Grameen Foundation

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Recognized as a top International Microfinance nonprofit in the following years:
Medal-big-2009
Medal-big-2012
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"Up" is the number of experts who agree that the nonprofit has had the most impact in the field. "Down" is the number of experts who disagree that the nonprofit has had the most impact in field.
Grameen-foundation
Headquarters Location: Washington, DC 
Founded: 1997 


Mission: Grameen Foundation's mission is to enable the poor, especially the poorest, to create a world without poverty.


Tags: 2012, international, microfinance, poverty, ultra-poor, financial services


Grameen-foundation
Story: Qiu’s ingenuity preserves the livelihoods of an entire community.
Thinking quickly on her feet, Qiu realized that where there is need, there is opportunity. She took out another loan to dig a well, from which she drew water for her… Read the full story.

Expert Reviews: Evidence of Impact
The Grameen Foundation’s work includes various programs and initiatives that support the micro-finance sector as a whole. They are responsible for several innovations that that have significantly altered the industry. Grameen’s Progress out of Poverty Index; for example, is a tool that enables organizations to measure their level of poverty outreach. It has been adopted widely and is changing the way organizations do outreach. Similarly, the Bankers without Borders initiative has engaged an entirely new volunteer force to aid micro-finance institutions around the world. Grameen is also an outspoken supporter of pro-poor and socially driven policies in micro-finance work.
See the complete expert review.

Leadership
Grameen-foundation Alex Counts. Alex Counts founded Grameen Foundation and became its President and CEO in 1997, after having worked in microfinance and poverty reduction for 10 years. A Cornell University graduate, Counts’ commitment to poverty eradication deepened as a Fulbright scholar in Bangladesh, where he witnessed innovative poverty solutions being developed by Grameen Bank. He trained under Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder and… See full bio.


Transparency Information
Silver-big
This organization has earned the GuideStar Participation Level Silver, demonstrating its commitment to transparency (learn more)


Financial Data
Charity Navigator Rating: 4stars (profile)
Total Revenue:
$17,622,233


From the Nonprofit
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Contact Info
Website:
grameenfoundation.
E-Mail:
Phone:
202-628-3560      
Facebook:
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Address:
1101 15th St, NW 3rdFloor
 
Washington, DC  20005, USA
Twitter:
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Grameen-foundation Story: Qiu’s ingenuity preserves the livelihoods of an entire community.
Thinking quickly on her feet, Qiu realized that where there is need, there is opportunity. She took out another loan to dig a well, from which she drew water for her own use and sold water to her fellow villagers. Thanks to her ingenuity, Qiu brought many back from the brink of an economic disaster. Qiu has continued to support Chifeng Zhaowuda, holding meetings for the MFI’s nine other clients in the village. She also continues to brainstorm creative, new opportunities to empower her and her neighborhood to partake in China’s growing economy.

Expert Reviews of Grameen Foundation

Evidence of Impact Summary:

The Grameen Foundation’s work includes various programs and initiatives that support the micro-finance sector as a whole. They are responsible for several innovations that that have significantly altered the industry. Grameen’s Progress out of Poverty Index; for example, is a tool that enables organizations to measure their level of poverty outreach. It has been adopted widely and is changing the way organizations do outreach. Similarly, the Bankers without Borders initiative has engaged an entirely new volunteer force to aid micro-finance institutions around the world. Grameen is also an outspoken supporter of pro-poor and socially driven policies in micro-finance work.
See expert comments.

Organization Strengths Summary:

The Grameen Foundation has the benefit of strong leadership throughout. The organization has an iconic and influential founding Board Member, Muhammad Yunus; a highly experienced CEO, Alex Counts; and a strategic and focused Director of Bankers without Borders, Shannon Maynard. The Grameen Foundation has shown an unwavering focus on alleviating poverty, and carries out their mission using a variety of tactics. Experts also note that Grameen is a flexible organization that is able to identify needs, try new approaches, and abandon unsuccessful efforts.
See expert comments.

Areas for Improvement Summary:

The Grameen Foundation is struggling with the identity of the organization in several ways. For example, one expert pointed out that their role within the sector is not a traditional one, and they need to work on making their place in the sector clear. The Grameen Foundation is also holding fast to the core micro-finance model. Some experts feel that this dedication to the methodology is inflexible and unrealistic in these times. They could improve on staff capacity, both by ensuring better staff retention and by working to increase the language skills of staff.
See expert comments.

Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact

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Foundation Professionals (F)
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Researchers and Faculty (R)
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Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
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Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Great Innovation

N
They provide soft grants and capital to the microfinance industry. They also encourage innovation on livelihood financing, and provide a good amount of technical know-how.
N
The Grameen Foundation has developed a tool, the PPI, that is being broadly used across the sector around the world. The widespread uptake of the tool means that organizations are measuring the poverty outreach. That is in and of itself an important impact. They have also developed Bankers without Borders, a successful model that gets targeted banking expertise into the microfinance world with a relatively low cost structure.
N
Grameen's Bankers without Borders initiative has only been around for a few years (since 2008, I believe), and in a short time has transformed the way potential volunteers can contribute to microfinance. They have grown to over 7000 volunteers in their database, and provided services to a variety of programs around the world.
O
The Grameen Foundation is doing some innovative work, including the mobile phone businesses in Uganda and the cell-phone based information systems work being done at Grameen Technology.

Sector Tools

N
First of all, the development and expansion of the poverty assessment tool, Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI), is a major advance in helping microfinance institutions ensure they are meeting their mission to reach out to poor and excluded people. Before this tool was developed (the USAID sponsored tool was developed separately but in the same time period), it was not possible to statistically validate that a microfinance institution was reaching its target clients. Instead, everyone did whatever seemed appropriate, and thus validated that they were reaching their target. It turns out that in most cases they were not reaching the target more than 40% of the time.
R
The Grameen Foundation is a pioneer in product tool development. Examples of their work include the PPI tool and Mifos™, an open-source software platform to support the information management needs of microfinance institutions.
N
Their impact is the development of the Progress out of Poverty Index, which enables microfinance organizations to measure their level of poverty outreach. They are also responsible for various technology innovations that bring greater value to clients, such as the App Lab in Uganda.
N
The Grameen Foundation has not been influential through the example of its affiliates, but through its development of specific tools, especially in poverty measurement, for the microfinance industry. The Grameen Foundation also often acts as the spokesman for Grameen Bank in global policy debates.

Advocates for Social Mission

N
The Grameen Foundation has developed a broad-reaching strategy that gets directly at the impact of microfinance on its clientele, as well as the impact on the microfinance industry to push itself to "do better". It has branched out from standard micro-lending to include: partnering and supporting other organizations, including its peers; developing indicators and tracking methods to measure impact on microfinance clients; and launching a new fund to explore upper micro-entrepreneurs, social enterprises, start ups, and franchises. Grameen continues to be an advocate for pro-poor policies and push the industry to savings, and other products that poor clients need.
N
Grameen plays a "keeper of the flame" role in terms of advocating for the social mission in the microfinance sector. By influencing policy, Grameen helps to keep the social mission front and center. This comes at a time when the industry is under attack for profiteering on the part of some members and destructive lending practices (over indebting clients).

Raising Awareness

N
They put microfinance on the map.


Expert Comments: Organization Strengths

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Foundation Professionals (F)
X
Researchers and Faculty (R)
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Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
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Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Strong Finances

N
They have strong finances.

Poverty Focus

N
The Grameen Foundation is focused on the entire issue of poverty alleviation. They are developing tools to measure poverty, developing methodologies to address the findings from the measurement, opening up opportunities to access capital to fund client opportunities, and being a team player in a number of global initiatives (poverty assessment, social performance taskforce, and MicroCredit Summit Campaign, for example).
R
Grameen has a strong poverty focus and a wide network.

Flexible Problem-Solvers

N
The Grameen Foundation seems to have an ability to identify capacity or attention gaps, and mobilize resources (human and financial) to fill them. Hats off to them for that. Their work to bring relevant technology applications to the sector is another strength.
N
Their strengths are their voice in the industry and leadership. The Grameen Foundation maintains a concern for the field of microfinance as a whole. They are also flexible, and therefore able to try things out and either build or abandon them as needed.
N
The Grameen Foundation has done a good job bringing in former private sector professionals who share the mission and have improved its management and strategy. The organization has recognized failures and been able to move on from them. For example, the Grameen Technology Center MIFOS wasn't as successful as intended.
N
They have substantial outreach. The Grameen Foundation has also reinvented itself with Grameen 2.

Strong Leadership

N
The CEO, Alex Counts, is one of the most senior leaders in the industry, with deep experience in microfinance at the grassroots level. This makes him unique. Many others have not worked with clients at the grassroots level, but instead come from financial institutions.
N
Shannon Maynard, the Director of Bankers without Borders, is focused, clear-thinking, strategic, and good at learning from experience. Additional strengths include the database management software they've developed, their volunteer training, and their evaluation of consultancies.


Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement

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X
Foundation Professionals (F)
X
Researchers and Faculty (R)
X
Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
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Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Improve Networking

N
They should work to enhance the level of interfacing they do with various microfinance players in the sector.

Increase Staff Capacity

N
Lately there has been a bit too much personnel instability, with many leaving at the same time. While this may be coincidental, it would be good if they reviewed their staff retention policies to ensure that qualified staff are not leaving for the wrong reasons. Second, I think it would be helpful if they had better French speaking staff to assist the French speaking programs that are using their PPI tool. This has been a weakness for several years and has not been adequately addressed.
N
Grameen relies heavily on consultants, volunteers, and temporary project-based staff. As such, the technical skills and expertise of core, permanent staff are relatively weak, reducing their ability to contribute to broader learning in the sector.

Reflect on Organizational Identity

R
They are limited only by their dedication to the core microfinance model. They have been generally unwilling to challenge the assumption that typical microfinance is effective by itself.
N
The Grameen Foundation can still be somewhat narrowly focused on poverty lending methologies. They can be "anti commercialization" at a time when many issues are not extreme black and white. They also live too much on the coattails of Mohamed Yunus, from whom Grameen got its affiliation and name brand. The organization could also improve its overall personnel management and efficiency in the use of resources.
N
The Grameen Foundation is neither a network of affiliates nor a direct implementer, which limits its credibility within the movement.
N
Bankers without Borders is struggling to figure out a sustainable business model, as well as to determine their identity in relation to the Grameen Foundation.


Leadership

Grameen-foundation
Alex Counts
President and CEO
Alex Counts founded Grameen Foundation and became its President and CEO in 1997, after having worked in microfinance and poverty reduction for 10 years. A Cornell University graduate, Counts’ commitment to poverty eradication deepened as a Fulbright scholar in Bangladesh, where he witnessed innovative poverty solutions being developed by Grameen Bank. He trained under Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank, and co-recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Since its modest beginnings, sparked by a $6,000 seed grant provided by Prof. Yunus (who was a founding board member and continues as director emeritus), Grameen Foundation has grown to a leading international humanitarian organization with an annual budget of approximately $25 million. Counts has propelled Grameen Foundation’s philosophy through his writings, including Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance Are Changing the World. Counts has also been published in The Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Miami Herald, The Christian Science Monitor and elsewhere. In 2007 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Horace Mann School. Counts chairs the Fonkoze USA board of directors and is the immediate past chair of Project Enterprise’s board. He sits on the Advisory Council of the Center for Financial Inclusion, the Advisory Board of the ThinkGlobal Arts Foundation, and he co-chairs the Microenterprise Coalition. He serves on the Board of Directors of two social businesses: Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Ltd. and YouChange PuRong Information Advisory Co. Ltd., which promote microfinance and related efforts in the Arab World and China respectively. Before leading Grameen Foundation, Counts served as the legislative director of RESULTS and as a regional project manager for CARE-Bangladesh. He speaks fluent Bengali and lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Emily, and their cat, Seymour.

From the Nonprofit

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