EVANSTON, Ill. – Entrepreneurs and microfinance institutions in developing countries will benefit from a new strategic partnership between the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, a global humanitarian service organization, and Oikocredit, a Netherlands-based cooperative financial institution that promotes socially responsible investing.
Under the partnership, the Rotary Foundation – the charitable arm of Rotary International — will provide grants to Rotary clubs to enable club members to work with microfinance institutions within the Oikocredit network. Together, these microfinance institutions and Rotary clubs will identify local needs, develop effective approaches, and structure training programs to improve entrepreneurs’ business skills.
“This strategic partnership with Oikocredit enables Rotary to work with a globally-recognized leader in the field of microfinance in order to make a meaningful contribution to poverty reduction,” said Rotary Foundation Chair Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar. “It allows Rotary club members to directly contribute their valuable expertise and skills without administering the loans directly.”
“Knowledge and training are as important as financing,” explained Oikocredit Managing Director Tor G. Gull. “Oikocredit’s financing relationship with local entrepreneurs and microfinance organizations means we also see the need to help them strengthen their capacity to develop further, both economically and socially. Rotary funding and expertise from volunteers will greatly facilitate this effort.”
As an example, Gull cited a dairy production plant that receives Oikocredit funding for equipment to increase production. “But what is also essential is training to use that equipment efficiently, and guidance on how to market the new products,” he said.
Oikocredit is a cooperative financial institution that offers loans or investment capital to microfinance institutions, cooperatives, fair trade organizations and small-to-medium sized enterprises in the developing world. Investors earn modest financial returns and the knowledge that their money is being used to fight poverty and promote fair trade in an environmentally responsible manner. Founded in 1975, Oikocredit has US$684 million (€480 million) invested in over 800 organizations in more than 70 countries, benefiting more than 20 million people through its microfinance partners.
Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. There are 1.2 million Rotary members in 34,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary clubs have been serving communities worldwide for more than a century.
The Rotary Foundation, under its new Future Vision plan, seeks to forge strategic partnerships with established organizations with expertise in any of Rotary’s six areas of focus: peace and conflict prevention/resolution; disease prevention and treatment; water and sanitation; maternal and child health; basic education and literacy; and economic and community development. The foundation grants support major international projects with sustainable, high impact outcomes.