David Gutelius Joins LendforPeace.org’s Advisory Board

February 3, 2009 - 2 Responses

LendforPeace.org is honored to welcome David Gutelius to its Advisory Board.  Dr. Gutelius is a well-respected professional in the fields of both microeconomic development and social media technology.  He brings a diverse and esteemed background as an individual who has on the one hand spent years consulting the world’s most prestigious organizations on doing business in the Middle East, and on the other helped lead the largest artificial intelligence research project in history.

As both a mechanism for economic development and as a platform with the potential to humanize conflict through social media, LendforPeace.org is well suited to Dr. Gutelius’ talents.   We at LendforPeace.org look forward to working with Dr. Gutelius along with the rest of the advisory board to maximize our impact in both capacities.  Please find Dr. Gutelius’ bio below:

Dr. David Gutelius is a co-founder and Chief Technical Officer at Social Kinetics, a Silicon Valley pioneer in adaptive social media technologies. A specialist in social networks and economics, he co-founded the Social Computing Lab at the Artificial Intelligence Center at SRI International. Gutelius also co-founded and ran Ishtirak, a technology and microeconomic development counsultancy focused exclusively on the Middle East and Islamic Africa, serving clients from IBM to Frito Lay to Beruit Container Terminal and helping to scale regional microfinance operations Sanabel and Grameen-Jameel, LTD. He currently serves as an advisor to Meedan and on the board of Teachers Without Borders. Previously, Gutelius was a Visiting Professor at Stanford University.

LendforPeace.org to Launch Next Week!!!

January 30, 2009 - Leave a Response

For those of you who have been following the LendforPeace.org story over the past few months on this blog and for those of you who have been a part of the story  since the time over a year ago when LendforPeace.org was nothing but an idea, we have some exciting news that has been a long time coming:

LendforPeace.org is proud to announce that it will launch to the world on February 5th, 2009!

Come be a part of  the excitement by joining us at our launch event.  As all four of LendforPeace.org’s founders have current or previous ties with the University of Pennsylvania, we thought there was no better place to launch the site than on Penn’s campus in Philadelphia. Here are the details:

LendforPeace.org Philadelphia Launch Event
7:00 PM, Thursday February 5, 2009
Jon M. Huntsman Hall G6
University of Pennsylvania
3730 Walnut Street

The launch event will include a presentation by the founders, an invocation from University Chaplain Chas Howard and a keynote address on active citizenship by Dr. John DiIulio, the first Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.

Our Philadelphia launch is brought to you in partnership with the Penn Israel Coalition, Penn for Palestine, the Penn Arab Students Society, Fox Leadership, the Middle East Center, PRISM, and the Penn Microfinance Club.

We plan to run events in a variety of other cities in the coming months to bring LendforPeace.org to you.  If you would like to host a launch event in your city, let us know by emailing Team[at]lendforpeace.org.   If you cannot make it to Philadelphia on the 5th, please visit us via the web next week and participate in LendforPeace.org’s mission to promote economic opportunity and political stability in the Middle East through microfinance.

The Economist: “Want a Safe Bet for 2009? Try Microcredit!”

January 28, 2009 - Leave a Response

This fall the Economist ran an  interesting article on the virtues of microcredit in the context of the financial crisis.  We found it to be a helpful primer for those that are new to the subject.  Hope you enjoy!

“Wall Street’s titans minted money in good times but now find it hard to repay their debts, if they are in business at all. Ironic, then, that many of the world’s poor are better credit risks than the once-high-flyers at Lehman Brothers. This is one of the attractions of microcredit, the lending of tiny sums—as little as $50—to people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. It is an increasingly bright light in the gloom of the financial world.

Micro-borrowers range from farmers in rural areas to shopkeepers, artisans and street vendors in cities. In places where banks do not reach the poor, micro-lenders (often NGOs and non-profit organisations) provide capital to people who can put it to good use. If you think this looks like another subprime scheme—lending money to people who should not be borrowing—cheer up. Micro-borrowers have a stellar repayment record: Muhammad Yunus, founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel peace prize for his work in microfinance, says repayment rates are 95-98%. American credit-card holders are not that dependable.

Microcredit is not a solution to poverty: the very poorest often do not have the wherewithal to start businesses or the income stream to make regular loan repayments. Processing so many small loans is also expensive for the lender, so interest rates can be high. But they are usually much lower than the local loan shark’s, and poor people seem generally happy to have a reliable source of finance.

Increasingly, mainstream financial firms see money to be made. A study by the MicroBanking Bulletin puts the inflation-adjusted returns for lenders at around 2.5% of assets, on a par with commercial banking. Advocates of the poor worry that too much commercialism will ruin microfinance, but a decent return will attract more capital, broaden its reach and make the whole enterprise more sustainable.

Microcredit’s marriage with technology is opening new opportunities. Mobile phones and a local shopowner willing to handle the cash can extend microlending to a wider audience. XacBank, in Mongolia, is planning a mobile-banking programme that could cover as many as 300,000 people—no small feat in a nomadic country where livestock outnumber people 13 to one. Another bad year on Wall Street and goat-herding may look attractive there as well.”

LendforPeace.org Announces Three Additions to its Advisory Board

January 27, 2009 - Leave a Response

LendforPeace.org is proud to announce the addition of Howard Finkelstein, Hanna Siniora and Delphine Thizy to its Advisory Board.  Each is a respected leader in development, microfinance and/or peace activism in the Middle East.  Please find their bios below.  LendforPeace.org plans to announce additional members of the board in the coming weeks. 

Howard Finkelstein – Law Offices of Howard J. Finkelstein

Howard Finkelstein is one of the country’s pioneers in the securitization of microfinance-related obligations. Mr. Finkelstein, who recently left a national law firm to establish his own practice, focuses a great part of his practice on structuring capital market instruments to bring Western capital to microfinance institutions worldwide. He was the lead attorney in the $60 million securitization known as MicroFinance Securities (MFS) XXEB, in which he successfully structured the multi-currency securitization of loans to 30 microfinance institutions in 15 countries. In 2007, he served as US counsel to Blue Orchard in the transaction known as BOLD 2007, which was named the Sustainable Deal of the Year for 2007. His work has helped to bring nearly $1 billion to MFIs worldwide. Mr. Finkelstein participates broadly in the sector, having organized and co-chaired three conferences and spoken at numerous other public and private forums on microfinance. He is on the Board of Directors of the Microfinance Club of New York, Secretary of Microlumbia, Inc., and on the Advisory Boards of Green Microfinance and Frogtek LLC.

Hanna Siniora – Palestinian National Council

Hanna Siniora is a Palestinian Christian who lives in East Jerusalem.  He is the publisher of The Jerusalem Times and a co-Chief Executive Officer of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.  He is also a member of the Palestine National Council and the chairperson of the Palestinian-American Chamber of Commerce.  An early proponent of dialogue and negotiations with Israel, Siniora has a long history of involvement in pro-peace activities. For his lifetime commitment to working towards Palestinian-Israeli peace, he was awarded the Order of the Knights of Malta.

Delphine Thizy – PlaNet Finance, Director of the Palestinian Territories

Delphine Thizy is the Director of the the Palestinian Territories for PlaNet Finance. PlaNet Finance is an international organization whose mission is to fight poverty through microfinance. The PlaNet Finance Group is active in more than 60 countries with an international network of 38 offices. In 2007 PlaNet Finance Advisory Services provided assistance to 220 microfinance institutions (MFIs), reaching almost 9 million clients. Before taking charge of the Palestinian Territories, Ms. Thizy was the PlaNet Finance Regional Coordinator for South Asia. She has also been Head of Mission in Afghanistan where she was in charge of the technical assistance mission for Sunduq (an Afghan MFI). Before joining PlaNet Finance, Ms. Thizy worked for an NGO in Mozambique and with UNDP and the MFI PARC in the Palestinian Territories. She holds a Master of Science of the territory from the University Pierre-Mendès France of Grenoble.

LendforPeace.org selected for engagement with Harvard Kennedy School’s International Consulting Organization

January 14, 2009 - 2 Responses

We are pleased to announce that LendforPeace.org has been chosen by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s International Consulting Organization (ICO) for a semester-long collaborative consulting project.

Harvard Kennedy School Logo

ICO is a student-run group at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) that provides students with opportunities to work on consulting projects with organizations that have an international development mission. Through ICO, teams of students volunteer their unique skills over the course of the academic year to help these organizations address critical issues.

Three HKS students have been assigned to LendforPeace.org to assist with marketing, budgeting and fundraising. Each ICO team member that is working with LendforPeace.org has an impressive and relevant background:

Jo Aylor:

Jo is a first year Master of Public Policy candidate at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where she is concentrating in International and Global Affairs. She was born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany. After graduating from Austin College in 2004, she spent the next four years in Kyoto, Japan, where she worked first as an English teacher and then as Prefectural Advisor for the Kyoto Prefectural Board of Education. This position allowed her to explore her interest in intercultural communication and problem resolution. She recently served as Japan Coordinator for PEPY, an organization operating mostly in rural Cambodia and focusing on access to education.  Jo is fluent in English, German, French and Japanese.

Laila Kassis:

Laila is a candidate for an MBA from Harvard Business School and an MPA in International Development from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Prior to attending Harvard, Laila was a Senior Associate at Key Venture Partners, a Boston-based venture capital firm investing in growth stage information technology, communications and media companies.  In Boston, she has volunteered for the Center for Women and Enterprise coaching female entrepreneurs on business building and capital raising. After completing her studies at Harvard, Laila plans to work in international development in the Arab World. She is fluent in Arabic and learning Hebrew and French.

Tidhar Wald:

Tidhar is a first year Master of Public Policy student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University concentrating in International and Global Affairs. Originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, he graduated from the Sorbonne University in Paris, France receiving a BA in Political Science and History. Tidhar has worked as a Journalist for several Israeli newspapers, among them “Ha’aretz”, covering International Affairs, social and cultural affairs. Prior to entering the Kennedy School, he served as the European Union Liaison Officer of the European Jewish Congress, coordinating the political actions of this NGO within the EU Institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg.  He is fluent in Hebrew, English, French and German and learns Japanese and Spanish.

Says ICO teammember Jo Aylor:

“The LendforPeace.org team, which includes both Jewish and Muslim members, and their mission to fund development through a global grassroots movement exhibit the spirit of cooperation so desperately needed in the Middle East.”

We at LendforPeace.org are excited to have the ICO team on board!

Hoping for peace in Gaza

January 6, 2009 - Leave a Response

As you are well aware, the violence in the Gaza strip and southern Israel has recently escalated.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of both Gaza and Israel in hopes that their leaders can quickly bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The current crisis will increase the number of people who are financially and emotionally strained and has the potential to result in echoes of desperation and violence in the future. We believe that support systems in these regions are more crucial than ever and that an infrastructure for rebuilding the economies of the affected areas will be important for the success of any accord.

We at LendforPeace.org invite you to join us in investing in the future of the region.

$5,000 of Successful Pilot Loans

December 24, 2008 - Leave a Response

In August of this year, LendforPeace.org  made its first pilot loan.  We are proud to report that four months later we have completed 10 pilot loans totaling $5,000 and have so far seen a 100% repayment rate.

Working with one of our local microfinance partners, Asala, LendforPeace.org has funded ten different female entrepreneurs in the West Bank.  As with future LendforPeace.org loans, these loans were matched by funds from Asala in order to increase impact and align incentives.  We are excited by the success of these loans as they validate both our relationship with Asala and the LendforPeace.org lending platform.

Check out some of our funded entrepreneurs:

Pilot Loan Entrepreneurs

With the success of our pilot loans, the financial support of granting institutions such as the Clinton Global Initiative, and a technology platform that is all but polished, we are looking forward to launching in early 2009. Keep an eye out for further announcements about launch in the coming weeks…

LFP Presentation at Women Advancing Microfinance Event

December 6, 2008 - Leave a Response

On Thursday December 4th I had the opportunity to speak at a very interesting event hosted by Women Advancing Microfinance (WAM) at the Microsoft Center in New York.  The evening’s main speaker, Chagit Rubenstein, was speaking on the topic of  “Microfinance in Israel: Supporting Bedouin Women.”  Sarah Leshner and the team at WAM thought that LendforPeace.org would be a relevant organization for the attendees of this event and so asked us to give a short presentation.

The event drew a small crowd of microfinance professionals and many who had an interest in joining the field.  I spoke briefly about the LendforPeace.org mission to use micro-lending to promote economic opportunity and political stability in the Middle East.  I then described the platform we have built and our upcoming launch.  The real star of the evening, however, was Chagit.

Crowd gathering for WAM Event

Chagit is the Microenterprise Program Director at Koret Israel Economic Development Fund (KIEDF).  She helped spearhead a program called SAWA, a microfinance program in Israel that focuses on Bedouin women in the Negev.   It is no coincidence that SAWA has chosen to work with this population: of the 160,000 Bedouins living in the Negev, only 55% of men and 11% of women are employed.   SAWA has extended 750 loans totaling $900,000.  Overall KIEDF has facilitated $170,000,000 in financings for 6,000 small and micro businesses in Israel, lending to both Jews and Arabs.

Chagit and David after our Presentations

Chagit and David after our presentations

A startling fact about Israel:  small and micro businesses account for 96% of all businesses, employ 60% of the workforce and receive 15-20% of banking credit.  By speaheading the use of microfinance in Israel, Chagit and KIEDF are introducing powerful development methodologies to a large and underserved market.

LendforPeace.org receives grant from the Clinton Global Initiative!

November 16, 2008 - Leave a Response

The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) and the Wal-Mart Foundation recently announced the winners of forty-four student grants and two university grants through the CGI U Outstanding Commitment Awards.  The grants, made possible by the Wal-Mart Foundation, will support innovative, high-impact commitments to improve communities and lives around the world.

CGI U is a youth-focused project of the Clinton Global Initiative, which was founded by President Clinton in 2005 to mobilize world leaders to take action on major global challenges.  The CGI U Outstanding Commitment Awards are designed to support innovative, high-impact work that creates lasting and positive social change, most notably within CGI U’s focus areas – energy and climate change, global health, human rights and peace, and poverty alleviation.  The awards recognize students and student organizations from a wide variety of graduate schools, historically black colleges, Ivy League institutions, religious and tribal universities, and state schools.

LendforPeace.org’s founding team, composed of two Palestinians and two Jews, reflects CGI’s commitment to diversity and cross-boundary collaboration in the pursuit of poverty alleviation and conflict resolution.

Check out the press release here.

We couldn’t be more excited to have the support of the Clinton Global Initiative and are looking forward to working with CGI U to make LendforPeace.org a success.

What is LendforPeace.org?

November 9, 2008 - Leave a Response

Hi!  This is David Fraga, one of the LendforPeace co-founders and the individual who you will see most often on this blog.  From time to time you may also see contributions from the other members of the founding team (Sam Adelsberg, Andrew Dudum, and Allam Taj) and from guests.  Before getting to know us though, I thought it would make sense to explain the underlying purpose of our organization.

LendforPeace.org is a not-for-profit internet platform that allows individuals to lend to specific micro-entrepreneurs in the West Bank. Our mission is to use micro-lending to promote economic opportunity and political stability in the Middle East.

We believe that the health of the Palestinian economy is an important influence on the prospect of peace.  With 60% of the Palestinian population living below the poverty line, with median incomes of $2 per day, and with unemployment approaching 60%, it is easy to see how economic stress could compound the historical and political conflicts in the region.  Without the opportunity to earn enough to feed one’s children, a person is desperate for a source of hope and dignity.  In this region of the world, extremist movements have been able to thrive on such desperation by offering a scapegoat, a purpose and a support network.  In this way, addressing the issue of individual economic self-sufficiency means addressing a fundamental driver of the conflict.  LendforPeace is part of a pro-market movement that looks to foster economic opportunity through micro-enterprise.

Using our site, you can make a loan directly to a vetted micro-entrepreneur in the Palestinian territories.  We work with US Government approved microfinance institutions on the ground that deliver your capital along with training and guidance to individuals that want to find a way to provide for themselves and their families.  Over time, your loan is repaid to our partners and returned to you, giving you the opportunity to reinvest and have your dollars put to work not just once, but over and over again. By facilitating the process of individual enterprise in this region, you can make a specific, tangible difference in the overall balance towards stability and peace.

We are looking forward to finalizing the system and to getting it up and running.  Look for some exciting announcements and progress reports coming soon!

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