The Georgetown Global Microfinance Initiative, founded in December 2013, is working to expand its global reach and its on-campus presence by advising and improving microfinance initiatives that already exist as opposed to creating a standalone nonprofit.

Its focus on consulting, rather than lending, separates it from other groups on campus such as the Hilltop Microfinance Initiative.

“One of the biggest problems with nonprofit work in general is that everyone thinks they have the next big idea and everyone thinks that they have to rush into the scene and implement their own personal vision, and that leads to a lot of competing groups,” GGMI Vice President of Projects Bardia Rahmani (SFS ’16) said. “GGMI recognizes that the best way we can help is not by putting another finger in the pie but by supporting and helping the efforts that are already successful and that could be even more successful.”

GGMI is able to utilize certain resources that are not readily available to its clients in developing countries.

“We’re a student group that has access to a lot of professors and professionals in the Washington, D.C. area in these fields to help train us, and we have a lot of time and resources to do some nitty-gritty things that [microfinance institutions] with limited resources can’t really focus on,” GGMI Chief Operating Officer Molly Morales (SFS ’16) said.

Currently, the group is consulting for the Honduran Microfinance Initiative, a series of community banks in Honduras. GGMI is preparing a manual and outlining the strategies and responsibilities of the smaller banks in order to streamline its lending practices and increase communication between shareholders.

“Our manual helps them discern what kinds of microlending opportunities are best and helps them decide which projects are worthy of funding, which projects have the greatest likelihood of return and which ones are the safest,” Rahmani said.

GGMI connected with Honduran Microfinance Initiative through Global Brigades, a student-led social responsibility movement that pairs student groups with microfinance initiatives around the world.

GGMI hopes to expand its fundraising off campus after receiving grants from Students of Georgetown Inc.’s philanthropy department and the Social Innovation Public Service Fund.

In order to further its fundraising efforts, GGMI is in the process of becoming a nationally recognized nonprofit organization. This will provide an incentive for companies to donate to GGMI as the donations will be tax deductible.

Currently, GGMI’s public relations team is utilizing most of its current funding in an effort to attract additional clients. The group hopes to raise enough funds to send members abroad to learn more about its clients and to work with them in person.

“The more information we have, the more we can help. … Moving forward, our big vision is to be able to split our time between here and there,” Rahmani said.

Despite this emphasis on face-to-face interaction with its clients, GGMI will likely not travel to Honduras to work on its current project.

“The point of the field work is more to implement our project, and since this is only a manual, we don’t really need to teach it to them,” Co-Vice President for Public Relations Katy Norris (SFS ’16) said.

GGMI is organized into three divisions focusing on business development, public relations and projects, respectively. Members are currently distributed evenly among the groups, but ultimately GGMI hopes to shift their focus onto the projects sector in the near future. The group is engaging in tentative discussions with microfinance initiatives in Guatemala and Tunisia in the hopes of being able to take on two or three more projects in the fall semester.

“They’re similar projects. We plan on doing consulting and research for all of them,” Co-Vice President for Public Relations Erica Esposito (NHS ’16) said. “We don’t want to limit ourselves to one country. We want to go to different areas of the world.”

In addition to its international reach, GGMI is working to create dialogue on international development on campus.

On Monday, GGMI partnered with GU Women in Leadership to host a screening of “Girl Rising” and the Catrinka Trunk Show. Throughout the semester, the group co-sponsored other events such as a talk with professor Steven Radelet, who has worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Matt Turner, the founder of the nonprofit Beyond Poverty organization.

In April, GGMI will host a panel discussion during which alumni and local professionals will speak about microfinance and development.

“The ultimate goal is to give students exposure to issues of international development, microfinance, consulting and the alleviation of poverty and the work that we can do to help institutions that don’t have as many resources as they would like,” Morales said.

 

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