Highlights of Microfinance USA Conference

June 23, 2011
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On May 23, 2011 Susan Davis, President & CEO of BRAC USA participated in a panel titled “Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance.” The panel discussion revealed a number of valuable lessons. Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of the Pipeline Fund, moderated the panel. Simonida Cvejic contributed interesting ideas based on her experience in founding the Bay Area Medical Academy, and Jessica Jackley, co-founder of ProFounder, provided interesting insights. Susan Davis discussed the widespread impact of her book Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs To Know, written with David Bornstein to highlight answers to common questions within the field of social entrepreneurship. Susan explains that, “part of the message of the book is that we are writing the chapters together. That is the spirit of everyone can find his or her own power to be a change-maker and contribute to solving the things we find troublesome.”

On May 23, 2011 Susan Davis, President & CEO of BRAC USA participated in a panel titled “Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance.” The panel discussion revealed a number of valuable lessons. Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of the Pipeline Fund, moderated the panel. Simonida Cvejic contributed interesting ideas based on her experience in founding the Bay Area Medical Academy, and Jessica Jackley, co-founder of ProFounder, provided interesting insights. Susan Davis discussed the widespread impact of her book Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs To Know, written with David Bornstein to highlight answers to common questions within the field of social entrepreneurship. Susan explains that, “part of the message of the book is that we are writing the chapters together. That is the spirit of everyone can find his or her own power to be a change-maker and contribute to solving the things we find troublesome.”

The premise of this panel revolved around learning from business owners about their ideas on how small businesses can create large-scale social impact. One looming question at hand is how an individual can successfully facilitate change and target that change toward a brighter future. One member of the audience argued that had this conference been held ten years ago, the business world would be miles ahead of where it is currently. It was further advocated that these values should be integrated as immediately as possible into the minds and strategies of business owners and workers worldwide.

The advice and expertise of these four inspiring women can be combined into seven outstanding lessons for the world of rising entrepreneurs:

1. Share the power. More can always be accomplished by a group through team collaboration than by one single individual. If rising entrepreneurs have the opportunity to share the responsibilities and burdens of conquering global issues, they should. Working as a united force not only helps others by sharing your expertise, but it helps you and your cause by gaining the expertise of others. We must embrace the spirit of saying, “Let’s work as a team!” When people get interested in the vision and mission of a given project, they want to help out because you are giving them the power and the voice to be heard and to make a lasting impact.

2. Have open conversations. Not just about the what, but the how: how you do things, the values you want to uphold in the process. If you can translate those values into a working, functioning company day after day, you will witness increasing numbers of people align with your mission and goals. Everyone involved should be completely aware of the goals of the company. Have them be active participants in the conversation. Talk closely and make decisions together.

3. Be yourself. Be honest, be who you are, and the right community will form a support unit around you. Have the confidence to be absolutely convinced that you can be a change-maker and you will be. Everyone is capable of finding his or her own ability to be a change-maker and contribute to solving the things that we find problematic in the world.

4. Ask for help when you need it. Your community, family, friends, and fellow entrepreneurs are there to help you. One cannot succeed without the others, and no one can succeed alone. Help the world to overcome glory and greed by becoming a member of one unconditionally giving unit.

5. Promote equal access. It is tremendously difficult to provide the poorest populations with access to the field of entrepreneurship because very few investors are willing to risk losing high quantities of money. In fact, very few investors are interested in making small enterprise loans at all. As a community we have a lot of questions to answer about how we can remove capital as a barrier to entrepreneurship. One magic piece of legislation won’t do it. Instead, we need to think creatively about how we can promote access to capital for marginalized and poor populations.

6. Strengthen the community. Individuals asking similar questions, exploring similar tactics, experiencing similar changes and innovations should acknowledge the overlap in interest and challenges among his or her fellow entrepreneurs. This social entrepreneurship movement is urgent – we need the change-makers in every community to work together to ensure their own success as well as the success of others.

7. Don’t succumb to fear. Whatever is calling to you, whatever you fall in love with, go for it. Encourage yourself to make clear goals, decide what steps you need to take to get there, identify obstacles that may arise and work your way around them. It is easy to fall into the trap of being your own deepest ditch or your own worst enemy. Don’t let the fear of failure keep your from your chance at success.

The experts on this panel unequivocally encourage those who want to be a change-maker to take a leap of faith. Things may not be perfect, in fact a number of things are bound to go wrong. The key is to learn from those obstacles and grow to become that stronger, wiser and more experienced.

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