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Calgary Microcredit Conference 2012 Wrap-up
Category: Microcredit | By CMC-2011, 4-Nov-2012 | Viewed 5155  Comments 0
It is the pleasant task of the Conference Chair to thank the folks that made the 2012 Calgary Microcredit Conference a success and perhaps point out a few pertinent highlights. More than one participant has said that they felt the conference met or exceeded their expectations and that it was an enjoyable experience. The two Moderator`s Wrap-up revealed the breadth and depth of information that was offered during the conference.

Near the outset of the conference it was pointed out that the underpinnings of both the microcredit movement and cooperatives are very similar. In an attempt to make the conference more comprehensive and relevant and in turn reach out to sponsors like Credit Unions and Cooperatives, this year`s conference focus was in part on domestic - local microcredit. In one session Sarah Arthurs & Seth Leon of Alberta Community & Cooperatives Association told the attendees about the Barn Raising logic employed in several rural Alberta communities. While being located miles apart they were faced with the closing of a local business and they found a common solution in forming Cooperatives. Rather like the biblical emergence of the loaves and fishes, local citizens rose to the challenge of taking action despite there being no legislation designed to facilitate such cooperatives unlike the conditions found in Nova Scotia. There the 30% tax credit which was eligible for Registered Retirement Savings Plan funds inspired Cal Meadow and other innovative cooperative ventures. The common problems involved both the young and the old. Declining rural employment opportunities and a lack of seniors housing leads to shrinking populations. The solution of the Cooperative pointed out other options, some of which were successful in reversing the trends.

John Hatch, Founder of FINCA, a microcredit financial institution (MFI) with more than one million clients, was the Key Note Speaker. In an interesting response during the question and answer period John put out the possibility and his heart felt desire to see the end of poverty by his 100th birthday in the year 2040. John notes we are making good progress because when he started his work there were over 40,000 children per day dying of hunger and malnutrition related diseases and today that number is less than 9,000. He fervently hopes to be able to take his grandchildren to see exhibits of how one third of the world used to live in dire conditions at the Poverty Museum in Washington DC.

Erin & Mark from Momentum discussed their program to address those with a significant impediment to employment. Since 1994 Erin said that in the Calgary area they have made 450 loans worth over $2.0 million and achieved a 90% repayment rate. These small business development loans come about at the end of a Funnel Process which often takes up to a year to complete. At the outset 500 or so enquires are received but through selection and rerouting of the misplaced request for funding about 350 request are entered into their system. Then through a process of training, business plan writing, asset evaluation, loyalty weighting, etc. the applicant is fitted up with the business advice which is most appropriate. For the 37 or so that annually receive funding for their business there is ongoing monitoring and mentoring. A short video clip revealed the successful techniques enjoyed by several loan recipients, including Mark Flores. Mark is wheel chair bound with less than full control of his arms and hands. In a rueful gesture he named his business which provides audio visual aids and training to the handicapped, handy-access. His portrayal of the assistance he received through the Momentum program left the conference attendee with a powerful feeling that microcredit is making a positive impact on the lives of those seeking to overcome their significant barrier to employment.

Fabio Carballo, a Past District Governor from Costa Rica and founding Vice President of the Rotarian Action Group for Microcredit commented that "we are all at work on the same great cause". This was a reference to the need, in view of the pull for profitable microcredit investments, to ensure some portion of every microcredit dollar is at work, where the returns are not the highest, on behalf of the poorest of the poor.

Dr. Cecilia Del Costilla, Executive Director of Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation, Philippines, reminded us of an often heard claim of the poor:  "we don't need charity, we need jobs". In following the doctrines of the Grameen Bank model, her quote ties in with the famous quote by Dr Yunus founder of the Grameen Bank that: ``Charity doesn`t work``.

Sponsors included Citi Foundation (Presenter Level), First Calgary Financial (Partner Level), Servus (Partner Level), & Bellatrix (Partner Level) who were the folks to whom we owe an unending vote of appreciation.

Volunteers are an important part of each successful project. The four Rotarian Directors of the Calgary Microcredit Conference were assigned tasks: Marie Rickard - hosting speakers, Wally Gardiner - Venue, Robin Knudsen - youth, & Steve Rickard, - Conference Chair. Other lead volunteers were Duncan Stanners - trade show booths, & Dave Townsend - Registration and Financial Matters. Barb Briggs, the Conference Coordinator kept us in line & on budget. To the many other volunteers a vote of thanks was extended at the Conference and you will be thanked at our wind up luncheon.

On the afternoon before the Conference, the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary hosted Holly Mosher and her film the Bonsai People, under the direction and encouragement of Prof. Bob Shultz. 311_639902909_4.jpg
In many ways the Social Business model of Dr Yunus is supported by Haskayne and Schultz. Together they integrate global realities in business with the growing triple bottom line of Socially Responsible Corporations - Social, Environmental & Financial.

We are entering into preliminary discussions with the folks at Haskayne to determine the possibility of the conference for next year being held at the University of Calgary. This is in keeping with the work of the Toronto International Microcredit Conference, our sister organization who is working with the Rotman School of Business in Toronto. It will take the time and talents of this entire group and perhaps many more as we broach the possibility of hosting, in Calgary, the 2016 Global Microcredit Summit.
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