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The following article appeared in Left Business Observer #77, May 1997. It retains its copyright and may not be reprinted or redistributed in any form - print, electronic, facsimile, anything - without the permission of LBO.
Gina Neff is an economic journalist in New York City. Her piece on foundations is also on this site. So is her analysis of microcredit, a prequel to this article.
It could have been the United Nations: a sea of colorful national costumes, Sony receivers for simultaneous translation on every chair, and on the dais, royalty, presidents, and prime ministers. Instead, this was the ballroom of the same Washington hotel that hosts the annual IMF/World Bank meetings, and here, too, the talk was mainly financial. This was the Microcredit Summit convened by RESULTS Education Fund this past February.
But celebrants weren't inclined to see it as a bankers' convention, or a technocrats' forum on poverty. To Muhammad Yunus, director of the movement's flagship, the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh (LBO #74), it was a "grand celebration." For Bella Abzug it was a chance to lead the crowd in a few rounds of "We Shall Overcome." Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina saw the conference as the beginning of "one of the great humanitarian movements of history." Michael Chu, president and CEO of ACCION International, claimed that the push for microcredit "will allow self-initiative to vanquish poverty." By its end, the conference seemed little more than an international pep rally for banking.
Inspiration is RESULTS' specialty. Their promotional literature says RESULTS "uses a unique mix of group empowerment an