What is a “Good Return”
by Brendan Gallagher
For many of our individual and corporate clients we provide financial education with the objective of helping people become more financially astute, so that they have the ability and incentive to make smarter financial decisions. For someone in their late 20’s that might be saving and investing for a deposit on a home. For someone in their 50’s it might be preparing for their retirement in a decades time. We are fortunate to see the impact that developing and implementing a sound financial plan can have on our client’s lives.
During the last couple of years I have become aware of and been impressed by an organisation that is providing financial pathways, via financial literacy and microloans, to some of the poorest people in our region. This organisation is Good Return, an independent non-profit organisation and I thought it would be of interest to some of our clients to learn about the work this organisation is doing. It’s also an opportunity to share an article that is unrelated to legislative change, investment markets and the like.
Good Return works across the Asia Pacific region to deliver economic and social development programs for the financially and socially excluded. These programs focus on building financial inclusion through micro-finance and related skills development projects, organised around the four themes of Responsible Finance; Financial Capability; Research and Innovation; and Agri-business and Smallholder Solutions.
Good Return’s objective is to enable those living in poverty to achieve economic empowerment through responsible financial inclusion and capability development. They engage with partners to innovate and strengthen financial and economic inclusion solutions, targeting those living on less than $2 a day, with an emphasis on the poorest. Their work is primarily in rural communities, with women, men and youth and is primarily related to micro-finance and financial education.
To better understand the work that Good Return does and its real impact let’s look at a real life example.
When Maryann Arevalo’s daughter fell ill in a remote village of the Philippines, her family scrambled to find the little savings they had hidden in the hollow of her bamboo walls.
For women like Maryann, the basic security of a bank account or access to microcredit in times of crisis is often out of reach. Maryann found her money but she was determined to never face the same challenge again.
A group of Australian lenders came together to fund a small loan to Maryann through Australian non-profit organisation Good Return. Good Return’s online lending platform connects people living in poverty with supporters in Australia who provide funding to help start or grow a small business. Since the launch of the platform in 2009, Australians have provided almost 10,000 loans to women like Maryann across the Asia Pacific region. Maryann was able to open a bank account and save a portion of the profits from her cleaning business in an account from a microfinance institution.
As part of her loan, she was invited to attend financial education classes with her community to learn how to monitor cash flow, invest in her business and save money. In the years since receiving her first loan, Maryann has become a financial trainer, teaching her friends and neighbours the lessons she has learned from building several successful small businesses which now fund her daughter’s schooling.
Her daughter is the first in the family to attend university.
Good Return meets women like Maryann all across the Asia Pacific region. In the countries they in which they work, 71% of people do not use banking services. The financial services we take for granted can provide opportunity, security and stability to families living in poverty. Thousands of Australians are recognising the importance of access to financial services and are standing up to support women like Maryann.
A Financial Education class to women in Kampong Speu, Cambodia
Since launching in 2009, the Good Return online lending platform has seen thousands of Australians lend money to women like Maryann across the Asia Pacific region. From fertiliser to frozen fish, lenders have invested in small businesses to help women and their families break the cycle of poverty. Lenders can choose to donate their loans and maturity, re-lend the money or withdraw their funding. When loans are donated at maturity, the funds help provide financial education, giving communities the skills they need to better manage money, raise crop yields and grow their incomes. Over 2,500 local trainers have been trained to deliver these community education programs to some of the poorest and most remote communities in the region. To date over 50,000 people have taken part.
The Good Return team works with microfinance institutions, national banks and regulators to help the financial sector improve their social performance and deliver financial products and services, that best suit the needs of their poorest and most vulnerable clients. To date, over two million people have been reached with improved financial services and financial awareness campaigns. This is banking with a difference. Good Return bankers travel through treacherous and rough terrain, sometimes for days at a time, to reach remote communities excluded from the financial system.
Next time you’re in line at the bank or transferring money on your phone, take a moment to reflect on what life would be like if you didn’t have the security and opportunity to save, invest, insure and borrow money. We take access to financial services for granted but for people across the Asia Pacific region, banking is changing lives.
For more information visit www.goodreturn.org.au
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