Friday, March 09, 2007

A wealth of wealth builders

Microfinance has gotten a lot of (mostly-deserved) attention lately. But it isn't the only strategy that philanthropists (and others) support to address the breakdowns in financial systems that keep the poor poor. Issue Number One 2007 of Ford Reports called "Saving's Grace: Building Financial Assets" is a good, quick read on a subset of the many ways to address these systemic shortcomings. The report discusses:
  • Microfinance
  • Credit unions
  • Matched savings
  • Homeownership
  • Credit and credit scores for the "unbanked"
  • Individual Development Accounts
  • Mortgage choices for the less affluent
  • Federal policy proposals for building assets among the poor
This isn't groundbreaking stuff. Most of it will be familiar to those already involved in community finance. But the report is a solid introduction to how the different tools fit together. The report also lists additional resources, including:

Is this the whole universe of options? No, of course not. It doesn't include, for example, LivingGoods, which aims to make social franchising the next great development in social finance. Are all of the above organizations Ford grantees? No doubt. Is there a problem with that? Sure, if you don't agree with the Foundation's mission or its strategies. If you do agree with them, a report like this, which lays out an overall picture of a problem, gives quick cases of specific organizations working on the issues, and breaks down the various approaches and tools that are available is very helpful.

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