Poverty, Gender, and Microcredit
BACKGROUND TO SERVICE LEARNING AND COURSE OVERVIEW
Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1800?s observed that the strength of American democracy lay in its spirited voluntary associations and emphasis on community. He declared however, that democracy and its manifestation of individualism, while a virtue, could become a vice when taken to extremes, especially in the form of hyper individualism. Several contemporary scholars have revealed that America has already reached this vicious stage of its democracy, one in which people are so preoccupied with their own concerns and successes that they have shut out of their consciences and consciousnesses the concerns of others in a society. Individuals? preoccupation with self-advancement has led to the corrosion of social capital ? the connections and cooperation among people, and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness – considered by many social scientists as the raw material of society, and as vital as language, for a humane society.
American higher education represents the mainstay of individualism, operating on the assumption that its primary purpose is to disseminate skills and technical tools, considered indispensable for realizing the self-contained American Dream. Through its detachment from complex social problems, American education has cultivated leaders who are generally apathetic towards the multifaceted structure of society. From an economics perspective, conflict, competition and distrust are virtues that allow the invisible hand to serve its ordained function ? atomistic self-fulfillment. And individuals may ?use? and discard others insofar as it advances his/her self-interest. The common good of society is then measured by one?s level of income and wealth, and the wealthier and more individualistic a person is, the more characteristic s[he] is of the ideal human being. Corollary: The underclass of society exists because of its inability to compete in a neo-Darwinian world.
Despite the atmosphere of instrumental individualism in higher education in general and in economics in particular, this course takes as given that education as a vital agent of democratization where the good of an individual is judged in relation to the good of others and of society in general. Moreover, this course assumes that all people, irrespective of their economic status, matter, and that humans are social beings interested in the welfare of self as well as others. To effectively engage in this form of learning, we will take this course into the streets of the local poor community of Spring Hill. In partnering with local leaders and members of the community, we will facilitate the development of business planning by Spring Hill members who are interested in starting a business, or improving upon an existing business.
CENTRAL QUESTIONS TO BE ASKED
Is there a way not only to “teach the poor to fish,” but also to create structures for the poor to acquire the equipment for fishing? In this course, we will pay serious attention to the role of microcredit as a sustainable moral and economic concept to enable the entrepreneurial poor to transcend their economic status. Questions we will address include:
- What is material and non-material poverty? How is poverty measured economically, religiously, and philosophically?
- What are the economic and non-economic causes of poverty? Low wages? Minimum wage laws? Low skills level? Lack of land and capital? Individual attributes? A culture of poverty? Laziness? Lack of intelligence? Oppressive institutional forces (the church, the government, political leadership)? Charity and philanthropy that diminish incentive?
- Does microcredit lead to long-term alleviation of poverty for the poor?
- Is it is possible that through microcredit leaders can learn to respect the manner in which the poor attempt to face their problems through self-help group activism?
- Can self-help groups facilitate a sense of enablement through self-esteem and community solidarity?
- In other words, can microcredit serve as a vehicle to dispel false theories that the poor are victims of their own vicious cycles of poverty and destitution?
- Do faith-based microcredit agencies have a vital role to play?
- Can free enterprise at the level of microenterprise help the poor escape from material and non-material poverty through generating greater income, economic confidence, social mobility, and active political participation?
- Is microenterprise an example of Adam Smith?s world of unhindered competitive markets?
Allan G. Johnson, Privilege, Power, and Difference. Mayfield, 2005.
Daniel Goleman: Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. Bantam (2006)
Deepa Narayan, Voices Of The Poor: Can Anyone Hear Us?? World Bank, 2000 Oxford . Vol.1
Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. Penguin ISBN-10: 0143036580
Practical Microfinance: A Training Manual. Practical Action # ISBN-10: 1853395633
- Seminar format. The course will be taught as a seminar. Each student will formulate 2 analytical questions for discussion based upon readings/documentaries. Will count 20% towards your final grade.
- MICROCREDIT WORKSHOPS: Business development plan/ Grant proposal. Will count 20% towards your final grade.
- Research Project. One of the following topics, or you may suggest your own topic. Will count 20% towards your final grade
- Each student will complete an empirical research project that studies a microcredit program that is a secular or faith-based agency. Students will report on their research toward the end of the course.
- An empirical analysis of the people of Spring Hill ? through interviewing and case studies.
- Midterm exams: 20%
- Final exams: 20%
Business Development Workshops to be held in Spring Hill community:
Defining Your Vision: What is Entrepreneurship? What Do You Want to Do? What are Your Talents and Abilities? What are Your Goals? What can CHOMI Do for You?
After workshop exercise: Write a journal highlighting your experience with Spring Hill citizens today – either those who are the workshop, or those whom we will interview on the progress made on their businesses. Reflect on what you perceive to be their ambitions, challenges and major stumbling blocks to fulfilling their dreams.
Defining Your Product, Competition and Marketing Plan, Product Description and Price Setting.
After workshop exercise: Write a journal highlighting your experience with Spring Hill citizens today – either those who are the workshop, or those whom we will interview on the progress made on their businesses. Reflect on what you perceive to be weaknesses and strengths in their business perceptions, their marketing strategies, and their product descriptions.
Managing your Financial Flow: Cash Flow, Financing, Expenses, Market Analysis.
After workshop exercise: This is the most difficult of business workshops, since it involves math. Write a journal highlighting your experience with Spring Hill citizens today – either those who are the workshop, or those whom we will interview on the progress made on their businesses. How would you rate citizen?s understanding of cash flow and market analysis? Are you aware of their challenges as they progress towards completing of their business plans? Identify topics and concerns that we will address next week.
Managing Your Business, Financial Statements, Insurance, Profits, Forecasting, Setting Up Your Business.
After workshop exercise: Write a journal highlighting your experience with Spring Hill citizens today – either those who are the workshop, or those whom we will interview on the progress made on their businesses. Work with members on an imaginary exercise, and lead them through analysis of financial statements and forecasting. Investigate government requirements for the business category of your client, e.g. day-care: what are the legal requirements and conditions for operating a day-care, either at an independent business facility, or at your home.
- Your Business And Government: taxation and licensing for your product
- Using the internet to facilitate your business
After workshop exercise: Write a journal highlighting your last formal experience with Spring Hill citizens today – either those who are the workshop, or those whom we will interview on the progress made on their businesses. You have learned much about clients in your interaction with them the first 5 weeks. Frame a set of questions that you feel you could ask your clients in our next meeting. These questions must not be intrusive, and must be motivated by your interaction with them, and an understanding of their feelings . Turn these questions to me within 2 days, and then meet with me to discuss your questions before next class.
Evaluate your Spring Hill experience and the business development workshops. Make suggestions for improving community relations, and how to become more effective service-learners.
The following areas need to be addressed:
- Please critically evaluate the degree to which the academic component of this class prepared you for the service learning component.
- Discuss ways in which you have developed as a citizen as a result of your experience in this class, both in and out of the university setting.
- Do you feel that the business workshops have helped you understand the privilege and power that comes with certain demographic variables, and not with others?
- If you were to write a ?privilege exercise? specifically w.r.t. the entrepreneurial poor, how would it differ from the exercise undertaken at the beginning of the semester?
- Use your readings by Sachs, Sen, Narayan, Johnson, Yunus, Lasch and Putnam, among others to determine the effectiveness of our workshops in functioning as a social justice process. Please substantiate your answers.
Research Resources : Networks of Organizations
INTERACTION (American Council for Voluntary International Action). InterAction is a coalition of more than 150 non-profit organizations working worldwide – and the United States’ leading advocate for humanitarian assistance to the world’s poor. 1717 Massachusetts Ave., Washington, D. C., Suite 801; 202-667-8227. www.interaction.org.
SEEP (Small Enterprise Education and Promotion Network). 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017. 212-808-0084. E-mail: email@example.com. For a complete listing of all SEEP publications, see www.pactpub.com.
MICROFINANCE NETWORK. The Network is an international association of 23 leading microfinance practitioners. www.bellanet.org/partners/mfn/
MICROFINANCE AND COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES ON THE WWW.
Microenterprise Innovation Project of USAID (MIP). www.mip.org
The Virtual Library on Microcredit. www.soc.titech.ac.jp/icm/
The Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP) www.worldbank.org/html/cgap/cgap.htm
The Enterprise Development Website. www.enterweb.org
Microcredit Summit. www.microcreditsummit.org
Microfinance Network. www.bellanet.org/partners/mfn
Start-Up Education. www.opens.org
National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. www.nftebiz.org
Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Clearinghouse on Entrepreneurship Education. www.celcee.edu
National Congress for Community Economic Development. www.ncced.org
National Association of Community Development Loan Funds. www.nacdlf.org
National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. www.natfed.org
Community Development Financial Institutions. www.cdfi.org/cdfi
National Economic Development and Law Center. www.nedlc.org
Community Development and Fair Lending. http://home.att.net/~bdedman/index.htm
Professor: Ranjini L. Thaver
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