Microlending for the rest of us

By Howard Rheingold, published at 10 May 2007 - 8:12pm, last updated 12 years 22 weeks ago.

In the latest Cool Tools, Kevin Kelly offers a number of options for individuals to get involved in microlending. Only a few of the options are listed in the excerpt here. See his site for more:

This year the father of micro-finance and founder of the Grameen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in inventing and promoting micro-loans in the developing world. A micro-loan is as little as a few hundred dollars invested into a one-person business with minimal qualifications. That tiny borrowed amount can launch a vegetable stand, repair shop, or bicycle taxi -- a living in other words. As each micro-loan is repaid (and most are), the effects of that small goodness are amplified and leveraged by being loaned out and invested again and again. Micro-loans are the world's only perpetual motion machines.

Previously I've recommended the micro-finance cool tools of Trickle Up, Opportunity International, and my favorite, Heifer International, as three ways to leverage small amounts of money for maximum global good. (Micro-finance programs are not a panacea. For a critique start with this article in Forbes.)

The news now is that it is there are many other outfits that offer individuals (like us) ways to leverage as little as fifty dollars via micro-finance programs online. Unleashing compounding good is only a few clicks away. Make a loan, or outright grant, using your credit card, or even PayPal.

Grameen Foundation
A spin off of the original Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Minimum contribution, $100. One of their projects is Village Phone -- cell phones that women can rent to others. "The Village Phone program in Uganda, the first of GF's efforts to replicate the pay phone program outside Bangladesh, continued exceeding expectations in 2005. More than 3,500 microfinance clients have bought and now operate a Village Phone as "Village Phone operators." Besides the boost to operators' incomes, the program is creating a national telecommunications network. Of Uganda's 56 districts, 53 now have at least one Village Phone operator. Often, Village Phone is the first local telephone that villagers have. Having a quick means to communicate has contributed to higher levels of productivity, savings, and safety for entire communities."

Namaste Direct
This is one of the most direct person-to-person micro-lending programs. When you give to Namaste Direct, you are informed of the person who receives your loan, how they used the money, and their progress. ND can also arrange a visit to the lendee -- this will turn your loan into a life-changing experience for you as well. But because of this directness the giving area is limited -- currently to Mexico and Guatemala. No minimum contribution.