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Unitus Microcredit Loans

Lessons, impressions, and thoughts that I have about the powerful poverty-fighting tool of Microcredit and how Unitus is accelerating the growth of Microfinance around the globe.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A profile of Mike Murray by Global Giving Matters

An excellent and very comprehensive article was written by Global Giving Matters about Mike Murray, the Chairman of the Board of Unitus. Take the time to read the article...it will give you a sense of the character and passion Mike has to serve humanity.

For the full article, go here.

Here are some excerpts:

About Mike's view of Philantropy:

...what propelled Mr. Murray, who lives in Redmond, in his current direction began much earlier. Mr. Murray grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon. His father and grandfather owned a creamery and from a young age he helped out in all aspects of the business, learning early on to appreciate the virtues and rewards of hard work. He has always been a staunch believer in a market-driven economy bolstered by a democratic system of government, and bases much of his philanthropic philosophy on the theme of self-help and initiative rather than hand-outs.

Yet he also learned about charity: his father and grandfather made it a habit to visit ill employees and bring gifts to poor rural farmers. A religious underpinning pervades Mr. Murray's philosophy, and he has always "tithed" ten percent of his gross income to his church. The Murrays place great value in the worth of an individual -- wherever that individual may live. And Mr. Murray's personal motto is "Look up, lift up."

About the origins of Unitus:

...a phone call from a man in Utah who had heard of Mr. Murray, with an invitation to attend a daylong brainstorming session with a group of people "to discuss what we could do about world poverty." This meeting became the basis for Unitus, an anti-poverty investment initiative. The name is a combination of "Unite" and "Us." "Without unity we won't be able to find lasting solutions to complex world issues. At the root of many second- and third-level problems is the crushing force of personal poverty. Unitus offers an innovative approach to the challenge of large-scale poverty alleviation," Mr. Murray explains.

About the formation of Unitus' strategy and the Influence of Mohammad Yunus:

In early 2000, Mohammed Yunus invited a number of Unitus board members to Bangladesh for a behind-the-scenes look of how Grameen had evolved over 25 years. By then, Grameen had reached 40,000 villages. The replication potential was powerful. Seeing microfinance in action -- including learning what worked and what had not -- left Mr. Murray and his Unitus partners convinced that this was the area where they could have the most impact. This led to an in-depth analysis of the structure of the worldwide microfinance "industry", with an intent to identify opportunities for strategic, long-term leverage. "We wanted to learn all that we could so that we could create a 'second generation' model for the expansion of microfinance as a poverty alleviation tool," says Mr. Murray.

A great description of what makes Unitus unique:

What makes Unitus unique microfinance practitioners is its singular focus as a "microfinance accelerator." This is a term coined by the founders to describe a combination of large-scale funding and impactful consulting services that enable existing microfinance institutions to expand their services quickly and efficiently so that more poor people who want to pull themselves out of poverty have resources to do so.

Mr. Murray says he would be delighted to see other organizations adopt the role of microfinance accelerator. There are some 3,000 microfinance institutions around the world; at least ninety percent serve no more than 2,500 clients. "Microfinance is an award-winning concept, but it's failing to meet its potential. Only a handful of MFIs serve over 100,000 clients. We believe that we've created a methodology that will allow some of the most promising smaller MFIs to greatly accelerate their growth in clients."

In seeking which groups to support, Unitus automatically excludes larger ones with a strong track record, such as Grameen and BancoSol, which serve over 100,000 customers. These larger organizations already receive funding from mainstream grantmakers and the formal financial markets. Rather, Unitus identifies smaller MFIs with real growth potential based on strong leadership and management practices, a good location and a solid infrastructure. Unitus identifies high-potential MFIs using a thorough due diligence review of over 60 criteria. Those scoring highest become candidates for funding from Unitus with Unitus having the explicit aim of helping these groups to scale up. Once a partner organization has achieved accelerated growth and financial self-sufficiency, Unitus will move on to other partners.

Since Unitus is just two years old, much of the discussion is still in the future tense. To date Unitus has funded just one project so far, Pro Mujer Mexico (www.promujer.org), with $1.9 million dollars, including $1.5 million for loans and the balance for capacity building. A second partnership has recently been established with an MFI in India, SKS (Swayam Krishi Sangam -- www.sksindia.com), which has the potential to serve 200,000 to 300,000 women in the next five year. SKS was founded by Vikram Akula, an Indian economist who was raised and educated in the US but who relocated to India some years ago to pursue a commitment to economic development in his birth country.

To Mike Murray, Philantrophy is a Verb...

"Philanthropy to me is a verb," says Mr. Murray. "I feel compelled to give. I want to be involved in efforts that help create permanent improvements in people's lives. And I want to be involved in efforts that promote self-reliance. I suppose that the roots of this go all the way back to the creamery. There were no slackers. We all had to work hard in order to make the business go. And twenty years in the computer industry coupled with my more important roles as father, husband and church member have deepened my understanding. If we can pay a small part in improving the quality of life for a few of our brothers and sisters, then a bit of hope is kindled. And when we have hope, we are able to listen, and love."


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