love where I work. My coworkers are smart, compassionate, and interesting. We are very different in some ways and very similar in others. One thing we all have in common is that we like to learn. It’s embedded into Tablecloth’s culture. You may or may not have seen the post our CEO, Nelli, wrote earlier this month introducing our #EverydayESG campaign. (If you haven’t, I encourage you to do so and then to follow along as we continue dropping knowledge.) We each are researching topics in the realm of ESG, reporting on them to the team, and adding them to our ever expanding collective bank of knowledge through which we provide valuable context, education, and resources to our clients.
The topic I chose most recently is microfinance. Microfinance is a category of financial services that targets individuals and small businesses who lack access to conventional banking and related services. According to the World Bank’s 2017 Global Findex Database, “about 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked—without an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider.” This means they don’t have access to things like secure savings accounts, business loans, insurance, or the ability to transfer money to family. Microfinance organizations seek to address these needs in financially underserved communities around the world by providing microloans -- ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars -- to individuals and entrepreneurs, creating both economic and social good.
A few of the organizations I came across in my research have some pretty impressive impact reports. FINCA (whose mission is focused on alleviating poverty) reports that 23% of the employees who are employed by their clients’ enterprises were hired as a direct result of a FINCA loan. Root Capital (which invests in growing agricultural enterprises) reports that their clients collectively have 2.6 million hectares of farmland under sustainable cultivation. Finally, Kiva (whose vision is global financial inclusion) reports that it has facilitated over 1.8 million loans in 77 countries.
While these missions may seem outside the scope of the types of organizations we work with on a daily basis, there are some analogs between the impacts of their work and ours. Instead of aiming to alleviate poverty on a global scale, some organizations we work with aim to ensure all employees in their portfolio companies earn a Living Wage. Instead of working to transform rural communities through growing sustainable agriculture, we support work to increase access to healthcare in rural areas. Though I set out to learn more about microfinance as its own separate part of the gigantic global financial industry, I ended up drawing connections to some of the work we’re doing with our clients. So it’s come full circle.
I can’t wait to learn more.