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U.S. Microfinance at the Crossroads

By September 9, 2012 No Comments

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U.S. Microfinance at the Crossroads: Scale and Sustainability – Can Lessons From International Experience Help Guide the U.S. Sector?

The idea for this report came from Martin Connell, an early pioneer in microfinance in Canada and a founder of Calmeadow Foundation and the Omega Foundation, two of the papers sponsors.

The recent financial/economic crisis has had a sharp impact on U.S. poverty and unemployment. In addition, the crisis has exacerbated income inequality, which has been rising in the United States for some time. The crisis in banking and financial markets seems to have offered real opportunities for non-profit institutions serving underserved microbusinesses to bridge the gap that emerged in serving this population.

The report analyzes the existing microfinance industry in the United States from the point of view of its ability to scale up services to the underserved (the working poor) and its sustainability. The paper also seeks to draw lessons from international microfinance, recognizing that the operating environment for microfinance in the United States is distinctly different than that in the developing and transition economies.

Written by: Ira Lieberman, Jenifer Mudd, and Phil Goodeve. Sep 2012.