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Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World Hardcover – April 4, 2008
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The stark reality of global povertythe poorest half of the world's population owns less than one percent of its assets, and that nearly one billion people subsist on less than $1 per dayrarely registers even a ripple in the international media. Western attempts to stem hunger and poverty are often piecemeal and ineffective, applying band-aids rather than finding permanent solutions. But Muhammad Yunus, visionary founder of the Grameen Bank, has demonstrated different and more inclusive ways of approaching the problems that confront humanity. In creating Grameen, he turned the conventional wisdom of traditional financial institutions on its head: instead of seeking out wealthy people with collateral and excluding the poor, Yunus sought out the impoverished and excluded the rich. His approach, known as microfinance, has revolutionized global antipoverty efforts.
In Small Loans, Big Dreams, Alex Counts presents compelling stories of women benefiting from Yunus's microcredit in rural Bangladesh and urban Chicago. He sets the stage by telling the story of Grameen's founding by Yunus, describing the environments in which Grameen Bank and the Full Circle Funda bold effort to apply the same principles in Chicagoand their clients operated. He then recounts the experiences of different borrowers in each country, interspersing them with stories of Yunus, his colleagues, and their counterparts in Chicago. These fascinating accounts not only show the power of the strategy, but also prove that it is no panacea that absolves governments and businesses from their obligation to consider the needs of the poor. Instead, microfinance emphasizes that other sectors think about the implications of its success for their own workwhich may be based on flawed assumptions about the poor that the success of microfinance has disproved.
Microfinance has the potential to reach truly massive numbers in the years ahead. But in order to grasp future opportunities and challenges, it is essential that people everywhere understand just what it takes to build a large microfinance institution like Grameen Bank, and how this allows for market-based poverty reduction through the principle of self-help. To that end, this book provides a straightforward, inspiring, and accessible guide.
From the Back Cover
Praise for Small Loans, Big Dreams
"I was enthralled to see the difference a few dollars loaned with no collateral in Bangladesh could benefit and change Chicago's poorest of the poor. I learned how pennies defeated myths about the poor. This book will renew your belief in the American dream and show that there can be economic liberty and justice for allhere AND abroad! This story must be told and retoldand then updated again as the successes pour in. Please keep fast-forwarding!"
MIKE ENZI, U.S. Senator, Wyoming
"Counts moves past facts and figures to show the human sideand human cost of poverty. By focusing on the experiences of individual women, Counts demonstrates the power of microfinance to bring opportunity where it otherwise would not exist, and ultimately transform people's lives. I am pleased to be able to support Grameen, as I believe its important work addresses one of the critical issues of our time."
Pierre Omidyar, founder and Chairman, eBay, cofounder and founding partner, Omidyar Network
"Microfinance is the most effective and noble tool for combating poverty. It builds on the strengths rather than the perceived weaknesses of poor communities. In this memorable book, Alex Counts tells of working with Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer of the movement, and he illustrates his analysis with fascinating and inspiring tales of how the process has worked."
WALTER ISAACSON, President, The Aspen Institute
"In Small Loans, Big Dreams, Alex Counts humanizes, through deft storytelling and solid analysis, the borrowers as well as the leaders of the microfinance movement. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize broadened the awareness of microfinance and Grameen. This book deepens ones understanding of this emerging industry, and lets the reader see that it is about not just transactions, but transformationsof people and of entire economies."
PAUL MARITZ, former senior vice president, Microsoft Corporation
"Small Loans, Big Dreams provides a powerful and poignant glimpse into the real world of microfinance. From the well-told stories, we learn that the success of Grameen and microfinance is not just having innovative business models nor good intentions. Rather, it is organizations' and people's willingness and ability to touch the lives of individualsto hear their stories, to understand their needs and aspirations, and to provide them with an opportunity to improve their own livelihood that makes the Grameen model and similar programs such a successful poverty-alleviation tool."
MARGE MAGNER, founder and Managing partner, Brysam Global Partners
"At a time when 'change' is the watchword, here is a story of the devotion and tenacity it takes to turn a powerful idea into a powerful reality."
JANET McKINLEY, retired chair, The Income Fund of America, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
I have just finished an amazing and inspiring book that I'd like to make you aware of - Small Loans, Big Dreams - by my good friend, colleague, and advisor Alex Counts, President and CEO of the Grameen Foundation. For those of you who may have read his other book - Give Us Credit - you will love catching up with some of those women from Bangladesh and from Chicago he brought alive in 1996. Women like Shandha, the "mother hen" of her credit center whose son became one of the first recipients of Grameen's high education loan and has now completed his master's degree. Or Omiyale and Queenesta, two African-American woman living in Chicago who were part of a solidarity group called Les Papillons (The Butterflies). You'll love getting caught up with how their lives have been evolving as they continue to face the obstacles and bumps in the road that the poor all over the world face.
Even if you didn't read Give Us Credit, you'll love reading about these women and their struggles now. Alex is an amazing storyteller and you quickly get caught up in their lives as they participate in microfinance programs half way around the world from each other. You see so quickly just how microfinance transforms lives, although not always in the nice, neat way we would like to see it function. Alex is nothing if not honest as he lets his subjects' stories unfold. It is fascinating to see the intertwining of the modifications the Grameen Bank and other microfinance institutions have made over time and the lives of real people as those changes affect their lives and their choices. As Alex says, ". . .Read more ›
This is written by the head of Grameen Foundation in the U.S. It is extremely positive but the writing is just OK. It makes an exciting idea a drag. Also it isn't clear who the book is written for. It is a bit too dense for most readers but it isn't technical enough for economists or policy makers.
Also, I didn't see of the criticism of microfinance. There are many. There have been many cases when microfinance didn't live up to the hype and some cases where it may have done harm.
Microfinance and Grameen Bank are extremely important. For someone wanting the technical aspect of microfinance I would recommend The Economics of Microfinance y Beatriz Armendáriz and Jonathan Morduch. An interested layperson could start with the New York Times articles.
Perhaps the best part is the comparison of slum Chicago with Bangladesh. Chicago doesn't look that good in comparison.
Don't misconstrue this review as an indictment of microfinance. And this book isn't horrible, I was just surprised that something so important could be dull.
This idea is the genius of microcredit: banking for people too impoverished to provide the required collateral for a regular bank account. After achieving remarkable success in Bangladesh, where the Grameen Bank is now sustainable, founder Muhammad Yunus turned his attention to developing the system in other countries, including U.S.A. Alex Counts strings the continuing story of Mohammad Yunus's life and work together with fascinating accounts of women in Chicago and Bangladesh, along with brief histories of the two regions. Development professionals and all good-hearted people will be challenged by the stories of government cowardice in attacking poverty and individual courage in overcoming it. Above all, the book sets forth the larger vision of the common good that is so often lost in today's global society.
--Anna H. Bedford
Little Rock, AR
This book is perfect for people who enjoy reading about everyday heros - regular people who overcome personal and social obstacles to create a better life for themselves, their families and others. It is difficult not to be touched and get a deeper appreciation for our humanity as you read the stories of the women who step out of out what is comfortable and familiar in their culture and become leaders for a new future. Reading the stories of these women creating a new future in the circumstances they have, it is hard not to be left with more courage and commitment to tackle the issues and circumstances in our personal lives and our communities. With simplicity, gradualism, faith and partnership, truly any difference can be made. This book demonstrates this.
This book is ALSO perfect for people who like to read books about real world issues. Alex shares the evolution of perhaps the most effective program of all time to combat poverty and he does it so that the reader has multiple perspectives (Muhammad Yunus's personal history/journey to empower the poorest of the poor, the current economic and social constraints that disable the poor from participating in capitalism and pulling themselves out of poverty, a glimpse of the day to day experience and dedication of the staff at the Grameen Bank and those women who use micro-finance to give themselves and their families better lives).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Book arrived in a timely fashion. Condition of the book was accurately described and contained minimal to no damages at all. Read morePublished 9 months ago by RaeVaughn Gardner-Williams
I read this book while on an internship in rural Kenya. What I read at night was clearly visible during the day; poor unemployed men and women unable to break out of the cycle of... Read morePublished on June 28, 2014 by Jamie Charlebois
Its a good book especially on developing poor communities through micro-finance. . . . . . . . . .Published on March 6, 2013 by Charles Musaba
As an aspiring social entrepreneur and recent college graduate, I am grateful for the insights provided by Alex Counts into the history and inner workings of Grameen Bank and the... Read morePublished on March 23, 2010 by Shannon K. Rasnak
As someone who has practiced micro lending (albeit on a rather small scale), I can vouch it works. After reading Professor Yanus' "Banker to the Poor", and David Bearstein's "How... Read morePublished on December 23, 2009 by U.C.
"Small Loans, Big Dreams" has it all. It's a wonderful book about the story of micro-finance based on Dr. Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank model. Read morePublished on July 31, 2009 by Y. Smith
This is a great book - it brings the human impact of poverty and the importance of effective solutions to a clear light. Read morePublished on December 21, 2008 by E. Berens
I've been interested in microlending since I first heard to Muhammad Yunus 20 years ago. This is a great story of a great breakthrough by an author who was actually there with... Read morePublished on September 5, 2008 by The Wizard