The way out: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

The United Nation’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is this Sunday, October 17th, and this year’s theme is “From poverty to decent work: bridging the gap.” After an economic downturn that has skyrocketed the number of people living in poverty or with precarious labor situations, it’s no surprise that the U.N. has chosen to focus this year’s events on organizations and ideas that lead to sustainable models for economic stability through job creation.

The Test of Poverty from

Microcredit, small loans to budding social entrepreneurs, has received a lot of attention recently, especially as it proves itself to be not only an effective tool in empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty, but also as it increasingly becomes a profitable means of investing. You can become a micro-lender yourself by making loans through, which has facilitated over $160,000,000 in loans to over 225,000 recipients since it’s founding.

Another organization working in the realm of microfinance is Trickle Up. Working in Asia, Central America and West Africa, Trickle Up approaches microfinance through a wider lens than solely the facilitating of financial resources. Reaching out to people living on less than $1.25 a day, the organization provides one time grants, training on how to operate and sustain a microenterprise as well as ongoing business development and community building. You can check out a short video of Trickle Up’s work here.

Programs like Kiva’s and Trickle Up’s enforce that the true power of microfinance is it’s ability to empower people to lift themselves out of poverty – but that money, without knowledge, is not always enough to create the safety nets and sustainable livelihoods that lead to lasting social change. Do you know of any other organizations or individuals that are supporting this year’s theme for World Poverty Day? Share them with us!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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New Site Promotes Journalism as a Positive Force

From Flickr user Ian Munroe (Creative Commons)

Want to learn how Kiva grew from a group of four friends to a multi-national organization? Or how Global Citizen Year recruited its first corps of participants, when the idea of a “bridge year” between high school and university is still relatively foreign in the United States? Or how Bikes for the World got better donations and increased their transparency when they began charging donors for the cost of shipping their used bikes?

You can explore all this and more—in friendly, bite-sized chunks that don’t sacrifice illuminating details—on the new site, which aims to uncover and spread stories of change.

From their site: “At Dowser, we present the world through a ‘solution frame,’ rather than a ‘problem frame.’ We’re interested in the practical and human elements of social innovation: Who’s solving what and how. We want to know how people come up with ideas, how they put them into practice, how they pay the bills, and what fuels their fire.”

We first learned that Dowser was on the horizon quite some time ago, when they interviewed our founder and executive director, Ami Dar. Now that the site has launched, we’re looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

Aside from Dowser and magazines like GOOD, Ode, and YES!, do you know of other media outlets or organizations that focus all of their attention on positive stories?

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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New Social Investing Guidelines from the Grameen Foundation

If you’re familiar with the person-to-person microlending site, or the work of Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, you might be interested in the recently released Social Investing Guidelines from the Grameen Foundation.

Over the past several years the concept of microfinance (providing financial services to the poor), and specifically microcredit (providing small loans to the poor who would otherwise not qualify for traditional credit), has gained a lot of attention. Many see it as part of the solution to poverty — research shows that microfinance helps poor households meet basic needs and protect against risks. It’s received its fair share of criticism as well — arguments include the fact that the touting of microcredit programs as a solution to poverty can lead to budget cuts for public programs, and that small loans generally do not lead to job creation which is fundamental for countries trying to reduce their poverty rate.

If you’re interested in becoming a lender with a micro-lending site such as Kiva (where you can make loans as small as $25, choose the exact entrepreneur you want to support, and know that the default rate on loans distributed through Kiva is only 2.2%), or if you already are, you might want to read the Social Investing Guidelines. The guidelines are based on the Progress out of Poverty Index, a tool that measures poverty levels of groups and individuals. The Guidelines encourage individual investors to ask questions of the microfinance institutions they’re working with, including: What measures are taken to ensure that investments really support the poor and poorest populations? and How does the investment manager define poor, very poor, and extremely poor?

Tools like these Guidelines seem crucial in order for micro-lending programs to truly be effective, accountable and part of the solution.

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