First, Do No Harm
The developing world is littered with programs that raised expectations and then left the communities that were supposed to be served even worse off than before. Often the damage was done through the best of intentions.
The Upside Down Philosophy
In a workplace environment, common practice is to support management. Making the boss look good is a virtue. Employees do whatever they can to lighten the burden of those above. Delegating tasks is considered effective management. When it comes to helping marginalized peoples, forget all of that. Or better yet, just embrace the opposite — doing whatever we can to lighten the burden of the loan recipient or loan administrator.
No Cookie Cutter Approaches
It is hard to buck conventional wisdom. We started off with the mindset that the best approach would be to develop robust micro-loan materials and specific instructions that could be simply replicated in their entirety in multiple communities -- the ‘cookie cutter’ approach. The underlying assumption was that all impoverished communities are similar enough that standard solutions would work. In hindsight, this is not an effective approach. Each community has specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats not to mention the particular talents and interests and time constraints of the loan administrators.
The Poor Deserve Multiple Financial Services
While rich people have an abundance of financial services like checking accounts, savings accounts, Small Business Loans, savings and loan associations, mortgages, lines of credit, etc. for some reason services for marginalized communities are presented in ‘either-or’ terms. Impoverished entrepreneurs should have access to micro-loans, communal savings programs, village banking, etc.
Keep a Positive Attitude and Treat Partners With Respect
In delivering international assistance, there is often an assumption that well run programs have a healthy dose of skepticism and are vigilant for any sign of graft. While this is prudent for programs doling out millions of dollars, it is counterproductive for TCP Global which sends only $1500 to partners to work for no compensation other than the right to earn money to do community projects. TCP Global relationships are built on trust and for nineteen years, that trust has not been betrayed by any partners.
Be Mindful of Their Time
People successfully surviving on under $3 a day, probably have more demands on their time than most of us. Just because someone does not have a job does not mean they have time to attend numerous trainings and workshops. Plan these carefully to make sure they offer value.
The Ball is Always in My Court
If you want the program to be successful, do not assume that another volunteer, or a loan administrator or a partnering organization is going to follow through. Always follow up to verify.
Don’t Let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good
If we wait for the perfect micro-loan partner or the perfect timing or the perfect loan applicant, golden opportunities will be missed.