New Orleans ACORN International is hard at work right now on pulling together all of the pieces and pressure on our Remittance Justice Campaign (www.remittancejustice.org) as we try to tighten the screws on banks and money transfer organizations, but we are keeping our eyes open on our next campaign around microfinance. Melanie Craxton, a student at the University of Edinburgh, is coming to help, and in her ball-of-fire manner has already begun to take the germs of our ideas and see what new branches might develop.
I woke to a note from Scotland which quoted a friend of hers, Ross, who is a student in Western Ontario, whom she had already recruited to help on the math. You see we want to really, really figure out what actual interest rates are charged by microfinance institutions around the world, particularly where our members work. I know just enough to be dangerous so may have blurted something to Melanie about wondering if there was an algorithm we could figure out that might be helpful, basically talking out of my rear end in all likelihood. She, being a brilliant threat in the open field no matter what play is called, has obviously been all over this.
Melanie talking to Ross not only have started thinking about how we can do the analysis on microfinance, but how we might be able to figure out, yes, an algorithm (!), that would help our poor borrowers figure out the real deal on who was charging what and whether or not it was worth it to them, and make it (are you still with me?) a mobile phone “app!” But, let’s go right to Ross here:
“You mentioned an algorithm, which made me think what if you could
turn your findings into something that could actually be used by MFI
borrowers. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but I was thinking a mobile
app. Something that lists every MFI in a country and allows the
borrower to compare interest rates, international reviews, ratings
from other borrowers etc. Basically the idea would be to empower the
consumer with more information. The challenge would be language and
sophistication, it would need to be easy to use, and convey
information in a extremely simple way.
Starting by creating a program/algorithm that makes it easier for the
international community to evaluate how much MFIs actually charge
seems logical but I think turning it into something that can be used
on the borrower end is really an exciting possibility. MF Transparency
has a few tools that allow for comparison of rates across MFIs, might
want to build on that somehow. ”
You know what? These are fantastic ideas. Anyone know anyone out there with some real math skills who would be willing to lend some time and sweat equity to my bungling and our volunteers brilliance and creativity and actually turn this into reality and a tool that we could distribute around the world?!?
And, ps., if anyone else has some fantastic ideas that would benefit our lower income and working members around the world, get it to us as well. Rain follows the plow, you know. If we have the ideas, we can make stuff happen.