In a previous post, I wrote about micro lending in general.
Below is a local community example of micro lending (this post is based on an article I worked on to contribute to the Fernwood newspaper – the “Village Vibe”)
As many people trying to run a small business have discovered, big financial institutions will lend you money only if you can prove that you don’t need it.
In Fernwood (a small inner-city neighbourhood in Victoria, BC, Canada) a group called Community Micro Lending is providing a wonderful demonstration of how to see things differently. Community Micro Lending facilitates loans between lenders and entrepreneurs in the Greater Victoria community.
Community Micro Lending entrepreneurs are local citizens who need small loans and mentorship to take action and change their own lives. They are turning their dreams into a reality, creating local jobs, and embarking on business or employment opportunities with a socially conscious focus. At the same time they are contributing to a sustainable local economy and helping their community to flourish. An example is Natalie, the owner and operator of Stir it Up Authentic Caribbean Soul Food Restaurant in the Fernwood Square.
Lenders are local people too, investing what they can in people whose stories they understand and whose businesses are part of their own neighbourhood. Natalie’s story was posted on the Community Micro Lending site just before Christmas, and by mid-January, combined contributions of the multiple lenders equaled the $4095 that Natalie had requested. Now she can begin the upgrades to her restaurant and continue to make her delicious roti.
Technology definitely plays a part in spreading the message of Community Micro Lending. Tools like Twitter @VicMicroLending, Facebook, http://da-dk.facebook.com/group.php?gid=119969594687011 and LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/company/community-micro-lending-society connect people to the projects.
And yet, though the concept has a high-tech, 21st century component, it is really a very old idea – neighbours helping neighbours to strengthen the community. Something the Jimmy Stewart character of George Bailey in the 1946 movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” would thoroughly understand. In the movie, George runs a tiny mortgage and loan company that constantly experiences friction with the big banker in town. Here’s a beautiful George Bailey quote from the scene where he has to explain the process of his business to a handful of skeptical investors: “Your money’s in Joe’s house, right next to yours. And in the Kennedy house, and Mrs. Macklin’s house, and a hundred others. Why, you’re lending them the money to build, and then, they’re going to pay it back to you as best they can.”
Today, 65 years later, George wouldn’t have to provide such an explanation because as micro-lenders, we’re already completely aware of who our investments support.
The main website of Community Micro Lending, for a “deeply sustainable vibrant local economy” is: http://www.communitymicrolending.ca/
Also note that Fernwood has a great recent history of revitalization and an amazing sense of community.