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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Change The World By Changing The Way We Invest

Join The Movement: Changing the World by Changing the Way We Invest

That Is the slogan I created for a new movement. It starts today, physically in Seattle and remotely around the world.

Change The World

The economics of the past clearly haven’t worked, as we have seen over the past several years, but particularly in the last year. The economic norms don’t have humanity in mind, they are not for the good of the people, they are for the good of the few. The rich few. But as you all know from yesterday’s post, I believe individual actions make a difference. I believe each of our actions together can change the world.

Money is one of the things that makes the world go round, there’s no denying it – when the economy goes south, we all feel it.

So let’s redefine finance, change how money works or doesn’t in our world. Let’s put our money where our passion is and truly, completely, invest in our future.

What Is It?

If you’ve ever heard of microfinance or microcredit, that’s what this is. Briefly, here’s how it works: instead of investing your money in a money market fund, or keeping it in a savings account, you put it into an Oikocredit fund. That fund is used to provide loans and business services to people in the developing world who cannot obtain a bank loan for their business plan (because they are poor and have no collateral or previous credit history). These loans have a 95-99% success rate – much higher than typical small business loans. And in 35 years, Oikocredit has repaid every single lender with their money plus interest.

It is a strategy for bringing people out of poverty by helping them become self-sufficient.   And it is a strategy for changing the world by changing what we do with our investments: why give our savings to a big bank who cares nothing about you, your money, or the greater good of the world? You can do more with your money.

Who Does It Change?

Here is a bit I wrote on the Oikocredit website about a woman named Flora.

Flora

Flora lives in a region of Kenya where 90% of people in the area live below the poverty line on less than $2 a day. When Flora’s husband was killed and their cattle stolen in 2001, she cried, feeling helpless and hopeless. But with four young children to support, she desperately needed to rebuild her life. With a series of loans – and a lot of hard work – she was able to re-establish her herd and eventually open a small grocery store. Little by little Flora started thinking big again and taking control of her life.

Flora has never forgotten her own struggle and is devoted to helping others in her community. She offers fair credit in her shop to customers who need it. In addition to a home for her family, she has also built rooms to rent out. This housing means others can live affordably and benefit like she has from the town’s growth. Today, she not only feeds and clothes her family; she pays school fees for her two brothers and plans to send her own children to college. Her future dreams include opening another business. Not only does Flora have improved her own life, but she has also become the inspiration for other single women in her community. Photography: Samburu Teachers Sacco

If you’re still unsure, I encourage you to try investing $25 and see what happens, see how it feels to fuel someone else’s success as you keep you own money safe.

I wonder now why haven’t we done this long ago.  I only recently heard about microfinance, I don’t know about you.  My guess is that we weren’t thinking about how to help each other at the same time we help ourselves, and the big banks have much bigger marketing budgets than these organizations who are trying to change the world.

What amazing connections, impacts, true life changes we can create by changing the way we invest and focusing on putting our investment dollars to the same scrutiny that we put our food buying dollars.

Join Us, Learn More

If you want to learn more, and meet the CEO of this non- profit, come join us tonight:

Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Time: 5:30pm – 9:00pm
Location: Evo
Street: 122 NW 36th St in Fremont; Seattle, WA; 98107
Cost: Free!  Includes drinks and snacks

If you aren’t in the area, don’t worry – we’ve created a fabulous site with lots of information here.  Or if you want a personal connection, just email me – I’m happy to let you know all I know about it.  Also, this is also just the kickoff event – we will be having more organizing events in the coming months around the United States.  If you are not in the US, you can learn more about Oikocredit investments in your country here.

And finally, while this is a client of my new mission-driven business, we picked this client for a reason. We set out to change the world as a business, so we don’t choose our clients lightly.  Oikocredit has been around for 35 years, with an amazing mission and truly selfless people working together. They also take huge strides to make sure their work is socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable.  They want to improve the world just as much as we do.

If you want to look around at other microfinance organizations to pick which one works best for you, there are several others.  Just make sure you investigate them as we did with Oikocredit – make sure they are offering loans at reasonable rates to people in the developing world, and that they offer services beyond loans – support services like courses in creating a business plan, accounting, marketing, etc – these things are what make the biggest difference.

Change the world by changing the way you invest. Join the movement.

Thoughts?

Have you thought about your investments in this way before?  Will you think about changing the way you invest?  Do you have questions, or other suggestions about ways to change the way we think about money?

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9 comments to Change The World By Changing The Way We Invest

  • Hi Melinda! Looking forward to meeting you tonight and learning more about Oikocredit. I’ll be the one with the tiki mug. Hope our paths cross.

  • I wish I could make it out there but it’s just too long of a drive! ;)

    Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, and maybe now is the time to do it.

  • Good post Melinda, I know about and admire the Grameen bank but didn’t think of investing directly in micro credit until I read this post. Here is a link to an Australian article that I think you will find interesting:
    http://newmatilda.com/2010/01/08/big-ideas-small-scale
    Cheers, catmint

  • Hmmm, I’ve known about micro lending and have been interested, but haven’t known how to do it as an individual. Sounds interesting, but obviously, I’ll have to research it far more. Thanks so much for the link. I used to live in Seattle, but there’s no way I’m heading out there now–too far :).

  • Deb

    Hi Melinda,

    This is a great post. We’ve been making a $25 – 50 monthly investment in micro-credit for the past six months after finding the KIVA.org site. We get to choose the person we lend to, and get regular reports on loan repayment and progress. It’s a wonderful way of reaching out, even when your own resources are limited. We are pensioners and don’t have much extra but that extra can accomplish a lot, put in the right place.

    All the best,
    Deb in Canada

  • Oh my gosh, this is awesome! I have been trying to figure out what to invest my money in (hoping to do something “green” with it, even though my husband keeps telling me that investing should purely be about making money and that we can support green businesses in other ways – something I just don’t believe!) and this seems like a wonderful way to do it. I have read about how other organizations help people with these kinds of loans, but I never realized that it was something I could personally become involved in. I will definitely research it more and start small. The KIVA.org site that Deb mentioned sounds great, too. Yay!

  • Rob

    I would like to learn more, but unfortunately your meeting times don’t coincide with my working times! Maybe if you did one on a Saturday or a Sunday? or a morning or evening? Life on the swingshift can suck at times!

  • Rob, we will have other events in the near future. I will keep you posted – let me know if you’d like me to put you on the email list that will outline more about Oikocredit and how and where to get involved.

    Tiffany, I never found you and your tiki cup! Bummer. Look for me next time. :)

    I’m glad this hit home for you guys. I really believe this is another piece of the puzzle that needs to worked out for our world to be a more compassionate, sustainable place.

    Deb, Kiva is awesome – the founders are really amazing, down to earth people. It’s wonderful that you give what you can.

    Nicole, the only difference between Kiva and Oikocredit or Grameen is that Kiva does not give you a return on your investment. So you get your money back after lending it, but you don’t get any interest from it. It’s a good model and a really great organization, but if you’re looking for some kind of return on your investment, you’ll want to try one of the others.

    Jen and Simple In France, lol, no need to come. I will keep you all updated when we start to expand the events to other areas. In the meantime, plenty to do and learn about online! :)

    Catmint, love the article:
    “But it seems that in unison with the growing scientific and political focus on resources shortage and climate crisis, there is a groundswell of local cultural action. And, it is these microcosmic pursuits, with an interest in local aesthetics and community objectives, that will shape the cultural landscape of Australia in 2010. So, get out and unearth this culture, the only fertiliser it needs is your interest and support.”

  • [...] Learn more about microfinance in the blog post I wrote recently here. [...]

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