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Month: December 2009

Beard Difficulties

Beard Difficulties

In my previous life, I worked at a job that made growing a beard difficult.  Every time I’d let it grow on vacation, I’d get close to an acceptable length, but still below the threshold of respectability.   Naturally, when I learned I’d be working with Negros Women for Tomorrow and Kiva here in the Philippines, I looked at it as a great opportunity to reinvent myself as a man with a beard.  On the street every day, people walk around…

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25 Years and Counting

25 Years and Counting

In August of this year, Negros Women For Tomorrow celebrated its 25th anniversary.  The organization commemorated the occasion with an extravagant party titled “Handum” (Dream) with 6,000 attendees, including staff, borrowers, partners, and a pre-recorded message from the godfather of microfinance himself, Muhammad Yunus.  Yunus catapulted microfinance into the mainstream in 2005 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.  Naturally, most people (including myself until a few months ago) think that it…

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Mr. Inasal and Me

Mr. Inasal and Me

The food in the Philippines garners mixed reviews from expats, but, as with most things, they might not be eating the right things.   Beef is harder to come by here, and usually much more expensive.  Fish, white meat (chicken), and the other white meat (pork) are the meats of choice in the country.  And everything comes with rice.  Rice and eggs for breakfast, chicken and rice for lunch, rice and anything else for dinner.  When in doubt, I know I…

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Yunus v. Compartamos

Yunus v. Compartamos

The following is an article I wrote for The Inductive. Within the international development community, a debate for the heart of the movement recently came to the fore with the IPO of Compartamos, the largest microfinance institution in Mexico.  Divisive and controversial, Compartamos’ decision to sell shares and publicly list on an exchange is perhaps the clearest manifestation of where the two sides diverge.  One side, led by Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and winner of the Nobel…

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Dancing for Filipinos

Dancing for Filipinos

In the Philippines, or maybe just here in Bacolod City, people enjoy celebrations.  Bacolod is called the City of Smiles and is known for its annual MassKara Festival held in October.  The tradition began in 1980, in response to a sugar crisis plaguing the island of Negros and a ferry-capsizing that killed over 700 Negrenses.  To pull the island out of a pervasive gloom, the government organized a weeklong festival in which the participants wear smiling masks.  The festival is…

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Grameen Bank Replication and the Principles of Microfinance

Grameen Bank Replication and the Principles of Microfinance

For a brief overview of the GBR (Grameen Bank Replication) methodology and its use by NWTF/Project Dungganon, see here. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are often affiliated with larger networks, which help to secure funding, offer back-office services, and provide an operations model.  These organizations – Grameen Foundation, FINCA, Accion International, and World Vision, to name a few – partner with MFIs across the world to replicate the model, be it village banking, the Grameen model, or another.  These networks span countries…

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The Galvez Family, Pt. 1

The Galvez Family, Pt. 1

Success in microfinance is difficult to measure because progress occurs incrementally and may take a generation or more to manifest.   Usually, the benefits of microfinance – improvements in healthcare, education, and quality of life – are only visible over a longer timeframe.  For industry practitioners and evangelists, the tangible success stories among recipients of microloans are valuable proof of its efficacy.  On a recent trip to Valladolid, I was fortunate enough to meet one of the most successful NWTF clients…

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In The Field

In The Field

I spent the last three days in “the field,” a term used to describe the front lines of microfinance where the money is distributed to the clients of the banks.  Beginning early Tuesday morning, I set out for the town of Valladolid, a rural municipality about 50 km from Bacolod City.  The road snakes along the coast through increasingly less urban communities, until reaching Pontevedra, where the NWTF (Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation) Valladolid branch is located.  Linda, the branch…

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Organized Chaos

Organized Chaos

Here in Bacolod City, and the rest of the Philippines for that matter, traffic laws are non-existent.  There seem to be no rules governing how you act behind the wheel – only that the horn is your friend, and is especially useful for letting the other guy know that you don’t intend to stop.  Last night, I went swimming with one of my coworkers and her mother at a resort in town (with an Olympic size pool, complete with a…

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