How did Open to Grow happen? Here is what our founder Bob Brown has to say.
I was inspired by the story of Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus who saw that low-income people had no access to credit as they lacked collateral. His solution of forming trust groups, with the group being responsible for repaying loans made by it to its members, was to me pure genius.
Following a year studying microcredit and two years volunteering with a charity involved with microcredit, I established Open to Grow as a Canadian charity to provide micro-loans to low-income women in Central America. Our longer term goal was to add business training to the mix, as microcredit combined with business training is a very powerful agent for change.
In March of 2011, I was introduced to Bob Graham, one of the first individuals to bring microcredit into Central America. Over a 20 year period, Bob built the Katalysis Microfinance Network of Central America with over 180,000 borrowers and over $60 million in loan capital. In 2004, he started NamasteDirect which enables low-income women in Guatemala to make more money in their businesses by providing them with a business adviser, skills-building classes and micro-loans.
At the end of 2011, Open to Grow entered into a three-year collaboration agreement with NamasteDirect and its associated entity Fundacion Namaste Guatemaya (FNG). As part of an overall business development program, (BDP) we funded and co-managed the growth of the micro-lending activity while FNG provided group financial education and one-on-one business development consulting for each client.
Following the conclusion of the agreement, Open to Grow now provides loan funds that are pooled with monies received from others sources, and monitors the performance of these funds as well as the social outcomes of the BDP. FNG manages the lending activity and continues to provide the training aspects of the BDP.
The adventure continues!