Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Microcredit conference held at Seattle Pacific University

Seattle Pacific University held a Microcredit conference last weekend. The event featured speakers from Kiva and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Microcredit lenders had booths to display some of the projects they funded, and there were small group sessions to discuss big topics concerning microcredit.

From the Student newspaper at SPU The Falcon, writer Melissa Stefan will tell us more.

"Microcredit is a way to make loans and repayments, so it's more sustainable (than traditional charity)," said Kenman Wong, professor of business and economics, who helped plan the event. "I would even argue that it's more dignified, because people are actually participating, hopefully creating small businesses to help them earn their way out of poverty."

Though the concept is relatively new, interest in microfinance is growing. The conference, which began as an offhand suggestion, attracted participants from as far away as New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma and North Carolina. The event sold out and nearly 100 people were on the waiting list, Wong said.

"The massive attendance is a testament to the interest in microfinance and those living in poverty. Microfinance itself is a testament to the power of people recognizing the importance of community in a connected world," said SPU alumnus Jeff Keenan, who served on the conference leadership committee and opened the conference on Friday evening.

"We thought maybe people would drive over from Ballard -- maybe -- and that was our optimistic guess," Wong said. "So we really feel blessed, because there was a lot of hard work, but we never had to push."

Wong partnered with senior Kristin McGunnigle and Brad Stave, who works with VisionFund, to plan the event four months ago. Originally, the event was geared toward businesses and entrepreneurs, though the spectrum was ultimately broadened to focus on the community at hand.

"We thought, 'There's so much interest in Seattle in poverty and global issues ... .' We wanted to educate them and mobilize them to act," Wong said.

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