Conference Spotlights Issue
Microfinance and Global Poverty
Conference attendees dicuss efforts in Congo DRC.
Microfinance is a big word for small loans and savings accounts. It’s also a big deal these days, which attendees discovered at the 2009 Microfinance Conference held May 8–9 on Seattle Pacific University’s campus.
At its simplest, microfinance provides tiny loans to help impoverished people in developing countries start and expand small businesses, which in turn generate income that leads to better health and housing. When loans are repaid, the funds are recycled to help new recipients improve their quality of life.
“It’s not an economic cure,” says SPU Professor of Business Ethics Kenman Wong. “But microfinance is a promising, sustainable way to alleviate poverty.” Wong joined John Terrill, director of SPU’s Center for Integrity in Business, and Jeff Keenan ‘83 as event co-chairs.
Exploring solutions for global poverty was front and center at the conference, which Wong says he believes is the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Participating were prominent organizations ranging from World Vision to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and a slate of high-level speakers including Kiva CEO Matt Flannery.
“Nearly every major microfinance organization based in the Pacific Northwest was involved,” says Keenan. “We’re especially excited that both faith-based and non-faith-based organizations came together to address an important humanitarian issue.”
While the conference covered an array of topics to inform and inspire those in attendance, it was the event’s collaborative nature that Wong hopes makes the biggest impact. “During difficult economic times, fear can lead us to close ranks,” he says. “I hope this event encourages us to think as global citizens and act on behalf of others.”
—Photo by John Keatley
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