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To Catch A Dollar: A Sundance Movie Review

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Michelle Malsbury, BSBM, MM
April 01, 2011
Last evening I had the privilege of seeing this wonderful movie about Grameen Bank and Mohammed Yunus. It was called “To Catch A Dollar”. In 2008 Mohammed Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for microfinance. His groundbreaking work with Grameen Bank sets him apart from most financiers. However, he still adheres to the adage that it “takes money to make money”, just on a slightly less grand scale. Hence, the dollar theme.

The story revolves around the Nobel Laureate, Mohammed Yunus from Bangledash, India. He has travelled all over the world, but began his plan for change in his home, India. India has a large population and much of that population is quite impoverished. The people there suffer from an array of maladies some of which could be solved if they had some money and hope. Mr. Yunus wanted to change the dynamics of his society for the betterment of ALL her citizenry. His plan was simple and genius! He created what is known as microfinance.

Mr. Yunus saw a need to loan money to women who were under the poverty level in his country because they had no credit, no credit scores, no collateral, and no way for any bank to serve them. He set out to loan between $500 and $3,000 to each one. He did not collateralize these loans, but did make some requirements that would help these lucky ladies to become self-sustaining, productive, members of their society. Here´s how the plan works.

The money was conditionally lent out to groups of five women. All women had to be under the level considered impoverished and could not be on any other state assistance plan. Businesses ranged from hair salons to nail salons and from chicken hatchers or goat herders to shoe sales or catering businesses and more. Each woman served as support for her team and met each week for one hour to see how these new business ladies were progressing. They discussed an array of business topics pertinent to their new positions. One member from the Grameen Bank was also present to check in with these ladies and to collect the funds for repayment of the loans. There were also some other interesting twists to what had to be done by these ladies who were lent funds. Each step was thoughtfully intended to help them get out of poverty and make something of their lives.

Contingencies to money being lent also expressly designed a plan where each lady had to sock away a whopping two dollars each week into savings accounts and make weekly, affordable payments to Grameen for these loans. Larger loans, than the $3,000 max individual loan, could be taken out if all members of the group could concur and continue in the practices that had been outlined for them by their loan officer at Grameen. Over a period of time these loans had a 99% plus payback ratio and have helped many many deserving women in India to achieve their dreams.

This microfinance plan was so successful that it was implemented in Ghana: New York City: Omaha, Nebraska: San Francisco, California. Target women for this microfinance program have typically been new immigrants to the USA because they are so motivated toward making a place for themselves and working hard to achieve that end. Can this type of financing translate into other segments of our society and perhaps be the cure for what ails our banking and investment system? I say I believe so.

To date more than 5,000 loans have been made by Grameen to women of various backgrounds and over $15 million dollars have been invested in this program. For more information about this special man, Mohammed Yunus, or Grameen Bank please preview some of his news video´s on YouTube.