May 5, 2010
Drew Tulchin (right), director of Social Enterprise Associates, chats with sophomore Kelsey Jenkins and senior Anna Lemler at The College of Wooster Global Engagement Network's second annual summit in April (Photo by Taylor Keegen.
WOOSTER, Ohio - Microfinance is catching on as an effective weapon in the battle against worldwide poverty, and The College of Wooster's Global Engagement Network (GEN) devoted its second annual summit to helping others catch up on what it is and how it works.
"Microfinance institutions provide affordable financial services to the poor, particularly to those who live in developing economies," said Amyaz Moledina, assistant professor of economics at Wooster and GEN's faculty adviser. "Our hope in choosing this theme was to raise awareness, network, and showcase our modest accomplishments in this area."
Wooster's Global Engagement Network is a student leadership organization that raises local awareness about global issues. The group focuses on community-driven change and promotes the principles of social entrepreneurship while encouraging dialogue on campus through workshops and conferences. In addition to the annual summit, the group sponsored a hands-on workshop with Pastor Damon Lynch, who led about 30 students through a process of Asset Based Community Development earlier this year.
Recent Wooster graduate Rashmi Ekka and current student Libby Parsons, both of whom wrote their Senior Independent Study projects (Wooster nationally acclaimed undergraduate research program) on microfinance, were among the featured speakers. Ekka works for a microfinance consulting firm in Washington D.C., and has started her own NGO (Adivasi Development Network). Parsons is co-executive
director of Global Youth Connection (GYC), a group of eight students that started a youth microfinance initiative and has won $6,500 in prizes.
Also in attendance was Drew Tulchin, managing partner of Social Enterprise Associates (which has helped generate more than $100 million for 'triple bottom line' efforts), who spoke about his 15 startups in the United States and worldwide, as well as his work as the previous director of CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution), a microfinance organization that serves immigrants and low-income people. In addition, Grant Ennis, who has extensive experience in youth entrepreneurship and microfinance in developing countries, spoke about his activities and led several interactive workshops. Ennis is co-founder of Global Action through Fashion and has taught
entrepreneurship to disadvantaged youth. He has also spent time working in South America with such microfinance initiatives as the Katalysis Microfinance Network.
Topics at this year's summit included "Poverty as a Reality Workshop," "What it's Like to Live on Two Dollars a Day," "Microfinance in a Conflict/Post-Conflict Zone: Afghanistan," "Youth Employment, Youth Entrepreneurship," and "Microfinance: Social Capital."
GEN is led by a group of nine students: Marianne Sierocinski, Taylor Keegan, Lauren Grimanis, Naomi Milstein, Stipo Josipovic, Katie Crawford, Gitika Mohta, Hugh Brown, and Laura Valencia.
"The GEN spring summit opened my eyes to an entire career field that I had previously never considered," said first-year student Katie Morton. "I was able to actively participate and learn more than I would have in a classroom setting. Although I realized the importance of microfinance regarding development, I hadn't considered my personal role. I was very impressed, and I plan to attend the annual summits in the future."
Susan Lee, co-director of the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement, was pleased with the results of the summit. "It was good to see and talk with alumni who returned and presented at the GEN conference," she said. "We all learned about the benefits that microfinance can provide."
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