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Financing the Poor

Ananya Mukkavilli ’14 is spending the summer in Washington, D.C., at the Grameen Foundation.  With the support of Haverford's Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, she is working there as an institutional relations intern, helping to seek out funding for the foundation.

The Grameen Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to address poverty not through charity, but through technology and microfinance, which is the practice of making small loans to individuals to build a successful small business.  This method allows Grameen to achieve more sustainable results than direct charity and the organization can reuse the funds it invests once the loans are paid back.  Mukkavilli explains that technological solutions like cellphones can help small-scale farmers enter a large global market by putting them in contact with buyers outside of their region.

Mukkavilli, a political science major with a minor in economics, became interested in the Grameen Foundation last year after taking Professor Shannon Mudd’s course Microfinance: Theory, Practice and Challenges and joining the new Microfinance Consulting Club.  “I really like the idea of microfinance,” she explains, “because it’s not about charity, but realistic solutions to bridging a global wealth inequality gap and giving everyone economics opportunities.”  While at her internship, Mukkavilli is also spending a lot of time at think tanks, lectures and meetings around Washington at places such as The Brookings Institution and the Foundation Center.

She credits her understanding of microfinance to her recent work at Haverford. “It’s great when you go to talks and lectures or even sit in meetings and really understand what’s going on,” says Mukkavilli, “because conversations can get pretty complex and technical.”

Mukkavilli, who was born in India and returns there regularly, and has also lived in Thailand, has seen a lot of this poverty firsthand and has always wanted to do something to help combat it.  While taking Mudd’s course last year, she wrote a paper specifically about the developing microfinance system in India and hopes to continue with the subject as she continues at Haverford.

She estimates that about 80 percent of the work she does for Grameen is looking for new funders and writing research profiles.  Many of her efforts don’t yield results since donors have to be careful where they give their money, but that only makes it more rewarding when she realizes she has found a potential funder for a program.

—Jack Hasler ’15

Prof. Anita Isaacs (Political Science) and students cross Founders Green after class.

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