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Students Focus on Calgary Microcredit
Category: Microcredit | By Editor, 10-May-2013 | Viewed 4250  Comments 0
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If you were part of a student group charged with producing and presenting an eight minute video about the creation of small business designed to help people work their way out of poverty, would you think to look for Microcredit. Pointing to the power of education, this is what happened when four female students at the Mount Royal University Facility of Communication Studies found themselves in this situation. 

While other class teams were choosing Community Partners for their "Project Presentations", Emily Nachtigall, Jordan Bowles, Leah Mathieu, & Paulina Koutaitseva set out to learn about the Microcredit process in Calgary and capture on video, real life examples.

There is, in the heart of every successful student, a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to take on the unknown. These sentiments prevailed as the team set about, from scratch, locating microcredit agencies then arranged filming interviews and after producing the script, turning out with the help of Adam Johnston, a video called the  Microcredit MRU Student Project. To be fair they were part of a class of students engaged in similar types of learning projects. Others for instance were taking on producing video presentations for community partners like Woods Homes , Game Jam and the Missing Children's Society of Canada

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Microcredit is known as "the lending of small amounts of money at low interest to new businesses in the developing world". But in Canada, where banking is much different from the developing world, a host of financial and associated services are required to set up a viable business. Beyond the actual loan there must be an agency that provides some guidance and collects the repayments - usually called the "Operator".

So while a micro loan may be all that is required for an entrepreneur in Africa to start a successful poultry business in Canada new business owners need education and training ranging from inventory control to income tax reporting. 

The common denominator which determines the likelihood of Microcredit success in both Canada and elsewhere is the agency (Operator) doing the training, advancing the loans, collecting the repayment and providing the much needed moral support during the times when the learning curve is steep and difficult.

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Calgary is fortunate to have Momentum, which is one of Canada's best microcredit Operators. In a portion of the student's video Sergio Ribera, a Loan Facilitator at Momentum describes how an extremely high micro loan repayment rate can be achieved. They go beyond building physical assets to creating human assets through building up strong relationships with the borrowers.

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In another segment of the Student's Video a Momentum client, Bike Mike The Bicycle Repair Man tells about starting a travelling bicycle repairman service after watching a Monty Python video by the same name. (Monty Python - The Bicycle Repair Man). By picking up and delivering back to their owners, bicycles that he is trained to repair, Bike Mike is able to provide his clients with a valuable service and for himself, increased business.

The distinguishing feature about  is that it deals in loans which when accompanied by the necessary training have a repayment rate that would be the envy of most commercial lenders - over 95%.

In fact, at last year's Calgary Microcredit Conference John Hatch, founder of FINCA (See video of John's presentation) estimated that there were 160 million borrowers presently active and another 60 million who have simply moved on from being  borrowers. Significant in its magnitude, but unknown by most, Microcredit has reached over 200 million borrowers, who have on average 5 dependents, amounting to over one billion people (one in seven people in the world). Clearly the threshold for  has been passed, John said, and we are unlikely to turn back.

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Returning to the Student's video it was helpful to see that Calgary has social agencies other than those granting Microcredit which provide an array of services to help promote community development. Social business are those that operate at other than simply the best "bottom Line business profit". The Good Life Community Bike Shop for instance brings together members of Corporate Calgary with folks from the Calgary Drop in Centre. Over lunch when a bicycle quick fix or tune up is being personally undertaken, as shown in the CTV - television clip, it is refreshing to know, as the staff say: "that we are all human and we can all get along".

Rotarians have been playing a part in publicizing the good work done in the areas of Microcredit and community development. For each of the past five years RAGM (the Rotarian Action Group for Microcredit and Community Development)  has co-hosted the  Calgary Microcredit Conference. The second host was Rotary District 5360 (southern Alberta & SW Saskatchewan) Microcredit Task Force. In 2013 the CMC will align with and support the Social Enterprise World Forum  (2 - 4 Oct 2013).

By way of distinction and contrast, the students learned that when there are small loans involved in starting a business it is called Microcredit. Several agencies in Calgary are using the Microcredit methodology but local  lending has followed the global efforts in a form of a quiet revolution. More could be done to encourage local Microcredit activity. Contact Wally Gardiner (gardinercomputing@shaw.ca), Chair of the D5360 Microcredit Task Force or Steve Rickard (steve@rickard.ca), Chair of the Calgary Microcredit Conference to discuss what you might do in the campaign to overcome poverty, one small loan at a time.
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