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Community Development on the World Stage
Category: Social Development | By RAGM, 6-Jul-2011 | Viewed 3948  Comments 0
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A first for Rotary's Future Vision Plan came about at the Rotary International Convention in New Orleans in May 2011 when Oikocredit and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) came together to make presentations at the Economic and Community Development Workshop hosted by The Rotarian Action Group for Microcredit (RAGM). (see http://rotarianmicrocredit.org/)

Oikocredit and AKF are the first two of Rotary's strategic partnerships.



While each has a story to tell they are just ramping up with Rotary involvement. A third perspective was provided through an existing Micro Finance Institution (MFI), which is led by a seasoned Rotarian and Director of the RAGM - Deborah Lindholm. Her MFI, the Foundation For Women — Liberia is growing quickly despite the devastation of this war torn West African country. Liberia, interestingly is the home of Africa's first Lady President — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the country's Male Vice President is a Rotarian. 146_949337588_4.jpg
FFW-L highlights will be visited after a summary of the other presentations. Steve Rickard, Founding Chair of RAGM moderated the three member panel. 

What you need to know about Oikocredit:
  • Oiko means household in Greek
  • In 1975 Oikocredit was started by Churches
  • 2010 Oikocredit financed 580 MFIs in 70 counties
  • Oikocredit inflow of funds — US $85 million (2010)
  • 28 million people served by Oikocredit — worldwide
  • Oikocredit investment return is impeccable
  • Oikocredit has 43,000 investors in 30 countries
  • Oikocredit provides funding for Project Partners
  • Oikocredit  USA started fundraising in 1990 — today: 6,000 investors — US $30 million
Terry Provance, was a pastor with a parish in Pittsburgh for five years before becoming the CEO of Oikocredit USA.  He oversees a small efficient staff stationed in Washington which coordinates the movement of millions of USA investment dollars. 

Oikocredit, is one of the world's largest providers of Micro Finance Funding. It uses a network of Project Partners to place funds in the hands of Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) and co-operatives, fair trade organizations plus small to medium sized enterprises. Training groups (mostly women), financial education, school or daycare, youth education and medical facilities are also related to the funding.

Githunguri Dairy Farmers, Kenya is a successful Rotary Supported Oikocredit microcredit project where the farmers reported that obtaining credit improved their quality of farming exhibiting increased productivity, training, and up-graded farm structures. Six weeks of Dairy Officers training occurred with a focus on hygiene, quality standards and animal health management. All loans were successfully repaid.

As a strategic partner of Rotary, Oikocredit is responding to economic and community development needs of local communities. Philippines, India and Uruguay are the countries targeted for the deployment of the Rotary Foundation Global Package Grants (see Club-and District-developed Global Grants ). Through the Strategic Partnership with Rotary International, local Rotary clubs & Oikocredit microcredit Partners become even bigger shareholders in meeting the needs of the community. 

Oikocredit encourages amongst their Partners the use of social performance indicators to ensure that the poorest are being fully served with training, education and manageable debt loads but not over-served. Oikocredit also has the enviable record in 35 years of never failing to return to investors their full principal plus interest or dividend. http://www.oikocredit.org

Aga Khan Development Network Model
  • Let the community lead itself
  • Build institutions
  • Invest in people
  • View investments as long term
  • Use multi faceted approaches
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Jan Damery, is stationed in the small town of Canmore near Calgary, Alberta but by her own admission she spends much of her time travelling the world. Jan is part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) which has more than 70,000 employees and volunteers worldwide. Assets of the AKDN include for-profit entities such as airlines, and tourism properties plus not-for-profit agencies including hospitals and the Aga Khan University. Jan represents the Aga Khan University in Canada and actively fundraises and promotes AKU's programs. The Aga Khan University has entered into a Strategic Partnership with Rotary International to improve maternal and child health - joint goals of both AKU and Rotary. Rotary's Foundation now offers packaged global grants to support nursing and maternal health programs through the Aga Khan University, in East Africa. AKU - Rotary Partnership

As a part of her larger AKDN affiliation, Jan often gives talks on the AKDN Model of Economic and Community Development. Strong communities are the ones that take control of their own destiny. Microcredit is a major tool for economic development and in the AKDN model micro-credit provides access to agricultural & business education, inputs such as seeds, fertilizer & livestock, and facilitates community needs such as medical centres and school fees. AKDN focuses on creating an enabling environment for sustainable development - economic, social and cultural institutions and systems so that local citizens and entrepreneurs can thrive and prosper. 

Helping in the creation of civil society for the poor involves providing access to the tools required to solve their own problems. It is inappropriate to label the poor as victims; with access to funding and training they empower themselves and become successful. The world's poor have surpassed an economic threshold with microcredit, from which there can be no turning back. 

The estimated 190 million microcredit borrowers (with five dependents per borrower) have approximately $65 Billion in the funding pipeline. In the last two decades, this is a sea change of such proportions that one can no longer legitimately doubt the courage, resourcefulness & success of the poor when dealing with their own problems. 

The AKDN experience shows that a long term view of the involvement of both economic and community development must exist in the community in order to have sustained improvement, involvement that may extend fifty years and beyond. Finally, there is an incredible pool of talent amongst the poor to improve items such as healthcare, sanitation and the environment. The poor who approach resolving local problems with little or no fear do so because they are hopeful that their efforts will improve the situation such that their children will have a better life. Rotarians must continue to expand their area of influence to encourage these people to be "all that they can be". Likewise it would be inappropriate to expect a single quick fix, as we all have learned in life there are no silver bullets. http://www.akdn.org/

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Rotarian Deborah Lindholm's story about the Foundation For Women, which is funded in part by Rotary Clubs is as fresh and compelling as the short time it has been in operation. Deborah's total personal commitment is inspiring - she says that since starting in 2007 it has taken over her life - she works at it 24-7. 

In an effort to support Liberia President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the women of Liberia, Deborah, who lives in Southern California and Emily Guegbeh Peal, who is a Liberian and former refugee now residing again in Liberia, made a commitment to offer a microcredit loan to every woman who wanted a loan to rebuild their lives and their war torn country. Liberia is a West African country of 3.5 million people.

Since returning from the U.S. in 2006, Ms. Peal & Ms. Lindholm have developed the Foundation for Women Liberia (FFWL) into an organization that reaches into nine of the country's fifteen counties. Beginning with five clients in 2007, FFWL now provides first-time microloans to more than 2,000 women including loans to the disabled. When including second and third round loans the membership is more than 3,000. First time loans start at $100 and increase at the rate of $50 for subsequent loans. The FFWL loan repayment rate is 97.8%. 

In additional to providing small loans, FFWL offers two education-related projects. Along with their weekly meetings, borrowers are able to participate in adult literacy programs. FFWL also offers a scholarship program that encourages and supports borrower's children from primary school to the university level. Currently there are more than 100 students enrolled in the program. Community and economic development is a key part of rebuilding Liberia and programs like FFWL are microcredit cornerstones. http://www.foundationforwomen.org/

In summary, what was common about the three speakers, aside from the decidedly brief time allotment on a packed Rotary agenda, was the transition to the strategic advantage which is available through involvement with Rotary.
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