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Chris Macrae :   let me jot down something from the mouth of muhammad yunus-on one of the 4 times I have briefly met him in 2008's first half year of Future Capitalism -as best I recall it and you decide who agrees

Microcredit (and I imagine any economics tool worthy of human beings integrating our lifetimes around) is an intergenerational system designed to sustain 3 sub-games in one

Game 2 the middle one is to bank for the poor- to help each person know that time in their life they most need credit to start income generating activity, and to be co-mentored by 5 female companions on the same journey in the same community

Game 1 (ending poverty as failed community system) what comes before the banking is to work out what is crashing all around the community- what is putting it into ever more poverty- and to find some way of turning that round, as well as inviting the whole community to envision that compound future possibility (in Grameen's original Bangladesh context 16 agreements)

just to give 2 concrete examples around wholeplanet - in bangladesh where the poor have always repaid loans at 98%+ (higher than any banking system anywhere) one first thing to turn round was discrimination against women, many of whom in 1970 were treated more like animals than men treated themselves (albeit because 90% of economic survival appeared to involve heavy labour work); in contrast in kenya today, the leading microcredit org's first problem was completely different- the poor were actually defaulting on their loans but this was because they suddenly found someone in their extended family needed hiv drugs or some other expensive life-saving medicine and gave their money to this instead of using it to develop their microbusiness- so in this case there was no purpose in offering microcredit without microhealth insurance (miraculously in kenya a lot of misisonary hospitals were on verge of going bust so the microbank found it could do annual health insurance for whole families at $10 per family if it made an order for hundreds of thousands of community customers)

Game 3 In most bottom billion places there is another crisis apart from Game 1's what is viciously spinning ever more communal destruction (discrimination in 70s bangladesh, hiv in kenya). It is that historically a disaster of some sort has happened every half generation or so - in bangladesh this is floods. So in the view of Dr Yunus microcredit must be designed not just to take a family past the poverty line but the whole community so far ahead that even if disaster strikes, communities and generations will look after each other and not slip back behind the poverty line. In Grameen's case everyone who takes out a loan is asked to commit as far as they possibly can to keep their children at school and if the grameen branch they belong to fails to continue to achieve this goal it loses its star rating just as a hotel might lose its star rating if food poisoned folk

So its quite easy to walk into an operation in Africa or any world village that says it is offering a community microcredit and see if it is built to last 15 years around all 3 of these objectives. If all it shows you is its last quarter success numbers leave the community or suggest residents run on the bank! Whether americans will learn to do the same thing with every and any institution caught up in subprime is of course a freedom of choice.

chris macrae washington dc 301 881 1655 bureaus for http://saintjames.tv/ http://futuresunited.com/ http://journalistsforhumanity.com/ http://africaplusplus.com/

New comments

By Ceris D

Thank you Chris, that's given me a really good picture, I've read up a little on Grameen and Dr Yunus but this is the first time I've seen the 3 "games" approach - I like it, it makes a lot of sense to me.

One reason I like it is because I can use it when I think of the kind of community I live in, like this -

Game 1 is things like transport, education, interaction, the infrastructure of the community

Game 2 is the poor in opportunity and quality of life, it's initiating, facilitating, and engaging in opportunities

Game 3 is committing to maintaining the living community, in the sense in which a community is an organic whole, in all practical ways.

Put all three together, you get threefold empowerment - individual, community, and individual as part of the community. At least that's what just flashed into my head :)

I think like Dr Yunus.

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