Grameen Bank: Ford Foundation, 1976

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



The Grameen Bank was created by Professor Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economics professor who, during the famine of 1974, felt compelled to reach out to the Bangladeshi poor in an effort to understand why they were unable to achieve economic success. Over the next two years, Professor Yunus studied the poor, landless underclass of Jobra, a village near his home in Chittagong. He concluded that the poor were poor not because they were inherently unable to support themselves, but rather because they lacked access to capital, a structural flaw that could be remedied.
Yunus began by making small loans, of about $25 each, to forty-three villagers in Jo-bra. His largesse soon grew into the world’s first experiment in microfinance. Using these small amounts of money, Yunus’ borrowers were able to generate a steady stream of income, with which they not only paid off their debts but also improved the economic lot of their families.
Working at first with only his graduate economics students, then later through the branch offices of several state-run banks, Yunus eventually decided to quit his academic post and incorporate the Grameen (meaning “rural” or “countryside”) Bank in 1983.
To finance its early lending, the Grameen Bank received grants and loans (market rate and concessionary) from banks (in Bangladesh and around the world) governments (such as those of Bangladesh and Canada), international aid agencies (like the International Fund for Agricultural Development), and foundations. Most notable among the latter group has been the Ford Foundation, which supported Yunus from his earliest efforts, while he was still an economics professor studying the causes of poverty in rural Bangladesh. . . .



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