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Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World Hardcover – April 4, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The stark reality of global poverty—the 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 day—rarely 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 Fund—a bold effort to apply the same principles in Chicago—and 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 work—which 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 all—here AND abroad! This story must be told and retold—and 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 side—and 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 transformations—of 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 individuals—to 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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 410 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (April 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470196327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470196328
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,676,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dear Friends,
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, ". . .
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of Muhammad Yunus is a great one. There are lots of places to read about Grameen Bank and microfinance.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
You might not think that Chicago, U.S.A. and Chittagong, Bangladesh have much in common, but in his book, Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance Are Changing the World, Grameen Foundation Director Alex Counts shows that they do. Each region has determined women of strong spirit struggling for their family's survival. Sometimes, all it takes to set them on the path to entrepreneurship is a small bank loan and a small group of like-minded others to support them and hold them accountable.

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
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Format: Hardcover
Alex Counts is one of those rare visionaries who also has the gift of storytelling. As you read the histories of the women in this book, you'll be captivated both by Counts' empathetic connection with them and his passion for the work of Grameen. The author is straightforward about the struggles and successes of a movement which has become one of the most powerful weapons against poverty in our time. After reading it, don't be surprised if you start chasing harder after your own big dreams.
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Small Loans, Big Dreams is a great read on many levels. It reads like an inspiring novel that you just don't want to put down AND it captures the history, current reality and rich potential for the future of one of the most effective programs for empowering the poor - microcredit. Put this on your must read list and be prepared not to be able to put it down until the end.

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).
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