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Resource Library / Moving 100 Million Families Out of Severe Poverty: How Can We Do It?

Bob Sample

Bob Sample, Colorado State Coordinator, RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund, Denver, Colorado, USA

This paper was originally designed to guide and reflect comments by this author and presentations by three panelists at a session of the same name at the Global Microcredit Summit in Valladolid, Spain, 14-17 November 2011. The panelists were Maricruz Lacalle-Calderón (Section B), Alex Counts (Section C), and John Hatch (Section D). This final version of the paper has been modified somewhat to include two calls for eliminating severe poverty altogether that were presented at the Summit and to make clearer this author’s call for the microcredit movement to play a leadership role in ending severe poverty.

“Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be." 

-Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish playwright and author of Don Quixote

Again and again in the short 40-year history of the microfinance movement, microfinance institutions have created a vision of the world as it should be and then made that vision become a reality. The ideas that the poor could be provided access to credit, that they could operate tiny businesses in spite of illness and illiteracy, that they could move themselves and their families out of severe poverty, and that millions of poor people could do this – such ideas were laughed at, treated as impractical, and sometimes called insane. Banks said it was impossible: the poor were not bankable. Academic institutions and professors said that microfinance did not work and frequently burdened poor people with more debt. Government agencies said it was better to support bigger businesses that could grow and hire others instead of trying to serve the poor. Only a handful of visionaries in Latin America and Asia and a few funders in the United States and Europe believed that microfinance could work and should be supported.

Now, after 40 years of growth, struggle, experimentation, the agony of defeat and the joy of success, the microfinance movement has come of age. In spite of setbacks and criticisms, microfinance institutions are generally well-respected members of local communities where the poor live in almost every country in the world.

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