Thank Chris Horst from HOPE International and Milko Markov from Westminster College for joining us as our first "panelists" in the community conversation. Also, thank you to all members who came and contributed to the dialogue.
Below I've listed the conversation in summary not only as a reference, but also to inspire continuous discussion.
- Milko opened with an innovative idea suggesting that students could contribute to the future of microfinance through consulting with borrowers on their business plans. This would tie in an educational aspect of microfinance program while allowing students to contribute their expertise, build relationships with borrowers, and become exposed to developing communities.
- Chris then touched on a few points he sees as the future of microfinance including a number of technological advances which will help reach more of the poor. He also suggested that research and transparency are big areas that need to be covered and that this could be a very suitable spot for student involvement.
- At this point the conversation opened up for fluid dialogue, from which the take-home points are:
1) Students and MFIs can mutually benefit from working together. Although there is some trouble with accessibility and the capacity of MFIs to spend time and resources involving volunteers and interns, the integration of microfinance in classroom curriculums and online networks such as this are helping to alleviate some of this problem.
2) Students can be a part not only of funding MFIs and loans, but also of microfinance education programs.
3) Investment in microfinance is a big part of the future. This includes both investment in MFIs and (as Milko suggested) investment in borrower businesses (i.e. micro- venture capital).
4) The internet is increasingly becoming a part of the future of microfinance in a number of ways: as part of mobile banking (connecting people with money to those without money across the globe in loans and remittances), microfinance networks, MFI transparency, and research.
5) There are plenty of gaps in the microfinance market for innovative social entrepreneurs to fill. Although microfinance is well established, there is certainly room to grow.
Areas that were not touched on in depth, but are relevant include: the development of micro-franchising, micro-insurance, for-profit vs. non-profit, and regulation.
I hope all of this proves interesting. Hearing each other's opinion and sharing our knowledge is certainly a valuable part of this site and will help us see the present and the future more clearly. Please, look forward to our next community conversation.