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Russ Hall

The effect of an individual loan is tough and expensive to measure. I would think with Grameen being one of three significant organizations in Bangladesh serving collectively several tens of millions of clients in one country, one could measure the progress against poverty for the country as a whole and contrast Bangladesh with a country that hasn't been so heavily served by microcredit. I'm sure there are natural disasters and other country specific issues that would need to be adjusted for, but I would think the results would be interesting.

There is a Microcredit Summit meeting in Halifax next month, and my business partner will be one of session hosts. I know they try to do a good job of tracking the input side of the equation, but the output side has been less studied.

My wife is chair of a microgrant group that operates in east Africa, and they will be reporting at the summit on some significant gains against poverty that their group has measured. It sounds like I'm more optimistic than you for the prospects of microfinance as a significant tool attacking poverty. When one looks at the significant individual family challenges of health, nutrition, education, and the larger, often country-wide challenges of a working, non-corrupt political and economic system, it's easy to get discouraged with any one effort. Still, I think microfinance has shown an ability to tackle a good number of these problems systemically. When a small amount of capital generates a new livelihood, the family tends to eat more often, add more protein to the diet, educate their kids, even their daughters (an issue we often culturally overlook as families need to pay for books, uniforms, and teachers, especially for anything beyond the elementary education level), and get better medical care. For the very poor, it is tough to measure progress, but some of these indicators above reflect improvement with microcredit, at least in the efforts where my wife's group has measured them.

John Maloney

Hi John --

Thanks for your post.

When you look at the real dynamics, there are two principles that define this success.

Complexity science – reliance on emergence, self-organization, openness, etc., to drive the starting conditions forward.

Value networks – your mention of social networks is only a modest, but important, part of the story; social networks are only the people pathways. There is a much richer archetype, *including* the social network, that better elaborates these dynamics.

These specific themes, including a conversation of leaderless organizations, are the theme of your Fall 2006 SF/SV Cluster. See:


And see:



Alex Osterwalder

Thank you for this interesting and important post!

It could be interesting to add Christensen's "disruptor concepts" if we really acknowledge the business innovations coming from the South. Imagine how surprised big corporations in the North would be to see their markets being disrupted by a company from the South (e.g. through new & personal distribution channel that work in the South)...

Warm regards from Geneva, Switzerland, Alex

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