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Guest Post: Seena Aras on Grameen Foundation and Ending Global Poverty

June 8, 2010

We are pleased to welcome Seena Aras as a guest author at SAPP.  Seena is the Director of Online and Annual Giving at Grameen Foundation, a global nonprofit organization, that helps the world’s poorest people access financial services and technology solutions by providing financing, technology support and management strategies to the local organizations that serve them.

Knowing that I’m a first-generation South-Asian American, you won’t be surprised to learn where I first learned about microfinance — yes, it was in the classroom.  I learned about Dr. Muhammad Yunus’s inspiring work in microfinance during a development economics class my junior year.  I remember that an Ecuadorean friend in class was so excited about the topic that our group wrote about Ecuador, bananas and micro-enterprises.  The idea that through small loans, some poor people were creating small businesses and moving themselves out of poverty (and the banana business) stuck with me.

Years later, a friend joined Grameen Foundation after completing her M.B.A. in Finance while I was working in technology sales at some great global companies.  Her work seemed meaningful; my work meant a lot to me and allowed me to monetarily contribute to her meaningful work.  I liked the idea that through Grameen Foundation, my money was funding programs that helped other hard-working women fund small business to move themselves out of poverty.  But our ideas of hard work were very different – these women were living on less than $1 a day. I always wanted to do more but I didn’t think my skills were needed.

But to my utter amazement, my career selling online advertising technology solutions led to a career helping the world’s poorest last year.  One part of my job entails using my knowledge of online to expand the number of supporters that donate online.  Our programs are made to be scalable and replicable – so if a program works in one country, it can be adapted to work in another country.  In my mind, the more people that we can educate about our work, the more supporters we gain in every corner of the world.  I’d love to see our programs replicated in the places that need it the most.

I encourage those of you who want to effect social change to know that worlds of technology, consulting or banking aren’t limited to the corporate sector.  We are dedicated to using technology – cloud computing, web-enabled platforms, open source software, mobile payments to name just a few buzzwords – to create efficiencies and opportunities where none existed before.  We also use our knowledge of capital markets, human capital and global banking to close the gaps that exist between the very poor and their ability to access life-changing loans.

Donations are a great (and a very welcome!) way to support the causes you believe in, but your ideas and free time are also welcome. Right now, we are actively seeking volunteers to be part of our “Digital Street Team.” If you have ideas on how Grameen Foundation can best spread the word about our work through social media and our participation in the Members Project® from American Express and TakePart, please register for our webinar on Tuesday, June 8th at 12:00 PM EDT. After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.  Everyone can make a difference!

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