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Investing in Our Communities by Advocating for Microenterprise Support

On March 13, I had the pleasure of participating in a lively panel discussion – Exploring Microenterprise – at the 7th Annual Symposium on Poverty and Economic Security in Latham, NY. Speaking with me were fellow panelists Marijana Ababovic, PanelistsPresident and CEO of Institute for Social and Economic Development (ISED), and Charlie Kalthoff, Executive Director at ACCORD,  which is one of New York’s Community Action Agencies, the local, grassroots, federally-designated network of anti-poverty agencies in New York State.

Marijana, Charlie and I enjoyed sharing our experiences in starting and managing microenterprise programs with the 40 managers and executive directors of other New York Community Action Agencies who attended our session.

While there was great interest among those participants in establishing microfinance loan funds like BCNA in their regions (as well as other support solutions for families and individuals interested in starting or expanding businesses) they were concerned about the difficulty of finding seed funds to start or sustain those microfinance programs.

In this time of economic insecurity there is indeed reduced funding for non-profits, including microfinance providers. And yet a recent study conducted by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) confirmed that if one out of every three microbusinesses hired just one person, the US would be at full employment.

Sometimes just working hard to help our individual clients is not enough. As organizations, we also need to advocate on the state and federal level for policies which allocate more funds for anti-poverty programs and services which, in turn, create jobs and economic security for hard working low and middle income families.

A key strategy for BCNA this year is to increase our participation in national and state organizations like the AEO, Corporation for Enterprise  Development (CFED), Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), and New York Coalition of Community Development Financial Institutions, organizations that advocate for policies which result in smarter ways of investing in our communities.

I hope you’ll join us!