The new, popular approach to ending poverty is microfinancing and microcredit. In the case of microfinance, organizations give small grants – sometimes as low as $10 – to women in remote areas so that they can start a business. In the case of microcredit, lenders extend loans to individuals or small groups. Jennifer Kavanagh decided to investigate this method of aid herself, traveling to Bangladesh, Poland, and France to see how microcredit programs worked before returning to London and establishing her own program, Streed Cred.

Small Change Big Deal, talks not about the big picture of microcredit with selected anecdotes. Kavanagh writes her experiences and stories of the women on the ground level, including the failures, setbacks and extremely rare program abuses. As she offers her anecdotes and case studies, she also illustrates how each program must make adjustments for the local culture – and how the groups of women help them to do so even as they help themselves.

Kavanagh reveals a compassion-based banking system completely at odds with western banking practices. Loan defaults happen with helping rather than punitive measures, community supports and training come alongside any loans, and the system works so well that microcredit loans receive a payment in full rate of 97%.

This is a book about money, about poverty, and about an actively working approach to finance almost incomprehensible to the Wall Street mindset. Projects like Kiva and Grameen are, with very small steps, working. They could end world poverty while re-empowering women to make their homes and families safer.


~ review by Diana Rajchel

Author: Jennifer Kavanagh
O Books, 2012
pp. 169 $19.95