Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BRAC Uganda partners with Ureport

BRAC Uganda Communications and Knowledge Manager, Umbareen Kuddus, recently received exciting news about BRAC's new partnership with Ureport, an SMS forum initiated by UNICEF.

BRAC Uganda was introduced to an initiative called Ureport. Initiated by UNICEF, Ureport is an SMS-based forum designed to provide Ugandan youth with a platform to raise issues that concern them. The system uses mobile technology to allow youth to interact with each other and participate in a national dialogue process.

BRAC Uganda has partnered with the Ureport initiative by including the members from their youth clubs. BRAC Uganda's Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents program has 690 clubs for adolescent girls and a further 100 Youth Development Centers under its Access to Health, Education and Youth Development program in Karamoja. About 26,500 adolescent girls are now reached by these BRAC Uganda programs. Ureport is a great opportunity for BRAC to connect these girls through new mediums and a feedback based process. It fits nicely with our objective of supporting youth in becoming contributing members of their communities. Already more than 3,500 club members are being registered into the system along with nearly 9,000 young members from the microfinance and health programs. The hope is that these BRAC participants will spread the message and encourage others to join.

Ureport, questions are sent to youth, who are called Ureporters. Ureporters send their responses back to UNICEF through free SMS. The process, however, does not stop there; some responses are shared again with all Ureporters and sometimes suggestions and guidance are sent to the participating youth. Last month's question was, ‘May 12th is Women’s Health Day! What can u do 2 reduce health problems associated with women in ur community?’ The responses received from participants have been wide ranging- starting from the need to encourage regular health check-ups to the problem of domestic violence. A message was then sent suggesting ‘women can visit their church/hospital/VCT center 4 counseling on domestic violence.’

The function of Ureport does not stop there. The Ureport initiative aims to ensure that the concerns raised by the youth are heard by both policy makers and the larger development community. The long term objective is to highlight the outcomes of these dialogues by using various channels including the media. Furthermore, Ureporters provide basic information about themselves when they register with the system thus there is huge opportunity to enhance knowledge and understanding of youth in Uganda.

To find out more about Ureport, see the attached newspaper insert. And if you are a young Ugandan you can register as a Ureport for free by texting ‘join’ to 8500 and raise your voice to be heard!
Unicef Ureport Newspaper Insert



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

BRAC USA Intern - Mel Bandler

Last year, I read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky. Throughout the book, I was presented with stories of women who are victims to sex-trafficking, prostitution, rape, and maternal health issues. In reading the book, I could not help but feel moved to act, to be part of the movement to end these injustices. At the end of the novel, Kristof and WuDunn list organizations that work to alleviate these problems and give women voice. It was through this that I learned about the work of BRAC.

My high school runs a program where graduating seniors are permitted to participate in an internship during the month before graduation. After looking over BRAC’s website and learning about BRAC’s mission to alleviate poverty by empowering women and men with the tools they need to succeed, I could not think of a better way to spend my time.

During my sophomore year, a former Grameen Bank employee spoke at my high school on the topic of microfinance. Since hearing her speak, I have been fascinated by the concept of giving small loans to individuals at the benefit of the whole community. I have a Kiva account and always find it exciting when I am repaid so that I can choose another enterprise to invest in. The idea that a small investment can allow a woman to grow her business and then repay the small loan only to take out a larger one is inspiring. I look forward to learning about how BRAC uses microfinance as a means of alleviating poverty in its programs around the world and I feel excited to be able to lend a hand to such a great organization. I will be a college freshman next year and my major is undecided. I hope that after this experience I will have a better idea about what field to pursue so that, in the future, I will be able to help others as effectively as I can.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bangladeshi garment workers’ fight against Tuberculosis

“The garment industry is the largest export earning sector in Bangladesh, and our workers are the backbone that we depend on. We must take care of their health if we want to take care of the health of our country,” stated Mr. Masud Quader Mona, Chairman of Standing Committee on TB for Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Export Association (BGMEA).

For many Bangladeshis, Dhaka represents economic opportunities, particularly in the midst of climate change that threatens traditional agriculture. While growing industry offers a chance for many to escape poverty, long hours in densely populated and poorly ventilated working areas put them at risk for tuberculosis. [Photo courtesy: Ruthie Birger]

It surprised me that the Director of one of the country’s largest garment factories had agreed to meet with me to discuss TB control in Bangladesh, and as he explained the program, I learned that he was no casual observer, but a powerful advocate. BGMEA has almost 2,000 companies as members, employing 1.2 million garment workers. They are primarily young women, who live and work in close quarters, and they are at high risk for airborne infections like tuberculosis. Without support from their managers, they are unlikely to access care and face significant challenges adhering to the 6-months of daily medications required to cure the disease. BGMEA, with support from the Global Fund, has established TB microscopy facilities in its health clinics and trains factories’ onsite nurses to provide treatment. The services at the BGMEA health clinics are free and a worker can request a pass to the facility from their manager at any time. The TB program also runs orientation trainings for workers and managers to raise awareness about TB and the importance of early detection and treatment completion. The program is still nascent; none of the 110 patients have yet to complete their 6-months of treatment. Already though, it has faced significant challenges in creating a treatment program that can endure the instability of the worker’s lives—the movement, the changes in employment, the issues of privacy. Constant contact, both face to face and via phone, occurs almost daily, so that the field officers can establish a relationship with the patients and ensure their adherence. “We have learned to be very, very flexible,” said Dr. Shoffiullah Talukder, TB Program Director for BGMEA. Flexibility from the program enables these patients to adhere to the treatment regimen, a critical achievement when the consequences of failure include drug resistant TB that can also spread and is much more costly and complex to treat.

BGMEA’s program illustrates the complexity of the urban environment and the urgent need for innovative programs. Dhaka is one of the world’s fastest growing cities, expected to grow at almost 3% annually for the next 10 years. Forty percent of its 9.3 million inhabitants live in slums, which have a staggering population density of 220,000 per km2, in addition to the pervasive issues of poverty and transience, which fuel TB transmission.

Already responsible for about 80 million people in rural areas, BRAC established its first TB program in Dhaka in 2004. BRAC’s major accomplishment in TB control was scale; it had replicated its model relying on the shasthya shebika (health volunteers) with high levels of case detection and treatment success. In Dhaka, however, the model was inadequate. Too many patients sought care from other providers, particularly the ubiquitous drug sellers or general practitioners, when they could afford the fees. Garment workers left their homes early in the morning and were not home to receive the shebika during her typical household visits.

Ms. Mahmoda Begum is a laboratory technician at BRAC’s Dakhin Khan office. Many of the suspected cases are referred by local private practitioners.

BRAC had not confronted such a crowded health delivery space in the rural areas. Here, the problem was less access to care, but quality of care. There were no regulations for private providers; a survey on their practice showed many were unaware of the national TB program (which included the diagnosis and 6-months of medication for no cost to patients) and many were unfamiliar with the concept of directly observed therapy (DOTS), which has been recommended worldwide as a strategy to support patients in taking every dose of medication. As the private sector is the most popular first point of care among Dhaka’s residents, educating and engaging them was critical.

In Dakhin Khan, a neighborhood in northern Dhaka, I met a pharmacist who had been through BRAC’s orientation program several times. He refers patients with a persistent cough to BRAC’s office for testing and also offers to oversee their treatment (i.e. provide DOTS) if they prefer him to a shebika. After diagnosis, if a patient requests him as his/her treatment support person, BRAC brings the medications to the pharmacy at no cost. He spoke enthusiastically about BRAC’s training, though challenged them to engage pharmacists more intensely and more publicly recognize their contributions.

Mr. AslamUddin Ahmed is a pharmacist in Dakhin Khan, Dhaka. With BRAC’s support, he has overseen two patients in successfully completely their TB treatment.

Why involve shebikas at all? I wondered, as I headed to another area called Badda to observe the shebikas receiving their monthly training. When I arrived, they were in the midst of discussing how hard it was to track patients down sometimes; they often failed to come to the shebikas’ houses to take their treatment. Many of their patients are garment workers who prefer not to share their status with their employers or co-workers, instead passing by the shebika’s house early in the morning or during their lunch break for their medications. From the anecdotes that the shebikas share, it is clear that many of these patients can’t manage the treatment on their own. They need someone willing to call them, track them down, who knows where they live and take the time to ensure their adherence. Pharmacists can’t do this, and BMGEA provides flexible support to its workers, and only those who choose to go through institutional channels for health services. Shebikas provide yet another layer of TB control, for others living in the slums with TB, garment factory workers who have privacy concerns, and those without the physical or mental means to seek out treatment on their own.

Urban TB requires a partnership approach—a recognition that in a city with a diverse population, there will be no perfect model; instead a mix of programs meets patients wherever they are. That need, which was part of the initial motivation for shebikas in the rural areas in the 1970s, when BRAC was first dabbling in health delivery, remains just as present, though the specific characteristics of that need have changed. And the importance of listening to the patient’s voice has never ceased. I recall a patient’s comment on BRAC’s program from a recent qualitative study on BRAC’s urban TB program. The patient said, “Here [at the BRAC center] the people take care of us properly and regularly—I could not take such care of myself because sometimes I would forget and fail to take my medicine. The BRAC center helps a lot.”

Patient quote from: Health seeking behavior of smear positive tuberculosis patients receiving treatment from BRAC TB Centers in urban Dhaka. Master’s thesis (2008). James P. Grant School of Public Health. Submitted by Dr. Abdul Basir Sherzad.

By Maria A. May
Research Fellow, BRAC Health Program


BRAC is publishing a book on its TB program! Keep your eyes peeled for more information about its release this fall.

Learn more about BRAC Health Program

Monday, May 23, 2011

BRAC USA President & CEO reviews her recent trip to Liberia

On a recent trip to Libera, Susan Davis, President & CEO of BRAC USA, had the opportunity to meet members of BRAC Liberia's Agriculture Program.






I was very impressed to meet Cecelia Doe, certainly one of the most articulate and dynamic women in Liberia. As a spokesperson for the Cotton Tree Christian Women Association,Cecilia explained to me that the Association was founded in 2006 and currently has 100 members. With the help of BRAC, these women are now successfully cultivating NERICA 14, a new rice variety. Despite their current success, the road to achieving it was not easy. According to Cecilia, the Association petitioned Firestone for over two years in order to obtain the rights to use the land where the rice is now being cultivated.

The women will share 75% of the harvest among members in accordance with their contribution of time and labor. The remaining 25% will go to the Association. They were able to get a power tiller from IOM and are visited several times a week by BRAC's agriculture staff. Cecilia requested additional help to clear the rest of the land in time to plant it. This type of investment unlocks future possibilities for much larger production and profit for these women.

This work is supported by the Omidyar Network, Soros Economic Development Fund and Humanity United. Representatives from these investors also visited BRAC's new agriculture training center and seed multiplication farm. The staff gave us a tour of this impressive facility created over the last year. As I told a group of government officials and other stakeholders later that night, transforming fallow land into productive land not only creates jobs but also a ripple effect of hope and prosperity in the surrounding communities. Now two nearby schools have started their own "kitchen gardens" and nurseries to teach, learn and earn as well as improve nutrition.

BRAC is now seeking to mobilize more support to expand its work in agriculture. There is so much idle land. If only matched with money, know-how and organization, people can improve their situations.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kiva Passport Series: South Sudan: Part 2: Microfinance

The following article was originally posted by Alyssa McGarry on the Kiva blog.

Each month, the Kiva Blog profiles a country we work in through a three-part profile called the Passport Series. This month, we are taking a look into South Sudan! This is the second part of this month's series, which focuses on microfinance in South Sudan. The first part was a country profile and later this month, we will focus on microfinance as a development effort to help post-conflict countries like South Sudan.

Microfinance in South Sudan:

Microfinance opportunities and needs are plentiful in South Sudan. Both the North-South civil war, and the conflict in the western region of Darfur have had a large influence on the need for the microfinance industry. A peace agreement ended the North-South war in 2005, and the South plans to succeed from the North this July. Much of the country is still highly affected by the years of turmoil, and now South Sudan faces huge development challenges. Houses, businesses, families, and lives need to be restored. Microloans can aid in this rebuild. While there is a high demand for financial services, South Sudan’s financial sector is still weak.

As of 2009, a small percent of the population (over 8 million) in South Sudan were formally employed, only about 6000 had bank accounts, and 21,297 were microfinance borrowers. While there are several small MFIs, there are 3 main ones whom are licensed by the Bank of Southern Sudan. One of these main players is Kiva’s Field Partner: BRAC Southern Sudan. BRAC, formerly known as Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, has the most coverage and is present in 5 out of the 10 states of Southern Sudan.

Like other MFIs operating in South Sudan, BRAC SS faces the following challenges: limited institutional capacity, lack of resources, inadequate physical infrastructure, and a nascent policy ( Microfinance Focus ). While aid money is flowing into South Sudan, BRAC SS works locally aiming to help women set up small businesses so that they are not dependent on foreign aid. In 2010, USAID partnered with the government of South Sudan to sponsor the first Southern Sudan Microfinance Conference with hopes to advance microfinance in the region.

Kiva and South Sudan’s Microfinance Relationship:

Kiva is proud to work with BRAC SS . Since the organization’s launch in 2006, BRAC has become the largest NGO and provider of microfinance in South Sudan. According to MIX Market , BRAC has a gross loan portfolio of $2.2 million and 14,889 borrowers. They have seen impressive expansion in the past few years; from 2007 to 2010, the number of active borrowers grew from 3,455 to 18,498.

BRAC SS implements microfinance programs for the economic empowerment of war-affected marginalized populations, especially women. Kiva lenders have helped to fund 3,455 borrowers and have disbursed $810,100 in loans to BRAC SS borrowers, 99.45% of which are women.

BRAC’s Efforts in South Sudan:

The man who primarily helped BRAC borrowers successfully raise loans through Kiva.org was John Ohsio. John, a former BRAC employee, was the staff person responsible for posting and managing BRAC South Sudan borrower profiles on Kiva.org. Read more about John’s personal journey, watch his video, and learn how he helped the people of Southern Sudan get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.



BRAC Southern Sudan is especially unique in their initiatives to provide non-financial services to their borrowers. The BRAC Essential Health Care (EHC) and the Income Generation for Vulnerable Group Development (IGVGD) programs are examples of non-financial services. The EHC focuses on reproductive health care, disease prevention, family planning, and much more; the IGVGD Program targets households headed by widows who are taking care of children or orphans. Although the number of widows is not yet calculated for South Sudan, there has been an increase post civil war. These women lack skills in income earning activities, confidence, capital and opportunities to get access to financial institutions for borrowing. Microfinance is a sustainable platform for non-financial services and BRAC is executing that in South Sudan.

Kiva Borrower Stories:



Susan Jusphine, a Kiva borrower through BRAC, is 37 years old and is widowed. She sells clothes and bed sheets and received a loan to purchase a sewing machine. She has 4 children. With the extra profits from her loan, she hopes to pay their school fees and send them to school.



Tijore Jackline is currently in the business of selling fruits such as mangoes, guava, and oranges and vegetables like cabbages, okra, etc. A loan of $350 helped her purchase a refrigerator for keeping her fruits longer. Tijore is 33 years old and is widowed because her husband died fighting for South Sudan’s liberation. She has 2 children who attend school. With the extra profits from her loan, she hopes to be able to buy a machine for crushing fruits into juice.

Click here to learn more about BRAC's work in Southern Sudan.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fast Company: BRAC Is The Largest Global Anti-Poverty Organization And It's A Secret

The following was originally posted by Alice Korngold on Fast Company.

Alice Korngold is a Fast Company expert blogger, CEO of Korngold Consulting, and author of "Leveraging Good Will: Strenthening Non-profits by Engaging Businesses."

Founded by former Shell Oil executive Fazle Hasan Abed in 1972, BRAC reaches 138 million of the poorest people in nine countries in Asia and Africa, and recently launched in Haiti. Its mission is to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. Its annual operating budget is half a billion dollars.

BRAC is one of the extraordinary organizations that is funded by the Omidyar Network (ON) and is participating in this week's Omidyar Network Executive Forum (ONEF). See my accompanying post on "Omidyar Network Executive Forum Convening World's Leading Social Entrepreneurs."

For an organization of such magnitude and impact, BRAC's brand is not commonly known.



BRAC provides microloans, self-employment opportunities, health services, education, and legal and human rights services

BRAC's vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. Its interventions aim to alleviate poverty on a large scale through economic and social programs. BRAC has created 8.5 million self-employment opportunities and made $5 billion in micro-loans to over 6 million borrowers. BRAC's schools graduated 3.8 million students from primary schools and 2.3 million from pre-primary schools, with nearly 1.8 million children currently enrolled in its 66,000 schools. You can read more here.

Originally known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee--now simply called BRAC--the organization was founded by Abed when he was overwhelmed by the sight of death and extreme poverty among refugees returning to Bangladesh after the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. Abed left his corporate life, sold his London home to fund his project, and set up relief efforts in a remote area in northeastern Bangladesh. Next he raised funds from Oxfam to further advance the organization. Abed's work ultimately led him and BRAC to deal with the long-term task of improving living conditions of the rural poor. He directed his policy towards helping the poor develop their capacity to manage and control their own destiny.

In "Freedom from Want," author Ian Smillie notes that "[Abed] did not know that, in the years ahead, he would confront and surmount some of the greatest development challenges on the planet and everything he knew about economics, health, and education would be turned on its head."

Smillie describes the unique BRAC culture that was established from the outset: "Brutally honest about what had been achieved and what [BRAC] had learned ... The idea was not to prove they had all the answers before they started, but to find out what worked and apply the lessons." From the beginning, BRAC let incompetent staff go and set up a training center for those who remained. As BRAC facilitated the development of small enterprises by the people they serve, BRAC sought and found ways to lower the costs of production in order to reduce the expenses of borrowing.

You'd think I'm writing about an ambitious, highly competitive company. And yet, I'm writing about what is referred to in The Economist "by most measures the largest, fastest-growing non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the world--and one of the most businesslike."


BRAC's approaches to poverty alleviation are entirely unique: "small is beautiful but big is necessary".

My private interviews with Sal Giambanco, Partner, Omidyar Network (a primary BRAC funder) and Susan Davis, President & CEO, BRAC USA, reveal some of the key factors that make BRAC so uniquely effective in its holistic approach to poverty alleviation. BRAC has achieved so much because it:

1.Constantly tested, measured, and modified its solutions in order to maximize its effectiveness in solving poverty--from the very beginning. Never seeking to make its reports look better for funders, never assuming that it had the answers, always trying to find better solutions.

2.Engaged in the community to develop solutions together, not as an outside force thinking it had the answers and would drop resources onto the community and then leave.

3.Recognized the limits that government and religious and social norms placed on women, especially with regard to working, even though women were counted on to help support their families. Within those constraints, BRAC identified industries where women would be permitted to work (e.g., dairy), helped them set up microenterprises (through training and microlending), and also helped to find a way for the dairy products to reach the market.

4.Gradually developed a holistic approach in Bangladesh for three decades before replicating the model--first in Afghanistan 10 years ago. As BRAC developed through an iterative process, BRAC developed many interventions, coupling traditional microfinance loans with other programs like health care, education, human rights and legal services, and social enterprise. Its microfinance program targets the poorest of the poor, and adapts for the varied local contexts in which BRAC works.

5.Specifically designed programs--based on the concept of "massification"-- that could be expanded exponentially to serve the large populations of poverty-stricken people in Bangladesh. This positioned BRAC to be particularly effective in other regions with dense populations of people living in extreme poverty. As Abed said, "Small is beautiful, but big is necessary."

BRAC employs 125,000 people

BRAC employs 125,000 people--primarily women--in Asia and Africa. "We have a disciplined work culture, training and hiring first time job holders--mostly women, primarily high school and college graduates fresh out of school," explained Davis. "As the largest international NGO, as a job-creator and employer of scale and diversity, we teach people the basics of customer service and how to be productive employees." Not only do the jobs benefit people in the communities served by BRAC, but the revenues from BRAC industries (e.g., BRAC Dairy and Aarong retail chain) provide a good portion of BRAC's earned income.

Southern leadership and South-to-South collaboration mean lower costs and higher impact BRAC's experienced Bangladesh managers train new employees in Uganda, Tanzania, etc. The point is that new BRAC recruits learn that success is possible--from people from conditions they can relate to, rather than from Americans. An additional benefit is that the trainers get passports, travel, and return to their home country with new skill sets and perspectives.

BRAC's strategy to scale up in new countries not only involves rigorous training, but also a promotion ladder to instill ambition and reward achievement among employees. Trainees who achieve as credit officers (community organizers) have the opportunity to be promoted to branch managers, then to area managers, and then to region managers. The pyramid scales to reach many employees and members of the community. The same training and promotion model is applied to schools, health, and other areas of BRAC service.


BRAC is creating new markets for products

BRAC has also trained 100,000 health and other promoters using an innovative micro-franchise-like approach to reaching "the last mile" (deep into remote communities) and generating self-employment. We might think of the promoters as "door-to-door sales people," but in this case they are helping people with legal services (property rights), poultry and livestock services, energy services, etc. Promoters assist people in remote rural communities in learning about agriculture, family planning, how to protect themselves from deadly diseases and illnesses, and so on, while making a living for themselves. Note to companies: BRAC has enormous purchasing power.

"We know how to move people out of conditions that are sub-human"

Davis is emphatic. After giving vivid descriptions of the poorest of poor families whom she meets in her work, she is adamant that "we can eliminate absolute poverty. We're rich enough. We know enough. BRAC serves the 'ultra-poor,' the most hungry, the most marginalized." As we talked in her office last Friday, Davis became more contemplative as she commented that, "the relative poverty is more complicated. What's good enough?"

"The heart of social entrepreneurship is a willingness to try out ideas that are helpful to others. Social entrepreneurs are action researchers: they learn primarily through experimentation," say Davis and her co-author David Bornstein in "Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know." Davis and Bornstein are describing the many social entrepreneurs they discuss in their excellent book, but their comments fit Abed and BRAC quite perfectly. Davis and Bornstein also point out that "scaling an idea requires every bit as much entrepreneurship as piloting one." As it enters its fourth decade, BRAC is succeeding in scaling its approaches.

BRAC has been a secret

No, not on purpose. BRAC has remained relatively unknown in the West (despite numerous awards given to Abed and BRAC) because it developed on the local level in the poorest, most remote communities of Bangladesh. Its programs were developed step-by-step as its organizers--people in the community--listened, learned, and enhanced and expanded services in order to create a holistic approach to help families to emerge from poverty and build better lives for themselves. BRAC's growth is based on Southern leadership and South to South (as opposed to North to South) collaboration. And BRAC's approach is complicated; a tagline doesn't capture it.

Building awareness in the U.S. and UK to support a proven approach to alleviate poverty and empower tens of millions to build their lives

BRAC USA and BRAC UK were launched in 2007 to raise public awareness about the BRAC approach to sustainable human development and mobilize resources to enable BRAC to rapidly scale up its programs. Awareness-building and fundraising have become particularly urgent since Bangladesh does not allow foreign exchange to go out of the country; consequently, BRAC cannot use any of the revenues derived from its Bangladesh programs to launch new initiatives in other countries. As a result, BRAC's fundraising initiatives will help the organization to seed new services to other parts of the world.

BRAC offers a proven approach that can be effectively scaled to alleviate poverty and empower tens of millions of people to build their lives--to establish businesses to support their families, educate themselves and their children, practice healthy lifestyles, and help the next generation to live better. This is an approach that governments, foundations, philanthropists, and individuals should get behind. And if it takes a bit to learn and explain the BRAC approach, I think we're up to it. The secret needs to get out.



Want to help get the secret out? Click here.

Images:
1. Community health worker in Sudan: copyright BRAC/Shehzad Noorani
2. Bangladesh meeting: copyright Annie Escobar and Patricia Schneidewind
3. Training session in Tanzania: copyright BRAC/Shehzad Noorani

Omidyar Network Executive Forum (ONEF) Convening the World's Leading Social Entrepreneurs

The following was originally posted by Alice Korngold on Fast Company.

The heads of KivaGuidestarBRACWikimedia FoundationDonorsChooseUshahidiRefugees United, and others of their peers, will convene this week at the Omidyar Network Executive Forum (ONEF). As Sal Giambanco, Partner, Omidyar Network (ON) told me, this is ON's "signature event of the year that focuses on leadership.

Giambanco further explained that "the top executives of 50 of our investee/grantee organizations will participate in sessions shaped in part by our investees/grantees, peer learning, and 1:1 and small group coaching. The ONEF provides a unique opportunity to focus for three days on common challenges, best practices and practical solutions."

Omidyar Network (ON) has a unique philanthropic approach

ON, founded by Pierre and Pam Omidyar in 2004, has granted and invested over $400 million dollars in both nonprofits and for-profits that have market-based, scalable approaches to help people around the world improve their lives. ON is distinctive for its innovation and business-based approaches. Its investees/grantees are among the highest-impact organizations in addressing the most pressing issues in the U.S. and around the world. Here are the factors that underlie ON's success. ON:
  1. Is based on the very two key principles that made Pierre Omidyar's eBay a business success: a belief in the potential of individuals and in the power of markets
  2. Has made significant multi-year financial investments to a select group of approximately 100 organizations--high six figures and low seven figures (as opposed to traditional philanthropy which often means small grants, one year at a time, to a much larger portfolio, making it more difficult for grantees to succeed)
  3. Invests in for-profits that advance social purposes as well as making grants to nonprofits, with the belief that both sectors can have solutions that are innovative, scalable, and sustainable in addressing global challenges. (See my post here.)
  4. Is based on a strong belief that financial capital must be complemented by human capital--thereby providing an array of services that are customized to help organizations to grow and succeed
  5. Convenes the annual ONEF for the leaders of its investee/grantee organizations to work on common challenges, effective practices, and useful solutions
Omidyar Network's key investment areas are Access to Markets; and Media, Markets, and Transparency
ON refers to itself as a philanthropic investment firm that creates "opportunity for people to improve their lives by investing in market-based efforts that catalyze economic, social, and political change." Its tagline: "Every person has the power to make a difference."

Key investment areas are Access to Markets--microfinance, entrepreneurship, and property rights; and Media, Markets, and Transparency--consumer Internet and mobile, and government transparency. "Because we are inspired by people's resourcefulness, ideas, and ability to address even the world's most challenging problems, we believe that no matter what their economic, social, or political starting point, people everywhere can be empowered to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them." (ON website)

A few examples of Access to Markets include:
  • BRAC, that empowers people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. See my post about BRAC this week.
  • Kiva, that harnesses the power of technology to bring needed capital to microfinance institutions. Many of my readers will know of Kiva by having made loans to help people in the most remote areas of the globe to hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.
  • Landesa, that transforms 400 million lives worldwide through land rights. See my post about Landesa (formerly known as the Rural Development Institute--RDI) from our meeting at the Clinton Global Initiative 2010.
A few examples of Media, Markets, and Transparency include:
  • Guidestar, that brings rigor to philanthropy with data and transparency. I myself have used Guidestar several times a week for many years to research nonprofits that I am exploring for my clients who are board candidates. I also recommend Guidestar on my blog and to people who ask me how to research nonprofits where they want to give.
  • Jumo fosters ongoing relationships between individuals and cause-based organizations through a web-based platform. Jumo is the brainchild of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.
  • Ushahidi and Refugees United are others I have blogged about and for which I have great admiration and respect for their innovation, impact, and scale in making the world better.
From these several examples, you can see what an exponential impact each of ON's investee/grantee organizations has, and also how ON's investee/grantees provide opportunities for many of us to participate in helping people to improve their lives through self-empowerment.

ON investing in human capital as well as financial investment

For Omidyar Network (ON), investing over $400 million dollars is not enough by itself. With an objective to help its investees/grantees to grow and succeed, "All investees receive the benefit of working closely with our investment leads who provide ongoing strategic counsel and monitor the milestones associated with the grant. We also provide a broad set of human capital services that are tailored to the needs of each organization," explained Giambanco.

"People are at the core of all organizations, and we believe financial capital must be complemented by human capital," added Giambanco. As a result, ON holds governance roles on many of the organizations; provides assistance with legal, marketing, finance, and IT; and also "provides recruiting services supported by our full-time recruiting team, talent training and leadership development."

I am honored to be part of the ONEF. This week, I will be presenting a new toolkit--The Board Vector--for ONEF CEOs and boards to assess where the board is, where it needs to be, and how to transition the board in order achieve the organization's greater potential. As Giambanco described, the format will be highly interactive, followed by small group coaching. (On Wednesday, you can find The Board Vector toolkit here.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Development Horizons: A New Harvest of Randomized Control Trials (RCTs)?

The below article was originally published by Lawrence Haddad on the Institute of Development Studies blog, Development Horizons. It provides and interesting perspective on a common method for evaluating impact in development initiatives: Randomized Control Trials (RCTs).
I am reading The New Harvest by Calestous Juma on how innovation and entrepreneurship need to be rethought in African agriculture. I can recommend the book—lively, provocative and well-evidenced. One of his key points is that agricultural innovation and knowledge generation in Africa needs to be decentralised. He argues that the interactions of climate change and ecosystems are expressed in variable and unpredictable ways and this makes context specificity more vital than ever. It is not that research and technology developed in one area will not be relevant in another, but just that we must continually challenge whether it will be. I agree with this conclusion.

Over the weekend I also read a column by Ben Goldacre on his “fantasy” that UK public policy should be driven by the MIT Poverty Lab approach. I have not yet read the latest book from the Poverty Labwhich he refers to, but it strikes me that the randomised controlled trial (RCT) approach is at risk of doing exactly the opposite of what Juma advocates.

RCTs run the risk of locking in a result, not only within a country but across countries and over time. This is partly because: (a) they are costly to run (although I agree with Goldacre when he says you have to compare the cost with the costs of adopting the wrong policy) and so replication will be seen as costly and not terribly sexy to researchers or funders, (b) they are iconic (e.g. Progresa in Mexico, Orange Flesh Sweet Potato in Mozambique) because they are expensive and donors and researchers want to maximise their investments by publicising results (if they are positive), (c) they are not great at exploring the distribution of effects (sample sizes get too small if there are too many treatment variants) and (d) they are not particularly interested in external validity (understanding the likelihood of an interventions shown to be successful in one area being successful in another) because this requires a different set of skills.

It is interesting that RCTs have not been applied to UK public policy (I am assuming Goldacre is correct in this assertion). One could argue that heterogeneity (e.g. relative differences in behaviours and contexts by region and class) in the UK is lower than in emerging economies and hence the above worries about RCT portability are less valid. I wonder if this low RCT uptake in the UK is because of an anticipated stronger push back on ethical concerns (e.g. the challenge of getting informed consent when randomisation of treatment and control happens at the community or cluster level), or because of the political problems of doing such a pilot in the context of UK’s muscular media, or because UK communities would not put up with being seen as laboratory subjects.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blind to the virtues of RCTs, I just don’t want to be blinded by them.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Solving Zinc Deficiency in Bangladesh: A Case of Zinc Fortified Rice

In the last few centuries there have been giant leaps in the advancement of the human race. We have seen profound progress in virtually every field, from science to arts and culture to business. Despite all this progress, we have not been able ensure that no one goes hungry in today’s world. According to a definition provided by the World Food Summit in 1996 “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. A large percentage of people do not fall under this category of people who have such access.

It is no different for the common people of Bangladesh. The good news is the government, along with the combined efforts of many organisations are continuously striving to achieve food security and have come a long way. The problem of food security is very simple and should be mentioned. The amount of agricultural land available is not enough to produce enough food to feed every mouth. The traditional crops that have been used do not give the amount of yield necessary to feed the whole population. So with the progress of science, hybrid rice varieties were developed. Hybrid rice gives more yield than traditional varieties yielding more profits to the farmers and feeding more mouths, i.e. helping us in our goal to achieve food security.

In Bangladesh, we literally feed of rice, our main staple crop. For us food security primarily means producing enough rice. And in a country where there is a huge percentage of the population leaving under the UN poverty line, many cannot afford nutritious fruits and vegetables. The general people of our country try to eat enough to give them energy which will last for the day. It is like planning for today and not knowing what lies ahead. A typical meal of a poor Bangladeshi household consists mostly of rice and very little add-ons. But rice does not provide all the nutrition a human being requires. It might give the energy you need to last for a day but not the nutrition required for growth. According to the World Food Programme, most of the world’s hungry people live in Asia where micronutrient deficiencies are especially serious. Millions of people suffer from risk of illnesses, diseases, lack of growth or more simply lack of energy from the deficiencies of iron, zinc and necessary vitamins.

Zinc has been particularly missing in the rice of Bangladesh. Those who can afford meet do not need to worry, meat has the necessary zinc required. But most cannot in Bangladesh. The same is true for zinc supplements, which are too expensive for poor people to afford. They don’t eat meat or supplements and stay deficient of zinc. And they themselves are not aware of their ‘hidden hunger’, i.e. the lack of micro-nutrients.

Now, why is zinc so important for the human body? For an adult, the absence of zinc means a weakened immune system, increased frequency of infectious diseases. Pregnant women are the ones who are in grave danger from zinc deficiency. It can lead to birth complications and even death. It results in low birth weight babies and babies suffer from ‘stunting’, which means a loss of height and the body might not fully develop.

Fortunately scientists are now on the verge of developing zinc fortified rice. It fortifies rice with zinc and solves a major nutrition problem that we face. Harvest Plus, is an independent research organisation founded by the Consultative Group in International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and co convened by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). They are hoping to release zinc fortified rice for widespread cultivation by 2012. BRAC and Harvest Plus have together started work to successfully release zinc fortified rice in Bangladesh to meet the micro-nutrient deficiencies.

To make it a sucess and ensure active participation of concerned groups, BRAC organised a workshop at the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel for Agriculture experts on zinc fortified rice. The Honourable Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, Matia Chowdhury MP was present as chief guest along with other dignitaries of the agriculture sector. She said the government will support better cropping and hybrid varieties as long as it is ensured that these are safe and beneficial. Mr Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director of BRAC chaired the event.

Looking forward, the real challenge is to keep the taste of rice as people like it, other wise they will not consume it. And keep price at check because people are not willing to pay a higher price for ‘hidden hunger’ i.e deficiencies they are not aware of. The new breed of rice, fortified with zinc, promises to be tasty and cost efficient which can essentially solve the zinc deficiencies of millions of poor people in Bangladesh. It will be a huge step in achieving food security.

By Faisal Rezwan
BRAC Communications

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A most meaningful birthday gift from Pakistan

The following was originally posted by BRAC USA President & CEO Susan Davis on The Huffington Post.


This morning, I received a touching letter from Munshi Sulaiman about his recent trip to Pakistan to see BRAC's Ultra Poor program there. Munshi has been working with BRAC for the last 8 years and currently coordinates BRAC's research activities outside Bangladesh.

His letter gives faces to the people of Pakistan who are never in the limelight, from our dedicated staff to the extremely poor people who live outside the realm of politics and terrorism. Like so many people living in poverty all over the world, their primary goal is survival. I'd like to share his letter with all of you:

I was pleasantly surprised to see the beauty of Islamabad, all the blocks of nice mansions, well-planned roads with loads of traffic, but no traffic jams, and greenery everywhere. Since this was my first time in Pakistan, and as someone who grew up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, it was hard to believe such a nice city existed in South Asia. However, a bigger surprise awaited me in Lasbela, a town in Baluchistan province neighboring one of the busiest mega-cities in the world, Karachi.

One of the purposes of my visit to Pakistan has been to get an exposure to BRAC's Targeting the Ultra Poor Program in Pakistan and to design a research study to evaluate its impact. The Ultra Poor program is BRAC's flagship initiative aimed at targeting those living in extreme poverty, struggling for survival below the food poverty line.

Recognizing the need for an initiative to target the extreme poor, BRAC launched the Ultra Poor program in Bangladesh in 2002. The program starts with asset transfers, but the main intervention is two years of continuous ongoing support. It has a time-bound approach of graduating its participants into sustainable livelihoods.

A three-round longitudinal study on these families finds that almost 70 percent manage to lift themselves out of extreme poverty a year after end of program support. Close to 80 percent manage to do so five years after the end of the program support. Since the study, BRAC's Ultra Poor program has been successfully replicated all around the world. However, I was skeptical whether such a program could be appropriate in the context of Pakistan. Until, of course, I was in the field meeting the people, the "real people."

Due to bad planning on my side, I was forced to go visit the program on a Sunday. When I arrived at their branch office in early morning, I apologized for taking away their Sunday, the staff's only day off. The response was, "Don't worry, we work in Ultra Poor, this is a 24/7 job." By the time I left at the end of the day, I was quite convinced this was literally the case.

The village I went to was about six km (3.7 miles) away from the town center of Hubchowki. The roads in Hubchowki are in very good shape. The village is very close to the markets, reinforcing my skepticism about the necessity of such a program in Pakistan. After a 10-minute drive, the car turned onto a small lane, and in 10 seconds I could see the village. These villages can barely be seen from the highway despite such close proximity. Working with the Ultra Poor program in Bangladesh has given me quite a bit of understanding of lives and livelihoods of the poor. However, this was something completely different.

There are about 50 households in that village, and 12 of them have been selected to participate in the Ultra Poor program. I wondered, "Why not all of them?" Their shabby shade-like houses tell a lot about their living conditions. They have been living on this land for over 20 years, and vulnerable to eviction at the will of the landlord. They live on irregular and unreliable sources of work as day laborers. The primary school building is a five-minute walk from the village, but probably has never seen a teacher. The people have no political affiliations, and pretty much no government or civil-sector safety nets reach them. The people I spoke with literally hate NGOs (non-governmental organizations), as they say "NGO-wala sare jhute hey" (NGO people are frauds). They see people from different development agencies coming to talk to them, but never see any tangible help.

Allani, a 47-year-old woman living in the village, is an Ultra Poor participant. Her husband has been sick for over a year, and they have four children. Her inconsistent income from day labor meant they she did not have money to take her husband to a health center. Sending the kids to school was out of question.

However, Allani was given a chance to change things when a BRAC staff person came and knocked on her door and invited her to participate in the Ultra Poor program. She soon received a cow and 10 chickens as asset-transfer through the initiative. She has also received a subsistence allowance. Her husband was taken to a health center, and was found to be suffering from tuberculosis. He is currently getting better with regular medication. She has started a small shop inside her house with the money she saved from the stipend and selling eggs.

I could see our staff was very proud of her success. Saifullah Mengle, the area manager for Ultra Poor, did his Masters in political science and joined the program about a year ago dreaming of a nice cozy office. I asked whether he feels he should be able to do less field work and more desk work. His response was, "you don't find the ultra poor in the office documents -- they are in the villages. I am happier to be in the village because I can make a change in someone's life."

The excitement that one can feel talking to them about the program is very hard to explain. Through my career at BRAC, I have interacted with staff across different geographies and programs. Even with the extreme level of commitment that BRAC staff generally exhibit, there was something extraordinary about the staff implementing the Ultra Poor program in Pakistan (Perhaps all microfinance credit officers should spend some time with this program to motivate and sensitize themselves.)

People often ask about the nature of the 'hand-holding' element of the program. Let me try to give one example of hand-holding that I came across in Hubchowki. About a week before the day of my visit, the area manager got a call in the middle of night from the husband of one of their Ultra Poor members, Amina. She was pregnant and was in critical condition, the birth attendant gave up hope. The area manager ran into the village at midnight, took her to the health center, collected blood from a blood-bank, and managed the necessary medicines. Talking to the family, it was quite clear that Saifullah was critical in saving two lives that night.

Emergencies are more of a norm than accidents for the ultra poor. The hand-holding is being able to ask someone for help. Does this create dependency? Well, we all depend on each-other. We believe that after graduating from the program, these participants can probably go to a health center on their own. The challenge is to elevate their lives to that point.

The day after Amina's child was born she told Saifullah, "This boy is a gift from Allah (God), who sent you as his firista (angel). You name him..." Saifullah named the child Abed, after BRAC's founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. It is a remarkable coincidence that Sir Fazle Hasan Abed was celebrating his 75th birthday the same week this child was born in rural Pakistan. Sir Abed could not have asked for a better birthday gift, after dedicating his life to build BRAC -- giving millions of women like Amina and her families a second chance in life.

Munshi is currently finishing up his doctoral work at the London School of Economics. He has played a critical role in evaluating BRAC's Ultra Poor program in Bangladesh.

MicroCapital.org recently published a review of a paper on the initial findings from a CGAP initiative to adapt BRAC's Ultra Poor program in countries all over the world. Click here to read the review.

Click here to meet two women from BRAC's Ultra Poor program in Bangladesh, Amina and Jahanara.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No Woman, No Cry is now on YouTube!

Thanks to Oprah's OWN Network, you can now see No Woman, No Cry, the documentary by Christy Turlington Burns, on YouTube until May 16th.

The documentary follows several women on their quest to give birth, including Monica in Bangladesh, who is helped by one of BRAC's community health promoters.  You can also see an interview with Dr. Sabina Faiz Rashid (pictured above), who teaches at the School of Public Health at BRAC University.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tune in to the BRAC UK telethon for Vision Bangladesh

TUNE IN as BRAC UK goes live on Channel S
(8pm -12am, Friday 6th May 2011, CHANNEL S DONATION HOTLINE: 020 85231666 )

BRAC UK will be running a telethon on Channel S to raise much needed funds for Vision Bangladesh.

Vision Bangladesh is a partnership between BRAC and Sightsavers and the aim is to eliminate avoidable blindness across Bangladesh by the year 2020 starting with the Sylhet region.

80% of blindness in the country is from easily treatable cataracts – occurring in both young adults and children, not just the elderly. Every year, 150,000 more cases are added to the backlog of nearly one million poor people who are denied the simple procedure that could save their sights – and their future.

Cataract surgery is one of the most cost effective health interventions(£20 for an operation). The real tragedy of blindness in Bangladesh is that the majority of the cases are unnecessary – having cataracts should not inevitably lead to blindness.

So tune in to support BRAC UK on this mission, donate and encourage to do so too on Sky channel 814 or for outside of the UK:

Satellite: Eurobird 1 ; Orbital Location: 28.5º East ; Transponder: F1 Upper ; Uplink Frequency / Polarity: 14 059.67 Vertical (Y) ; Downlink Frequency / Polarity: 12 559.67 Horizontal (X) ; Symbol Rate: 27.5 Msys/s; FEC: 2/3

CHANNEL S DONATION HOTLINE: 020 85231666

Donate online at the BRAC Vision Bangladesh site or through Just Giving.

“It is the poorest people who are most at risk of blindness and low vision as they are more likely to go blind for a lack of simple treatment and stay blind for a lack of simple surgery.”
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed,  Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, explains why this partnership with Sightsavers is so important.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Building Bridges Between Bangladeshi Americans and Dhaka’s Dynamic Business and Civil Society Sector

The following was posted by Mitul Desai on Dip Note, the US Department of State blog. She serves as as Senior Advisor for Outreach for South and Central Asian Affairs.

I went to Dhaka recently to view first-hand the exciting changes underway in Bangladesh's private sector and civil society. Also, as someone with a portfolio uniquely focused on leveraging private sector and diaspora resources to promote bilateral relations and development in South and Central Asia, I went to see whether there were opportunities to further catalyze linkages between Bangladesh and its diaspora community in the United States. The answer during my four-day visit was a resounding yes. In meetings with everyone from development giant BRAC and microcredit pioneer Grameen to entrepreneurs and thought leaders, I heard great enthusiasm for leveraging stronger relations with the diaspora, particularly to promote entrepreneurship and development in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi-Americans have the skills and expertise that can help boost the Bangladeshi economy, including in areas like information technology and pharmaceuticals. Not only can the Bangladeshi diaspora help through mentoring, teaching, and investment in Bangladesh, it can also serve as country ambassadors abroad, thus catalyzing even greater interest in Bangladesh.

In addition to world-class organizations like BRAC, one mechanism through which to build stronger diaspora and private sector linkages is the Bangladesh Brand Forum, which is a collection of experienced local business leaders and academics that runs a knowledge center and organizes conferences around the world focused on increasing the awareness of Bangladesh as an attractive destination for trade, investment, and culture.

A variety of other Bangladeshi organizations also offer strong opportunities for partnering with the diaspora. BRAC University's new Centre for Entrepreneurship Development will train students and BRAC lenders on basic business management, strategy, and finance to promote a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. And the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute is working to improve the business environment and move Bangladesh toward the global marketplace. Through an innovative floating hospital, Friendship is devoted to providing healthcare to the most inaccessible and hard to reach areas of Bangladesh. These and other efforts made it clear that Bangladeshi civil society and business leaders are working hard to elevate their country's place on the world stage.

My conversations in Bangladesh made it clear that the opportunities there are greater than ever, and that now is the time to turn those opportunities into action. With a strong civil society, an emerging middle class, solid telecommunications resources, and an increase in members of the Bangladeshi diaspora returning from abroad, Bangladesh possesses many key elements for a continued positive growth trajectory. Bangladesh's businesses, entrepreneurs, and NGOs are ready to have a stronger voice in the global arena, and with a little help from their friends in the diaspora, we can expect to hear more from this dynamic country in the years to come. A lot more.

Click here to learn more about BRAC's work in Bangladesh.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

MICROFINANCE PAPER WRAP-UP: Reaching the Poorest: Lessons from the Graduation Model

The following article was originally posted by Alex Pattee on the MicroCapiltal.org blog.

By Syed M Hashemi and Aude de Montesquiou; published by CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), March 2011, 16 pages; available at: http://www.microfinancegateway.org/gm/document-1.9.50806/Reaching_the_Poorest.pdf

This document presents findings from the CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Program, an initiative launched in 2006 to test and adapt the Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction/Targeting the Ultra Poor (CFPR/TUP) approach of BRAC, a Bangladeshi development organization that was established in 1972 as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee. The BRAC approach is premised on the idea that, with the right mix of interventions, the poorest can “graduate” out of extreme poverty. The Graduation Program consists of a series of 10 pilot projects in four continents involving various partners to test the transferability of BRAC’s approach to other regions.

The Graduation Program applies the BRAC approach through five building blocks: targeting to ensure only the poorest households are selected for the program; provision of cash or food to stabilize food security; savings services and education to build assets and “financial discipline;” and transfers of assets such as livestock to launch self-sustaining economic activity.

The first conclusion drawn by the authors is that some groups of people may simply be unable to embark on new economic activities and create their own pathways out of extreme poverty. The second lesson is that, while the program takes market challenges and opportunities into account, it does not directly tackle the conditions of the marketplace in which entrepreneurs do business and thus cannot eliminate certain challenges entrepreneurs will likely face. The third lesson is that the absence of physical infrastructure (such as access to clean water or customers), health infrastructure (availability of basic health services), and vulnerability to ecological and other macro-level shocks can prevent sustained progress out of poverty.

Mr Hashemi and Ms de Montesquiou argue that initial results of the Graduation Program demonstrate that a well-sequenced, intensively monitored program combining access to savings, livelihood training and an in-kind asset transfer can lead to asset and income diversification, increased consumption, and some level of empowerment. The authors suggest that more research be conducted to determine the following: whether the initial changes observed in participants’ lives are sustained over time; what contributes to and what inhibits success for households for this type of program; and the role of access to finance in poverty reduction and how financial services can be better provided to those in extreme poverty. Finally, Mr Hashemi and Ms de Montesquiou conclude that an understanding of how the pilots can be successfully and cost-effectively scaled up is needed, including an analysis of the relative efficiency of this approach versus other interventions targeted to the poorest.

The distribution of the Graduation Program’s pilot projects is intended to encompass regional, economic, cultural and ecological diversity. Because the pilots are in various stages of completion, this paper includes only early results from the West Bengal state of India and Haiti.

By: Alexandra Pattee, Research Associate

About BRAC (Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee): Established in 1972 as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee, BRAC is a development organization based in Bangladesh. According to its website, “BRAC works with people whose lives are dominated by extreme poverty, illiteracy, disease and handicaps. With multifaceted development interventions, BRAC strives to bring about change in the quality of life of poor people in Bangladesh.” As of 2009, BRAC reported total assets of USD 990 million, gross loan portfolio of 636 million and 6.2 million active borrowers.

Additional Resources:

MicroCapital’s Microfinance Universe: CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor)

MicroCapital’s Microfinance Universe Profile: BRAC