Microfinance: A MINN and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Event


On Monday, September 8, 2008, MINN and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) hosted If Microfinance is the Answer, What is the Question? International Experts Share Stories from the Field. This great educational event – the first-ever collaboration between MINN and MCN – attracted many new faces, as well as several familiar ones. The event featured three experts in the field of international microfinance who shared their experiences with 85 attendees at the Dorsey Ewald Conference Center in St. Paul.

Rob Scarlett, who has over 40 years of experience in the micro-lending movement and is a member of ACCION International’s President’s Council, offered an informative introduction to microfinance and some of the questions that it addresses, such as “Is it possible to eliminate poverty?” and “How do we empower people to help themselves?” Next, Chingwell Mutombu discussed her experiences with microfinance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), her native country. Chingwell is the founder and executive director of First Step Initiative, a Minnesota-based microfinance agency that provides small micro-loans and skills training to women in the DRC to help them increase their social and economic status. Terry Isert, senior technical advisor: economic opportunities at American Refugee Committee (ARC), followed Chingwell and shared his experiences managing ARC’s global portfolio of microenterprise development programs, microfinance institutions, and programs in seven countries from Asia to Africa.

The three presentations were followed by a lively and engaging question and answer session, where the speakers had the opportunity to discuss some of the challenges, strengths and weaknesses, and lessons learned of international microfinance.

MINN would like to offer its sincerest gratitude to Ewald Consulting and the Dorsey Ewald Conference Center for providing a wonderful space for this event. It would also like to thank MCN, the Minnesota International Center and the Microfinance Alliance for helping to promote this event. And, another big thank you to the Microfinance Alliance for compiling the glossary of terms included in the event program.