Oikocredit 101

Investing to achieve a modest financial return in addition to a social return, such as poverty alleviation or women's empowerment.

What is Oikocredit?

Oikocredit International is a cooperative financial institution. We are a cooperative society with member institutions all over the world, and a leading worldwide social impact investor. Oikocredit US represents this society in the USA.

The name Oikocredit emphasizes our mission. “Oiko” is an ancient Greek word that means house, community, and world. “Credit is a reference to our work and comes from the Latin verb “credere,” meaning “to believe.” This is why our motto is “Investing in People”.

Oikocredit International provides credit and equity to small businesses through microfinance institutions (MFIs) across [70 countries] and directly to trade cooperatives, fair trade organizations, and small to medium enterprises (SMEs). Oikocredit is a social investor. We are active to achieve the social goals described in our mission and focus on a triple bottom line: a high social return, an environmental return, and a modest financial return.

History

In 1968, amidst South African Apartheid and the Vietnam War, the World Council (WCC) of Churches met in Uppsala, Sweden. Young politically engaged church members wanted assurances that church investments were aligned with their values.  The idea of an ethical investment channel for churches and related organizations was put forward, with the intention that investments would provide credit to productive enterprises run by disadvantaged people.

In 1975, the Oikocredit Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society, UA (ECDS) was legally incorporated in the Netherlands to pursue this mission.

Vision, Mission, and Values

Oikocredit challenges all to invest responsibly. It provides services and supports organizations to improve the quality of life of low-income people or communities in a sustainable way.

We envision a global, just society in which resources are shared sustainably, and all people are empowered with the choices they need to create a life of dignity. 

Our organization and our work embody 5 values: People, Sharing, Ecumenical Spirit, Grassroots, Integrity, and the Environment.

How the Oikocredit Cooperative Works

Oikocredit is a privately funded commercial enterprise. Individuals, companies, churches, and church-related organizations invest in Oikocredit. Oikocredit then delivers social impact by investing in partner organizations.

Oikocredit is a Social Investor

The Oikocredit cooperative finances the income-generating and job-creating initiatives of our partners, who serve disadvantaged peoples, mostly from low income countries. Oikocredit’s partners are selected according to strong ethical criteria including positive impact on the local community and the involvement of women in management/implementation. Oikocredit’s investment policies are advanced and screened by a independent SRI agency. And, as a cooperative society, Oikocredit’s members and investors are committed to advancing our social mission and driving our commitment to delivering a strong social impact.

What makes Oikocredit Unique?

Oikocredit maximizes our social impact.  We focus on the long term. We trust local knowledge. We invest with caution. We live the cooperative spirit. We lend money in local currencies. We run a Capacity Building grant program for organizations who wish to partner with us but don’t yet meet our criteria.

Oikocredit encourages our it’s members to participate actively in governance and strategy, as well as all policy matters concerning our mission and work. This unique governance feature allows us to maintain our strong focus on [social impact].

Oikocredit USA works as partners with the international office of the Oikocredit Cooperative

Oikocredit USA is a member of the Oikocredit International cooperative. We are a separate US organization with our own board and staff established in support of the mission and work carried out worldwide by Oikocredit.

We promote and represent Oikocredit as a leading social investor, we work to raise funds to support Oikocredit International’s Capacity Building efforts, we coordinate with other cooperative members to help ensure strong focus on social impact, and we generally work to advance cooperative values and best practices in social financing, socially responsible investing, and impact investing.

The offices of Oikocredit International are located in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. 

Social Performance Management

Social Performace Management is the heart of Oikocredit’s mission. Effectively pursuing our mission requires close attention to organizational practices and the quality of our outcomes.

Oikocredit assists our partners in implementing their social mission and to carefully monitor, assses and report outcomes to ensure that our joint efforts are on track. Oikocredit provides on-the ground support, training, and collaboration to help partners build capacity to serve clients better.

The Oikocredit International cooperative is a leader in ensuring the effective translation of our social goals into practice.

Capacity Building Program

Oikocredit’s partners often face more than financial challenges. Challenges such as skill shortages, knowledge gaps, or missing certifications can be obstacles to achieving financial and social goals. 

While Oikocredit’s core business is finance, but we offer technical assistance Capacity Building programs so our partners can operate more effectively.

Oikocredit US raises money to support  these programs.

Monitoring Social Performance

Oikocredit has put in place a series of measures to ensure social impact for the clients of those partners.  We rely on formal assessments of social performance as well as case studies of individual borrowers who have moved out of poverty.

Learn more about Social Performance