Accion Ambassadors Blog

Experience the power of financial inclusion

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The Importance of Food and Relationships


The first thing that one of my Accion coworkers asked me when he found out I was going to China was will I buy a funnel? I gave him a perplexed look, and he said “To funnel all the delicious food into your mouth!” I really should have bought a funnel. I am eating my way through Beijing. Much of my planning is around which restaurant and what dishes to try. My coworkers have been amazing with this—they take me to lunch and then plan which restaurant I should go to at night and I ask them for recommendations of dishes. Continue reading

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Perspectives: Rooftops, Desks, and Reports

*Beep, beep, beep*, the persistent cries of the alarm woke me. Rolling over, I grabbed my iPhone, and slid my thumb across the screen, activating the snooze mode – a motion so well rehearsed that I can literally do it in my sleep. I used to complete this cycle about a half dozen times before begrudgingly rising from bed. Today was different. After activating the snooze, I was awake and excited.  This was my first day going to the Accion office in Bangalore. Continue reading

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The loan officer’s story

“Our job is about more than just giving out loans. We get involved in the women’s business, family, goals, and dreams.”

This is a loan officer speaking.

Actually, loan officer is not entirely correct. Within Fundación Paraguaya, there are basically two job positions responsible for the contact with the client. There is the Oficial de Crédito; the loan officer responsible for individual loans, and there is the Asesora de Comités; the loan officer responsible for women’s solidarity groups (“comités”). In solidarity groups, borrowers usually receive individual loans, but they are organized into groups whereby group members are jointly liable for each other’s loans.

In this case, it was an Asesora speaking. Continue reading

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Financial inclusion: one piece of the poverty puzzle

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During the five weeks I have been in India, the bulk of my exposure to the financial inclusion field has been through the lens of microfinance and MFIs. As I wrote about in my last post, I recently toured the headquarters and field operations of a large, commercial (but socially focused) MFI. As far as my work this summer is concerned, “inclusion” has roughly equaled getting more clients access to credit.

Microcredit is where this field began, but it has certainly swelled to mean much more than that. These days, financial inclusion can describe activities from selling technology that makes credit scoring easier for the poor to innovative forms of crop insurance for rural farmers. But even for the more socially focused, creative MFIs, credit is still their bread and butter. The group model, which allows them to lend to millions with very low risk, provides an easy mechanism for expansion and client retention. The earnings from interest allow for profit and perhaps eventually incorporation into an official bank or public offering. In some cases, profit is reinvested in the form of social programs for clients, such as education or health care. But given that these clients are, by definition, at the base of the pyramid, is credit really enough? Continue reading

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Social Class (and Castes?) in Colombia

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Walking through Paloquemao, Bogota.

“Where do you live?” It’s a basic question, but in Bogota, as in many cities, it can also be a pretext for assessing social class. Saying you live in Usaquén, to the north of the city, is quite different than saying you’re from Las Margaritas in the South, just as people in San Francisco would make very different assumptions about someone living in the Tenderloin versus the Marina. What separates Bogota from other cities, however, is the city’s subdivision into six distinct strata that classify the population according to socio-economic status. From 1, the lowest class, to 6, the highest, these designations were put in place so that wealthier citizens would subsidize services for the poorest citizens. Nonetheless, while the classification system does make it easier for those in lower strata to afford services, the system also reinforces inequality and stigmatization of the poor and impedes social mobility. Continue reading

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At the center of it all: the Zoona Agent

A few weeks ago Kirsty explained a bit behind Zoona’s business model, and highlighted the fact that emerging entrepreneurs sit right at the core of the ecosystem. Zoona provides working capital financing, business management tools, and entrepreneurial support focused on helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses and in the process, increase financial inclusion in Africa.

All that sounds awesome on paper, but what about the agents’ day to day? How do the provided tools really impact how the agents run their businesses? Continue reading

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First impressions of Mumbai

IMG_5889You can imagine India before arriving there from all the things that can be found online and in newspapers, by comments that you receive when you say that you’re about to spend two months in Mumbai. You hear about its huge population, hot weather, spicy food, and the different religions. However, none of these comments can prepare you for the multitude of feelings that come to you as soon as you step out of the airport. Everything is so overwhelming – makes you feel so alive.

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