a bank that was able to sustain itself over time and help many of those women and their families get out of poverty, if not in that generation then set up their Children to get out of poverty. So, and you know, it’s it’s loans to start start or expand a small business. Um and uh is is, you know, so it’s not just loans for consumption or loans for uh some of it may go to that, but it’s mainly loans to engage in some sort of productive activity that the poor are doing already for the most part, but just do it a little more capital.

[00:05:23.14] spk_0:
You quote Mohammed Yunus uh saying that I think it’s access to capital or or access to credit is a human, right? Let’s acquaint us with Muhammad Yunus because he’s, he’s key to the, to the, well, he’s the founder, He’s key to this expansion of microfinance. I know he’s a mentor of yours, a colleague of yours, a friend of yours, acquaintance with this with this nobel laureate, you

[00:05:45.25] spk_1:
know, I’ve I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life, big and small, but one of the best was adopting him as a mentor at a time where he was willing to take on someone with, you know, only know skills, just idealism and energy. Um and I’ve adopted many more mentors, but he was he was a very good choice. Uh um and basically, when he talks about credit as human right? Just just to take that he’s, you know, people have criticized it and people who criticized him up and down. Uh and you know, that’s part of being a public figure and getting the Nobel prize and all

[00:05:53.35] spk_0:
something bold.

[00:06:58.93] spk_1:
Exactly. Um and if if you if you want to do something bold for society, you know, and you want to be successful, get ready for criticism. It’s it’s coming your way. But basically what he’s saying is, you know, and when the U. N. Says that everyone has a right to free speech or to health, health for all the way it was normally done was it was like it was the responsibility of governments to bring that to people? And he said, why don’t we give people a right to actually realize those things for themselves and and he thought that one of the key tools that people could use to actually realize their own right to food and right to shelter was to actually have the credit to be able to to be an agent of their own empowerment rather than waiting for someone else to do it. And so that’s why you said it was it was the human right that could help bring a lot of the other human rights to people who lack them. But basically he was a you know, so you know, son of a of a kind of upper middle class jeweler, not very wealthy but not poor in Bangladesh uh went off on a Fulbright fellowship like I would do to his country, but he took the full full right to the U.

[00:06:59.74] spk_0:
S. Uh

[00:07:45.46] spk_1:
got a PhD in economics at Vanderbilt. And while he was, you know, thinking about staying in the United States, he liked it here when his country fought a liberation War and became independent in 1971 he got caught up in the idealism of building a new country and he moved back to what would a country that kind of isn’t far from what Haiti is today in terms of broken down, nothing works. No, you know, just it was, and he said, well let’s just start and he started teaching. Um but but he didn’t get too far into teaching Economics at the second most prestigious university in the country um before he just started saying, gosh, you know, this seems kind of empty teaching when people are starving outside my classroom, let’s go figure out, let me get close to the problem um that and see what’s going on there and see if I can even help one person. And through through a series of hundreds and hundreds of conversations with people in the villages around his university,

[00:07:55.99] spk_0:
he he

[00:08:04.06] spk_1:
said, first of all, agriculture is important. So he started a pretty successful agricultural program, but then he said that didn’t really do it. He said that fundamentally people lack access to capital to apply their skills in the market place. Um And then he started a tiny credit program, but then he had the boldness and the and the tenacity to develop

[00:08:16.87] spk_0:
his own first with his own money.

[00:08:55.03] spk_1:
Yeah, he his 1st $27 was he just, he couldn’t, but then he said wait a second, I can only do this, I can’t do this for you know, I so then he started getting banks involved in doing it institutionally. But originally he was just he was shocked that such a small amount of money was holding people back because basically people were, you know, in the thrall of of money lenders and basically most of the profits of the work they did, they were they were quite skilled stool makers in that village. It happened uh and they were making these beautiful stools and getting a tiny fraction of the value of them because they didn’t have the money to buy the raw materials. So he just he likes $27. Will will will set you all free from almost slavery, you know, I’ll do it today, but then he said, What’s the institutional solution to this after they he saw them succeed and

[00:09:08.21] spk_0:
that and that

[00:09:09.14] spk_1:
Started what became Grameen Bank, which today serves eight million women across this country and has been a model for programs serving tens of millions more.

[00:09:23.87] spk_0:
And uh he and the bank won the Nobel peace Prize In in 2006.

[00:09:45.80] spk_1:
It was a big surprise. I mean, I I thought if he was ever gonna win, it was gonna be 2005, which was the international year of microcredit, which we a bunch of us kind of had been conniving to get the U. N. To adopt and they finally did and but and once they didn’t get it, then we thought it was lost cause and they, you know, they have oddsmakers for who’s gonna win Nobel prizes, you know, like for everything And he wasn’t even on the like the top 10. And yet he is a surprise he wanted um and it was, it was just, you know, an amazing recognition. Um it was also a double edged sword as I didn’t, as I barely understood then I should say. Um it was going to bring new resources and attention to him and his work and people that worked with him like me but would also bring new scrutiny and criticism and enemies uh and all that played out in the years after that surprise announcement.

[00:10:14.77] spk_0:
Did you go to the ceremony?

[00:10:16.60] spk_1:
I did. Um I

[00:10:18.78] spk_0:
looked okay. I looked for you in the audience. There were, there was a couple of videos, I didn’t see you. I want, I figured you were there. I looked for you.

[00:10:57.73] spk_1:
Yeah, it was, you know, it’s, it’s always you know, kind of a classic problem. You get a big honor and who travels with you and and all. But you know, I was fortunate enough to be invited. I, I sat in row 12 next to my board chair, Grameen Foundation and friend Susan Davis. Uh and uh uh and uh and it was just you know, it was, it was like this dream come true and then you go to this concert afterwards and like Lionel Richie and Sharon Stone and all these people are celebrating it just, I remember walking out of that evening and like oh my God, like everything we wanted in terms of, you know, getting people to pay attention to what Muhammad Yunus had done that we always felt was not given the attention, it deserves, its like that era is over and it was over but the year ahead

[00:11:10.10] spk_0:
was didn’t

[00:11:24.61] spk_1:
turn exactly as we thought, but but it was an amazing recognition. The Norwegians do a super classy job with it. The weather stinks of that type of year. But other than that, it’s just it’s every aspect of it is done beautifully and they’ve really the whole city, maybe the whole country, I didn’t really travel is like it’s a city designed around the concept of

[00:11:31.65] spk_0:

[00:11:32.39] spk_1:
Um and museums and everything about it is um they’ve like adopted the Nobel Peace Prize almost became their like civic religion. Uh and it’s just beautiful.

[00:11:56.01] spk_0:
You know, my work is planned giving the Nobel prizes were originally a gift in Alfred Nobel’s will to uh to I think to a university. Yeah,

[00:11:56.50] spk_1:
there’s something around that history

[00:11:58.02] spk_0:
and and

[00:11:59.12] spk_1:
then all of them are in all the mix up. The peace Prize I believe are given in Sweden. But because he believed also in Norwegian Sweden kind of solidarity, he had the peace prize done in Oslo and uh and that’s been a tradition ever since, I guess that must have been in his will as well,

[00:13:01.15] spk_0:
This idea of of $27 being transformative to to someone’s business. Um and and you know, let’s just let’s just say a little more about that. He started in Bangladesh. And then, but then, I mean the bank between the bank and the foundation, I recorded uh Philippines, Nicaragua, India Uganda Rwanda Cameroon Haiti Indonesia. Uh the us were gonna, I’d like to talk something about the US to uh where maybe $27 isn’t quite transformational, but still what we would consider small amounts of capital can be can be Transformative, but you know, talk about those opening days where and what what the lives of the women were like that, $27 could be could be so influential. So so valuable to them. Well,

[00:13:30.32] spk_1:
it’s, you know, it’s a little misleading because $27 was worth more than and the and the and the and the Bangladeshi Taco is worth more. But you know, still it’s a it’s a small amount, it’s let’s let’s say in today’s dollars, it might be uh you know, a couple $100 for 40 people. Um And we’re talking

[00:13:31.17] spk_0:
About, let me just orient folks, we’re talking about mid 70s, the bank started in 1976.

[00:16:07.80] spk_1:
Yeah, he exactly, he he had been kind of walking around the village is um basking in the glow of the successful agriculture project, but then the people who didn’t have any land were like, we didn’t really get help much. Um And so he said, well what would help you? And then basically he found that and this has become a generalized issue that, you know, as as my board chair, Susan Davis said um she said, you know, in the in in developing countries, there aren’t enough jobs, there isn’t a social safety net. So basically a lot of people, it’s You work for yourself or you starve. Now you may not be the greatest entrepreneur or you may be very good, but it’s your only choice. And so you try your best to do some sort of economic activity that you don’t need to rely on someone else to employ you or the government to give you resources, you’re on your own. And so people use, I mean some of these businesses are capitalized with the equivalent of $10 or $15. Um and and it’s very inefficient because you know, they need to go back and buy raw materials every day. And that costs money. And so, and so suddenly if you, if you have someone running a a tiny tiny business, whether it’s trading or manufacturing or services and you go from having working capital of $15 to $100 that can be revolutionary, that can bring efficiencies that can allow you to take risks that can allow you to go to scale that you wouldn’t, and then, and some people stabilize their, you know, they don’t, poverty isn’t gonna end in their generation, it may end in the next one because they use a little bit of surplus to educate their kids. But other people, you know, people that might have been Bill Gates, uh, if they lived born in different circumstances. Next thing, you know, their business is $500 of capital and $1000 and $10,000. Uh and uh, and again, people say, well not not all of the poor entrepreneurs and true, but but all poor people want to survive. And again, when they’re not jobs, there’s no social safety net, you gotta, you gotta try your best at business because that’s your only option and you’re probably gonna be more successful of two conditions. One is you get capital and two, if you, if you’re in a supportive network of people that are going to try to open doors for you throw business your way, talk you out of bad ideas and and and foolhardy risks because as I say, running nonprofits or, or you know, I would have a lot of good ideas, but one out of every three of my ideas was a bad one and I would have smart people around me to talk me out of the bad ones because I didn’t know what they were. Well, the same thing is with Grameen the ingenuity of what he said is he organized people in these support groups or solidarity groups and you couldn’t, you couldn’t borrow from the bank unless you were part of one. And those groups have incentives

[00:16:21.14] spk_0:
to be

[00:16:37.07] spk_1:
there to kind of support and oversee and help each borrower which is, you know, important for any, I mean you talk to any business man who survived or woman, they’re gonna say, you know, there were, there were moments where I almost came off the rails, but someone helped me. Um, and a family member and investor, a spouse, whatever and you’re trying to re create that supportive environment social environment through building it into the lending system. And and that meant that you didn’t even need collateral because you had that supportive network the incentive to repay. And and you know, absent short periods after a natural disaster, Grameen has had 97 98 99% repayment for its entire history.

[00:17:42.86] spk_0:
You just scratched the surface of something that I’d like to go a little deeper on our misconceptions of the poor that there that that that they’re not bright that they’re not ambitious. Uh many may in fact be illiterate, but it goes beyond, it goes beyond the the misconceptions that we have that in terms of their their innate skills and resourcefulness and desires. Talk some about what you think are misconceptions here in the US are around the poor. Yeah.

[00:18:05.26] spk_1:
And and and people tend to be particularly misconceived around the poor in their own society. You know, they might say, well the poor of Asia are hardworking maybe. But in my own environment. And because you see the way the way I see it is, you know, we have to tell ourselves stories that that we can kind of live with ourselves if we don’t live in poverty of why it’s okay that people um why there are people here that I don’t have to like, you know spend a lot of time trying to address that because if you know, if if they’re

[00:18:12.39] spk_0:
not, if

[00:18:13.44] spk_1:
they’re not bright if they’re not hard working if they’re somehow engaged in uh self destructive behavior and all of that happens sometimes. But if that’s the root cause of it, then I can kind of let myself off the

[00:18:24.12] spk_0:
hook and I can let

[00:20:14.45] spk_1:
my government off the hook, I can let my charitable work because it’s like they do it to themselves. And and yet the truth is that people that live in conditions of poverty in certain ways are more highly skilled than you and I um as one of the women and I quote in the book who ran a kind of a like a microcredit program in Connecticut, she says, you show me a woman on $600 a month on a welfare check or through a business who can like get her family through the month, month after month. Like that’s a scrambler. That’s someone who can like optimize finance more than you and I can and and so you know, we you get thrown into an environment, you and I were to get thrown into environment and let’s say the language issue wasn’t there and we had almost nothing and you know, you know, and a lot of people around us that almost nothing we would fail. And they would succeed because they know how to, they know how to kind of get the most out of a small amount of resources and you and I aren’t used to doing it’s a skill we don’t have. And so when you start and this is Mohammed Yunus is kind of brilliance and it’s really generalize Herbal outside of the financial services, is he? It’s really a strengths based approach. It’s like, let’s and and there’s a management theories like this that I’ve been exposed to a little bit, which is, they say, you know, if you’re a worker in the white collar worker and don’t spend your life trying to trying to address your weaknesses, just put yourself in a job that maximizes your strengths and forget about your weaknesses. And, you know, it it’s as good as far as it goes. But in this case he’s saying, let’s let’s look at what the poor, the mere fact that they’ve survived poverty means they must have some skills and drive and determination and tenacity. And then let’s build on that and let’s build a financial system that kind of, that draws that out rather than looking at them as a series of deficits that need to be addressed by, you know, you know, by well intentioned people that are gonna teach them something, uh you know, at the end of the day about surviving with a little the small amounts of resources, the poor have a lot to teach us.

[00:22:25.12] spk_0:
It’s time for a break turn to communications. They have their bi weekly newsletter out, they talk about sort of timeless strategies, things that they’re advising you take a look at again for the new year that they’ve talked about in the past over this past year going public with a new strategy. New strategy is only as good as your ability to explain what it aims to achieve and why it matters to your key audiences. The case for creating a PR wolfpack enlist a squad of allies to help drive your PR efforts because journalists are so overworked and burdened, it’s hard to get their attention. Are you overlooking your most important audience encouraging you to speak smartly be intentional about when you’re talking internally to your, your own teams and the power of apology saying you’re sorry and meaning it never goes out of style. Of course, there’s a link to each of these where you can read the full post in the newsletter. They just give you a little little paragraph and I reduce that to a sentence. You can get their newsletter which is called on message. If you go to turn hyphen two dot c o. Because why would you want to do that? Your story is their mission. That’s why now back to Grameen team dream. Most of these folks I think are are born into poverty. You know, so it’s it’s been generation after generation. And as you said earlier, you know, if if if they can’t get themselves out of poverty in, in their own generation, you’re you’re confident that the next generation will will be better off than than their parents. That’s

[00:22:25.43] spk_1:
right. And, you know, the research on microfinance, which is a whole controversial area that I’ve taken

[00:22:30.37] spk_0:
some, I’ve

[00:22:57.38] spk_1:
taken some stands on that been highly criticized and um and we can get into that if you want. But basically what it tends to say um is that, you know, a segment of borrowers somewhere between 10 and 25% do extremely well. Like there there again, these are these are people that might have been Bill Gates um or mike Bloomberg, if they’re born in different circumstances, you give them $100 and wake up five years later and they’re like, they’re doing great uh for that village. And uh then there’s another segment, pretty much most of the rest who are only gonna benefit modestly, like their entrepreneurial skills are limited there, they’re there and they work hard with it. Um and and people say, oh my God, only, you

[00:23:10.99] spk_0:
know, you know,

[00:24:09.40] spk_1:
Only 25% succeed. Well, the truth of the matter is 25% succeed wildly and the rest succeed modestly. But when I when I’ve gone back to visit with people who have benefited from microfinance, you know, and and some of these studies just follow them for six or 12 months and I go back like six years or 12 years or 20 years later, I see that, you know, they’re still living in conditions that maybe aren’t that much better than they lived before, but especially when you lend to the women who tend to think inter generationally have a longer term um kind of you than men do. I think on average and all the societies I know that they they took that extra money and they invested it in the nutrition of the Children so their brain development was a little better. They hired a private tutor to make sure they would pass the government exam so they could get a good job. And then you see that you know that the the educational status, the nutritional status, the ability to get a job or to create your own job. Um it’s just wildly different from one generation to the other. So if you look at that woman, did she get out of poverty in the two years since she started bothering three years? No, but did she have a plan that she was now able to put into motion so that her Children, you stop that generational cycle of poverty with her generation very frequently I saw. Yes. And and again, I don’t think the researchers have have had the patience to look at that. Look at those long term trends, but to someone who’s been around the field for 30 years, they’re very obvious to me.

[00:24:46.96] spk_0:
I’m glad you brought in women because initially the bank was lending to anyone, but women turned out to be the better credit risk. They were more reliable re payers than than the men. Can you flush that out a little more than than what you said. Just you know,

[00:25:11.00] spk_1:
this Mohammed Yunus didn’t begin as this kind of like this feminist, you know, ideal. He he just, he kind of approached it pretty and pretty simple, pragmatic way. He said the banking system as I understand it has three balls, it’s anti poor, anti women and anti illiterate.

[00:25:17.38] spk_0:

[00:27:02.17] spk_1:
I wanna I wanna bank that that you don’t need collateral, you can be poor and borrow um that you don’t have to read and write will figure that one out. So you and I want 50% of my borrowers to be women because 50% of population is women. Uh and and and those are the objectives he set for himself. Now a few years in he noticed something, he noticed that the women were very dedicated to repaying their loans absent some major tragedy. They always paid back. Men were a little more erratic. Um Men’s business were a little more profitable, but they were also but also they took more risks and and more than failed. Um And uh and they and the women really kind of that that group solidarity uh took root a lot more uh you know, being supportive of each other. Um and having that kind of conscience to say, gosh, my business is going well. But the woman in my group is struggling. Let me go see what’s how I can help her just seems to be more of a kind of a feminine characteristic. Uh And so from that point onward, he said, you know what, basically all new groups that we form, we’re gonna be women. He didn’t kick out the men. He said they came in, but we changed the rules and um and I think, you know, and what ultimately happens here now, some people criticize microfinance. Well then, you know, borrowers, the women borrowers, but they give the money to the men. Sometimes it happens, sometimes they give them part of the money and they keep part of the money for their own business. Uh There are lots of variations. But but what what what Muhammad Yunus ultimately said is we want to help poor families, but if normally the representative of the family to an institution is the father or the husband and might work in some cases, but he said, microfinance works best when we’re helping the family, but the representative of the family is the mother or the wife. Um And then she, and that gives

[00:27:08.50] spk_0:
her kind

[00:27:49.63] spk_1:
of respect in the community and within the family, it gives her some kind of leverage even if she hands over the loan to her husband. Still, it came through her. Uh And that kind of changes the way he sees her oftentimes. Um So he once, once he saw this dynamic that it worked better, especially from the perspective of reducing poverty. Um then then he said, you know, I’m just gonna go with women here. I’m not gonna ignore the men, I’m going to, you know, pay them respect. But they are the husbands of our clients, uh, and we respect them, but we don’t lend to them, We don’t do business with them, especially on the loan side. And if they want to deposit money with us fine. And And he and he advised people who took his idea forward like Grameen America, which has done it so successfully in the us for the past 12 years. Um he said start with women only. Like we we just we made a mistake early on the 5050 thing was an experiment. And but once we learned, you don’t have to do that. Just start with women and just go with it 100%.

[00:28:25.25] spk_0:
I want to shift a little bit, I guess maybe from the, from the factual to the to the more opinion, because you’ve worked in poverty alleviation for decades. What what do you what do you see as the causes of poverty? Well,

[00:30:35.60] spk_1:
I mean, the causes of poverty, I mean, you know, you go, you know, at its core, um you know, you have to look at, you know, you have to look at colonialism, you have to look at racism. You have to look at some of the, I mean, ultimately, if you if you go back before the Industrial Revolution by today’s standards, everyone was poor, like 95% of people were poor. Um, and uh, and so that was the norm. But then once, once, as we as a civilization started to kind of accumulate wealth uh um that then, you know, there were there were there were people in a position to um to kind of get benefit from that wealth um whether it was natural resources or industrialization or whatever, that um that certain people just were able to accumulate a lot of wealth and and others weren’t. And and that’s when you and and again, I look at when I think about poverty, I think much, much less about income, which can fluctuate and not be that great indicator, but assets. And one of the things you see in this country is the average african american family is many of your listeners know as about 10% of the net worth of the average white family. Um and so assets give you options, assets allow you to think, gosh, we see a business opportunity, let’s take that. Um We, you know, we, we want to, we want to kind of place a bet on our brightest kid to go to a very expensive school and when you have assets, you have options. Um and maybe people don’t always make the right decision with their options, but by having them and within a family structure where you can kind of, you know, bring in bad decisions and you know like like it is with the solidarity group. So um so I think, you know, the poverty to score is about um is ultimately about wealth and it’s about assets. It’s about productive assets who owns them. And are there ways in society um to ensure that people that don’t have access to productive assets, whether it’s an education or working capital for a business, um, if they can’t get them to the market mechanism through a pure capitalistic economy that there are other places they can go um whether it’s the state which has pros and cons or whether it’s a kind of a special purpose organization, like, I mean that there are alternatives for people that, and for those of us that have a degree of assets, we don’t need a lot of help. Um but for those that have, don’t have much in the way of assets and don’t have much in the way of options. Are there alternatives to them? And the countries that have made the most progress around poverty have created those kind of non market or quasi market alternatives. So people can accumulate wealth and and basically create options for their family that are, you know, commensurate with people that have been able to accumulate wealth one way or the other.

[00:31:29.57] spk_0:
I feel like it’s time for a story because the book is replete with stories of people succeeding some different degrees as you’ve suggested to different degrees, but um I don’t, you know, you pick one maybe a story about one of the solidarity groups or an individual give us uh give us a make this personal yeah,

[00:31:33.61] spk_1:
so you know, so first of all, you know I

[00:31:35.17] spk_0:
had before

[00:32:38.86] spk_1:
I was really qualified to do this book, the Bangladesh side, I needed to learn the language, I needed to do my homework in terms of the culture um and uh and yet to be able to, you know, it helped being an american to tell it to a global audience um but I really need to immerse myself. And one of the, one of the people I got to know um was a woman named non sometimes go by Nani um and she was from a hindu family, this is a majority muslim village, majority muslim country, but up until fairly recently the religious minorities were fairly well treated in Bangladesh, one of the, you know the good things, many good things about the society and so she and you know her her hindu caste was typically involved in somehow kind of making sweets and out of, you know, cottage cheese is the raw material of most indian sweets and desserts, you know, and uh and so she, her family through a series of things, you know, stupid lawsuits from one family to another, which is, you know, which happens in this country in every country and and some more natural disasters. They’re they’re basically they’re working capital to do their business that they knew very well was depleted and so ultimately they just had nowhere else to turn but to have the men in the family,

[00:32:50.92] spk_0:
you know

[00:34:36.60] spk_1:
Hire themselves out as day laborers for wealthy farmers and that was it and their skills kind of start to erode and when grooming came, in they lent you know $80 was the first loan uh and nobody’s like we’re back in business and she started slowly, you know, being to buy milk, turning into cottage cheese, sell the cottage cheese, turned the cottage cheese into sweets um and then started to trade, you know, so slowly slowly it took three or four years. Um you know, they kind of revived a dormant skill and one of the things that you know, I you know and got the whole family involved after school, the kids would go home and they would help with their piece. Um and because she was very entrepreneurial but if you looked at her pre grammy and you just say oh this is some sort of uneducated family, the women are kind of lazy, they’re just sitting around the men work in the fields when they can get work otherwise they just sit around and they must have no skills and they were highly skilled but lacking capital lacking, you know that that they basically their skills were just not being used and then the, and I used to sit around, I watched them turn, you know gallons and gallons and gallons of milk into basically like usually like a duffel bag full of cottage cheese or sometimes two or three of them. And it was, you know, using very, what we call primitive thing, uh, tools that would have been, you know, would have been well recognized in the 18 thirties here in the US. Uh, and they still work. Um, and so, but one of the most interesting is at 1.1 of their breakthroughs and there were a series of breakthroughs and setbacks, like any businesses, they got a contract with a, with a, with a shop in the capital, uh, to supply them with cottage cheese that the shop would then turn into sweets according to their own cooking method and baking method. And

[00:34:36.83] spk_0:
so, so

[00:34:38.06] spk_1:
it was a great contract. And what would happen is they would bring in like imagine a duffel bag stuffed with cottage cheese or two or three and they would deliver it, they would take it on bicycles, 10 miles to the bus stop, they would get on a bus, go to Daka, deliver it and then the store owner would say, okay tomorrow, we need to, to um, duffel bags full like one today, but we need more tomorrow. And so, and then they would just have to deliver whatever the, whatever they asked

[00:35:05.21] spk_0:
for. So

[00:35:53.34] spk_1:
that’s a, that’s a lot of work to do that. And then they had, you know, two men in the household would then again bike with like, you know, £80 of cottage cheese on their crossbar and then get on a bus and go there, come back. So at one point, there was a major transit strike um, and, and non evil is very, very compelling person in her group, but I’m going to talk about the men for a second in the family because she kind of put them to work and they’re like, once they got this, they were never gonna let it go. So there was a transport strike, 14 days, the busses were not running in the country, I was stuck in the capital, and I was like, what? And I finally got back, the strike was over and I said, did you lose the contract? Because the deal was, if they ever don’t deliver what they’ve asked for the previous night, the contract is null and void, that was the, that was the deal. So they said, oh no, no, what everything was fine, what do you mean, everything fine? Um, you know, said,

[00:35:56.01] spk_0:
well, instead of

[00:36:57.80] spk_1:
only biking 10 miles to the bus stop and getting on a bus and going 40 miles to um, the capital, we just biked the whole 50 miles and then we would turn around the next morning and bike back and we did that 14 days in a row, um, you know, because that’s what you need to do to keep this, um, and uh, and you know, tony who is really like the mother hand of the whole family and frankly the mother had of the whole group of borrowers in that in that village. Um you know, she just insisted on it and uh and so you had this family that was just you know, was was that kind of so passionate about their business would never let this contract go. And then she was also very kind to other people like she was the one who would insist on a very poor woman who want to join grameen that people kind of have doubts about. She’d say let her in, I’ll guarantee her loan like like if she doesn’t pay like you know, she knew how to kind of pay it forward, give back, you know, she, she knew that had that $80 loan set her free, let her recover her past glory. Her family as a, as a sweet making cottage cheese making family and she was willing to pay it forward. So just uh you know, remarkable kind of woman was, was not educated herself, but all of her Children were getting educated. That’s where a lot of her profits went to. And you know, I just got to meet and get intimate with the people, Some were not as nearly as successful as she were, but they revealed things about themselves and

[00:37:16.40] spk_0:
then I was, I

[00:37:17.59] spk_1:
followed a bunch of women who were borrowing from microcredit program modeled on on the south side of

[00:37:23.24] spk_0:

[00:37:47.41] spk_1:
and they also let me into their lives in a in a surprising degree. Uh but you know, I stuck around for two years. So they didn’t do it on day one and I just got to see how it could be applied, okay, not with an $80 loan, but maybe with $1000 loan that could grow to be 34, 5000 if they paid back over time. And I saw the same dynamic in a in a in a in a in a really poor neighborhood in Chicago that I saw in rural Bangladesh and just got to know and be friends with, you know, about a half dozen women. Both really get to know them very well. Uh intimate details about their histories about when they’ve been going through the worst thing in their life and the best things. And uh and they gave me permission to write about all of it in the book to give people a sense of that. You know, poor people are not hopeless people, poor people are not um

[00:38:16.24] spk_0:

[00:38:16.65] spk_1:
people, you know,

[00:38:17.30] spk_0:
just lack a

[00:38:36.28] spk_1:
few things um in order to kind of get back on track and they wanted that story to be told. And I told it the best that I could. But you know, the original edition suffered from some of the maturities that I had in my late twenties when I wrote it. And it was a good writer. But I wasn’t like I wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t as um just sensitive to the things I should have been. And so this book, I was able to really take all the great writing of the first edition, but also take out all the things that weren’t quite right. Uh, and uh, and this is the book it always meant to be that came out, you know,

[00:39:53.15] spk_0:
two months ago, non ease story is going to resonate with any entrepreneur or ceo, you know, you do what you have to do when, when cash flow is poor and payroll is due in a couple of days. You do what you have to do. Whether that means tap the credit line or get a credit line approach, fundraiser, approach donors in a way that you wouldn’t, wouldn’t like to, but go without yourself. You know, you do what you do what you have to do. And by the way, the couple of things I mentioned first were access to capital. You know, you get a credit line or tap a credit line or go to fundraiser. Sorry, go to donors. Well, those are, those are three sources of two. Those are two different sources of access to capital that Nonnie and the millions of other women in poverty, you know, didn’t have before before Grameen, but do what you have to do. I mean, everybody’s everybody’s been there who’s in charge of something. Yeah,

[00:39:53.53] spk_1:
I mean, and you know, and, and I mean, I think I was probably channeling her when, you know, in Year two of Grameen Foundation, when we were, we had a, you know, first of a couple of financial

[00:40:02.53] spk_0:

[00:40:31.26] spk_1:
Um and uh and I just said, well I’m gonna go off salary for three months to conserve our cash so that my my employees get paid and uh, and we, you know, we don’t run out of cash and I did that and do that again a year later and I never had to do it again after that. But I realized that, you know, I’m not, I have a little bit of a safety net. My wife had a decent job and uh, I could, you know, turn to my family if I needed to and you know, that had everyone else appreciate that I sacrificed. Um and uh and they just kind of dug in and and uh, and shared my, you know, deep in their commitment to the mission of the organization which was spreading women around the world. It was a very noble thing that we’re trying to do uh take a success

[00:40:44.21] spk_0:

[00:41:18.57] spk_1:
uh that uh and and bring it to its full expression globally. And so and we pulled through both of those crises and grew to become a pretty good sized organization. And without without that you no willingness to just do what it takes in that moment. Maybe that organization just kind of dies an early death. Uh and uh, and I wasn’t gonna let that happen, nor was she. And so the tenacity to to to build a micro businesses a large business and nonprofit. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s similar. Um, and and, and as you know, i in my, my other book, changing the world with losing your mind, I try to talk about that’s important, but it’s also important for you to take care of yourself to to, you know, you can work intensively and sacrifice for short bursts, but then you need to replenish yourself. Um and uh, and that’s, that’s another important part of it all. But yeah, there are times where you just need to do whatever it takes. Uh and uh, and then you have your war stories to tell your kids and grandkids at some point.

[00:43:44.10] spk_0:
Yeah, when you look back, it’s so much less painful when you’re looking back, of course It’s time for Tony Take two, please, over these next couple of weeks, take time for yourself. And that doesn’t necessarily mean be by yourself, although it might whatever it is that lifts you up. If that’s being with certain people who energize you and lift you make you feel good, bring out your best spend time with those folks as much as you can. Uh and that may, or that may not be family. I realize that hopefully it is, that would be very nice. But in a lot of cases, that’s not always family. I understand, believe me, I understand, uh, without getting into a therapy session. So, but we all have obligations? Of course you got to fulfill those, that’s what they are. But beyond that, what is it that lifts you up? Maybe it’s weightlifting. I don’t know, whatever it is that juices, you take time to do it. If it’s with other folks, please seek them out. If it’s by yourself, please make that time too. And you got to make that time, you’re never gonna find it, you have to make it all. This is to remind you that you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. And there’s a good fresh New Year coming. You’re gonna be taking care of a lot of other folks. Take care of yourself first. That is Tony’s take two for these next few weeks, enjoy, we’ve got boo koo, but loads more time for the Grameen Team dream with Alex counts. Are these loans in part grants of pride? I see it as boosting people up just because you know, they can build something that that that they can point to and they have people who believe in them. So I saw this as sort of a pride, a pride boost. It’s

[00:43:59.42] spk_1:
it’s, you know what it is, is in a way that it might be more dramatic than these some of these people have ever had in their lives. It’s a vote of confidence.

[00:44:08.64] spk_0:

[00:44:35.95] spk_1:
like you can do this. Um we’re gonna put we’re gonna put our money, we’re a big institution in your hands, we trust you. Um Again, trust you because you convinced some other women in the village that your business plan made sense and they’re gonna be there for you, but we trust you. And what often happens with the first loan, not so much, no money was like off to the races that, you know, within months, but a lot of women who maybe have more modest entrepreneurial ability, like

[00:44:36.71] spk_0:
they, that

[00:44:37.38] spk_1:
first year they’re, they’re like really nervous.

[00:44:39.77] spk_0:

[00:44:40.69] spk_1:
you know, they make a make a business decision that isn’t that smart and they just kind of scrape by at the end of the year, they pay off their loan and like there’s, there’s not a lot of surplus there, but they pay it off and they like are so relieved. Um, and

[00:44:56.18] spk_0:
but then they’re

[00:44:56.85] spk_1:
like, wait, this isn’t that hard,

[00:44:59.24] spk_0:

[00:45:11.14] spk_1:
I paid back a loan that was more, I got more money as a loan that I never held in my hand in my whole life and I invested it and it didn’t go perfectly, but like I can do this. And so I always think of the first loan is like a starter loan. It’s like the preseason, you know, in baseball or football where it’s like, you, you just, you know, you’re just trying to get your sea legs um, to mix metaphors I suppose and

[00:45:23.41] spk_0:
I don’t know much about sports to begin with,

[00:45:35.22] spk_1:
but, but it’s like you, you know, you, you get to do a trial run. Um and yet someone trusted you and you and you didn’t let them down and you’re like you know what, this is that hard

[00:45:37.67] spk_0:
like I just need to

[00:46:06.35] spk_1:
Relax like I’m like I’m actually worthy and these women are here to help me and then from the second loan which normally they’ll allow you to take if you want to maybe 50% more than you took the first year. So you go from a $50 loan to $75 loan. And that first loan is that it’s really a confidence building loan. It’s people discovering their capabilities as a market actor and as and as someone in their family and in their communities. Um And one of the things they looked at is um there’s a study, a study done in Bangladesh and I wish there had been more studies of microfinance in Bangladesh. But the ones that were there were very and they said that you know, a woman, a woman who borrows from Grameen, they defined what empowered person was about how influential she is in her family and in her society and whether she, you know, whether she can make large purchases on her own without her spouse’s permission and they

[00:46:29.50] spk_0:
Just you know 10

[00:46:32.23] spk_1:
different indicators and and a woman who is borrowing from Grameen was eight times more likely to be empowered with really mean, which means she has some, some real say about what happens in her life and she’s she’s an agent, not just just someone who waits for things to happen. She makes things happen. And then they found that actually

[00:46:50.53] spk_0:

[00:47:58.80] spk_1:
who saw other Grameen women work, but they didn’t themselves join Grameen. They were 2.5 times more likely to be empowered than people who are not in Grameen in a non Grameen village. So empowerment was almost contained contagious. Um and and that first loan um which, you know, people, I mean, I watched it, this is not exaggerate, people’s hands are shaking when they get the money. It’s just it’s a it’s a vote of confidence beyond which people um think that they were ever going to get in their lives. And while they may stumble a little bit and they, you know, in being nervous, um you know, because they, you know, they, once they get the hang of it, uh they’re very grateful to the organization, they never want to let it down. And they start discovering capabilities that they had that they didn’t know they had before. And it’s and it’s, you know, it’s whether, you know, a lot of people have this experience in school where a teacher saw potential in them, gave them a vote of confidence that they discovered their intellectual abilities and I certainly had that in school. And uh and in this case it’s really just almost basic level of being a human being and an economic actor in a in a culture where again jobs and safety nets aren’t present, everyone is on their own and here you’re saying, you know you you in this market economy you can make it work and I’m gonna I’m gonna put a bet on you and if and if you know, and then go for it and it just it’s like it’s transformational in the sense of a vote of confidence amount of money isn’t that big, but what it signals to the person, the community is huge.

[00:50:18.66] spk_0:
So so your vote of confidence, so empowering, empowering. Um I want to move to the Foundation because that that brings us to the U. S. And south side of Chicago. But I want folks to know there’s so much more about the history of Grameen in the book. You know, there was a crisis in late 2010, 2011 and a front page Wall Street Journal article. You know, you gotta you gotta get the book for the for this rich history. Um So all right, but I would like to I’d like to talk with the talk about the foundation. You let it for the 1st 18 years. Uh it came 21 years after the beginning of the bank. If I had my years right, it was it was 1997 and the foundation, I’m sorry, on the bank was 76. And the other thing I want to say about the bank, you gotta understand this was a bank with branches. There were there were hundreds of branches throughout Bangladesh and in other countries. And then they and then in the branches uh some of them had a health Grameen Health Grameen education. And then you can read about Grameenphone and Grameen telecom all empowering. I mean these were not you know, these were not like telecom companies that are that are to uh to spread telecommunications about the country. This is well it does but it does it through individual entrepreneurs, you know, buying a phone or renting a phone and and sharing time a couple of minutes, everybody in the village gets two minutes or something to to check the market price for their for their commodity. So, you know, it’s just I mean this is this is not just like some office in the capital in Dhaka. There’s branches throughout the country and in other countries, branches of a bank. It was it was a bank Grameen bank. So All right, that’s uh that’s the bank. We gotta we gotta but we only got so much time. So we gotta move to the foundation. So you gotta get the book to read more about the bank. The Foundation um 1997. You were you were charged just kicked off with $6,000 and a desire to expand this work to to the poor in in the US you

[00:52:05.37] spk_1:
know my original vision when I wrote to Muhammad Yunus to ask him to host me as a Fulbright scholar was I said um You know with a lot of naivete and that you would have when you’re 19 years old but I said your work should be expanded around the world and I want to help you do it. Uh it shouldn’t just be a solution for your country and you know he was already thinking about that, but he really, it took until 97 when I kind of proved my loyalty to him and my my understanding of what he was doing, he said he said we all these people say to us you know we want to help you take your model global Alex, why don’t you set up an office in the US and try to kind of like mobilize all these people to take make this a global movement um and there were already some small beginnings but take it bigger and so of course I felt totally unprepared to do that and untrained and but I just said you know, yes sir, I’m gonna give it my best shot. And he gave me $6000 which by the way is not a lot of money to start an organization with uh but I didn’t know that and I didn’t care, I just wanted the chance and so we basically just tried to um not really knowing what we were doing, trying to kind of harness all this energy about Grameen in Bangladesh could be a model for many other countries and we were like without a lot of resources in the start let’s let’s let’s try to make that happen um and uh and just one of our early things wins and we had some setbacks and things that you know didn’t go well of course, but there were there were three social entrepreneurs in India who said we we want to take a mean to big scale in India and we’ve got

[00:52:06.40] spk_0:

[00:54:30.80] spk_1:
we now collectively reach 46,000 women which was a lot for the time and we want to grow that to 164,000 women basically triple quadruple outreach and we can do it in, we can do it in 30 months but we need and we need $8 million but all we need from you Alex is a million dollars upfront. Uh and we can use that to attract other money within India and I was like game on and I got named steven Rockefeller nelson Rockefeller’s grandson, a great guy, I just bumped into a reception, you know this is you need to just be working networking every way and he just helped me raise a million dollars in like six weeks in the spring of 2000 and then these we happened to choose the right people to bet on in India because they met their goal of quadrupling outreach of two women in India and by the way they at one point they said, microfinance will never work in India, the caste system, you know, it’ll just, it’s only Bangladesh, it’ll never work in India, but these, these were the guys and when they, when we gave them that million dollars and that and that gave us a kind of a calling card, we said listen, we know how to pick the winners, we know how to get them the early money that unlocks more money and so we just designed all sorts of programs to help in Nigeria and East africa and Philippines and Haiti um you know that we, we just were able to spot people who had that kind of entrepreneur spark, but that also that ethical compass of Muhammad Yunus and bet on them, give them attention, give them money, give them a loan guarantees and and some of them just really hit it out of the ballpark in terms of becoming the Muhammad Yunus of their country. Um and uh and that it just felt great, right, that vision I had at 19 when I wrote this member to, you know this letter to Professor Yunus and despite all of my inadequacies as a leader, especially in the early years uh to be able to attract the money and talent to uh to basically kind of stake people who wanted to apply unisys insight in their countries and let them do that, I just got the biography of a guy who, it was kind of the Muhammad Yunus of Nigeria, which is not an easy country to work in. As as most of your listeners probably know uh it’s more a place where you get, you know, scam solicitations to, you know, to give over your bank account numbers, but there are some very ethical social entrepreneurs and this one guy, Godwin, he just needed just like a start and an ally. And uh and he and during Covid he wrote his memoir and uh and and and sent me a copy. And while, you know, the editing wasn’t done quite as like as well as it should have been all that, you know, to read things and to say like repeatedly like Alex counts and his team

[00:54:45.58] spk_0:

[00:55:21.35] spk_1:
helped us at a critical moment, otherwise this thing could have just collapsed or this thing could have just you know, or I might have collapsed and and to know that he’s not alone in that and I give I give 99% of the credit to him, but to have been an ally to people that were trying to uh take this, take this microfinance revolution and concept to some really hard countries where there’s deep poverty um you know, that’s enormously satisfying and uh and and it was and we had a great time doing it. And then uh and then, you know, the other thing that we may not have much time to talk about, but the Early Grameen lending in Chicago That I mentioned earlier

[00:55:22.98] spk_0:
that a team

[00:55:47.37] spk_1:
Of Bangladesh’s took that and have grown that in the US to an amazing degree in the last 10 years. And finally we can say that microfinance not only works in in the us, but it might even work better than it does in Bangladesh. Uh and it’s just so satisfying to see that. And I had very little role in that. Um but it kind of helped bring some sensitivity to the potential of grameen here. And then a team of Bangladeshis and americans under the leadership of Andrew Young. The former Ceo of Avon have just hit that one out of the park. And it’s just amazing to see

[00:56:14.78] spk_0:
Talk, let’s talk something about Chicago. I understand you that’s not well that wasn’t within your 18 years. You you you were limited, you know, you can only do so much in 18 years. You know, don’t be too don’t be too hard on yourself. Um What what what have we seen in in the US in in helping helping the poor uh emerge.

[00:56:22.06] spk_1:
So, so, you know, again,

[00:56:23.79] spk_0:
I prior

[00:56:46.01] spk_1:
to starting Grameen Foundation when I did the research for this book in Chicago. Um I saw that small loans on a small scale could really help people. But what they didn’t do in Chicago, this program called the women’s self employment program. They didn’t figure out how to kind of systematize the lending process so that it can be done highly efficiently in a large scale but on a small scale I saw Grameen works but the system of massif eyeing it didn’t exist and so I went off to do Grameen and I tried to

[00:56:56.88] spk_0:

[00:56:57.71] spk_1:
people who were doing microfinance in the U. S. Didn’t really go anywhere. And then Mohammad Yunus got kind of frustrated with you know those people like me who were trying to apply a smile in the US and he sent he sent a Bangladeshi guy who had done some consulting for us in the Dominican republic. So he knew some spanish

[00:57:14.21] spk_0:

[00:57:14.51] spk_1:
he just said like start knocking on doors in like Brooklyn and queens and most of them slammed in your face but just ask them like imagine you were in a Bangladeshi village and just ask them like would you be interested in alone for starting your expanding a small business. And like most people slam doors in his face but some of them said I’d be I mean I’m sure you can’t deliver that you’re probably a scam artist but if you ask yes I could use $600 to start a business but you’re never and he would like note them down

[00:57:41.30] spk_0:

[00:57:41.69] spk_1:
Basically they started lending in 2008 like the global financial crisis is whatever and they’re like let’s let’s do this and 2009 they start to get a couple 100 borrowers in New York City, the first branch um and

[00:57:56.23] spk_0:

[00:57:57.14] spk_1:
Forward 14 years and they’re about to lend their $3 billion dollar

[00:58:01.01] spk_0:

[00:59:03.65] spk_1:
Amounts averaging 2000 A 99% repayment. Um and and they have and the research which was done on their Jersey City branch intensively for three years shows that asset accumulation credit scores increasing many social and economic indicators are going in the right direction there. So it’s just it took time um and to get the model right. But but people trained by Yunus again, I I can say that what I did is I really took the model from the U. S. Base and help it grow to other developing countries and uh and you know I’ll forever be proud of my work and that but other people it’s also inspired by Eunice um said we’re gonna we’re gonna figure out this U. S. Market uh And it’s mainly been kind of latino women um though they’re increasing their numbers of african americans and other minorities and and caucasian entrepreneurs but it’s mostly Latina women who kind of come from countries where this kind of entrepreneurship at the grassroots level is more common. Uh So they went with the thing they started with what was likely to work but they’ve just done a bang up job and shown that microfinance uh can work in one of the poorest countries in the world, can work in one of the

[00:59:14.92] spk_0:

[00:59:15.78] spk_1:
Um And And it’s all inspired by a soft spoken Bangladeshi economist who just wandered outside of his classroom and said how can I help

[00:59:43.70] spk_0:
When you say 99% repayment rates? I mean that that’s a triple a. Plus plus, you know, portfolio of of borrowers. I mean the the commitment that they have, it’s it’s remarkable what what kinds of businesses just generally, you know, did you see clusters of types of businesses in here in the U. S.

[00:59:47.00] spk_1:
Sure a lot of them have to do in both Bangladesh and here uh with food um So selling trading food whole, you know buying it wholesale, selling at retail or opening up like a hot dog stand or Tamale

[01:00:01.33] spk_0:
stand. Uh

[01:00:43.19] spk_1:
some of it is catering business, some of it is opening up a little coffee shop, also car detailing, car maintenance, lawns care. A lot of people doing the opening up a little beauty salon or just or just something as simple as getting a chair in someone else’s, you know, kind of you know, manicure pedicure, you know, kind of a thing uh services um selling machine to make clothes. Um And uh and and all sorts of you know just very creative things. One woman going back to the, when I was involved in this um kind of prior to growing America, there was a woman very smart, she wanted money for a camera and what she did is she would go through neighborhoods in in uh poor neighborhood in

[01:00:47.96] spk_0:

[01:00:48.75] spk_1:
in Brooklyn. And she would woman would come out of a beauty shop and said you want me to take your

[01:00:54.14] spk_0:
picture. Um

[01:01:03.91] spk_1:
And this was before cell phones and picture and and like you know for $15 you can get a picture of yourself like looking at your absolute best. Um and uh and she made a business out of that like she, you know, and uh and she would you know get the person’s address and mail it to them because again this is kind of you know little the technology wasn’t as advanced and like people

[01:01:15.59] spk_0:
had ideas.

[01:02:37.50] spk_1:
Um And and so you you think of all of those um um you know, a laundry business, a cleaning business, I mean all that that again sometimes people either can’t do it on the scale that they need to or they can’t do it all without a you know, a few $100 of alone. And again the vote of confidence is critical in the US. Uh and and this comes through in the stories I tell in the book. The vote of confidence that having a supportive group of other women to be there for you is as important is the money. Um And uh and Andrea Young with Grameen America like Professor Yunus, he started experimenting with, okay, what else could we do to support these people educational scholarships, student loans, um giving them good high quality vegetable seeds to grow vegetables um etcetera etcetera. And uh and once you’ve got that economic engine where you lend to the poor, they pay you back with enough interest to pay the costs of the lending operation. Then you can kind of on top of that start a health clinic as you mentioned, which they did in Bangladesh start a rural a solar energy company to bring them solar panels. Um A lot becomes possible once you have that basic lending operation that is you know, break even slightly profitable and bringing that vote of confidence in that capital to to people who who lacked it. We’re often you know, just shocked that anyone would would think about them as a potential lender and

[01:02:42.12] spk_0:
would invest in them. Yeah, you cite someone in the book who says there’s a fortune to be made working at the bottom of the economic pyramid. And that’s that’s where Grameen worked and they did make a they did make a modest profit as you described um Would in the U. S. Was it’s was it mostly women also did that, did that part translate also?

[01:03:05.53] spk_1:
Yes. Uh you know, there are variations on microcredit and Grameen but the people that have kind of been most directly inspired by Mohammad Yunus. They took his advice and they just made it on all women operation from day one. Again does it doesn’t mean that the husbands and the and the kids get involved in the business, like a lot of family businesses. But the woman is the one who um is the liaison from the, from the lender to the family and that’s and that’s worked. Well,

[01:03:43.83] spk_0:
all right Alex Grameen Bank Grameen Foundation, all these decades, you’ve you’ve worked with Muhammad Yunus, what what do you want to, what do you want folks to take away from the Grameen experience?

[01:03:48.75] spk_1:
Well, I think I just, I think that

[01:03:50.59] spk_0:
it’s um

[01:05:18.56] spk_1:
you know, next time you pass a small business and you’re thinking of, oh, I’ll just look in the window and then I’ll buy on amazon what they’re, what they’re carrying, you know, as you use your market power. Um you know, think about the little guy think about the micro entrepreneur who may or may not be getting a micro loan, but they’re still struggling and and use your economic power. Um find mentors like I found Mohammad Yunus to to let you think about, you know, you’re you’re not, you’re nonprofit, you know, the people who listen to your radio program obviously have a lot of idealism and I just think the right mentor at the right time, you know, you can take your idealism and your work ethic and just take it to a whole new level if you’re willing to trust in a mentor and let them guide you, that’s that’s a lesson and that, you know that and that poverty doesn’t really need to exist poverty is a construct based on I think a lack of imagination um and it’s a and it’s a, it’s a construct based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what, because we we we we we create barriers between ourselves and poor people, right? Uh and between and people of other races uh many and we just, we don’t really understand what they’re capable of and Muhammad Yunus figure that out and and once you, once you figure that out, a lot of things become possible and you can really see it in the, in the, in the kind of in the distance, as he would say, a poverty free world, there’ll always be inequality. Um but there doesn’t always have to be poverty and the key insight there is the potential of the world’s poor women, They can be the engine of eliminating poverty if they’re just given the chance, the tools and the votes of confidence and Mohammad Yunus was a shining example of that and I was privileged to play a small role in what he did

[01:05:38.71] spk_0:
Alex counts. The book is small loans, big dreams, Grameen Bank and the micro finance revolution in Bangladesh, America and beyond. You can get the book at Alex counts dot com Alex, thank you so much. Thank

[01:05:56.16] spk_1:
you Tony loved being on your program.

[01:06:03.63] spk_0:
The book is a delight and the stories, Rich, congratulations again, thank

[01:06:04.08] spk_1:
you so much.

[01:06:59.27] spk_0:
Next week, there ain’t no show. Same for the week after. We’ll be back on nine January with Gene Takagi and Amy Sample Ward together. Let’s hear what’s on their minds, respectively. And collectively for 2023, I hope you enjoy your holiday season. Please do take time for yourself. Take care of yourself so you can help the others. If you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com. We’re sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o. Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff shows, social media is by Susan Chavez. Mark Silverman is our web guy and this music is by scott Steiner Brooklyn. Thank you for that. Affirmation Scotty B with me next week for nonprofit radio big nonprofit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great.

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