Starting point: In Bangladesh, inability of women to gain access to credit at other than usurious rates

Organizing strategy: Mutual assistance tied to raising outside capital

Tools: Money, lending at low interest rates, accumulation of investments from agencies, foundations and individuals

Outcomes: Tens of thousands of village and slum women empowered to launch small businesses

Primary Resources:

The origin of Grameen Bank can be traced back to 1976 when Professor Muhammad Yunus, Head of the Rural Economics Program at the University  of Chittagong, launched an action research project to examine the possibility of designing a credit delivery system to provide banking services targeted at the rural poor. The Grameen Bank Project came into operation with the following objectives:

  • extend banking facilities to poor men and women;
  • eliminate the exploitation of the poor by money lenders;
  • create opportunities for self-employment for the vast multitude of unemployed people in rural Bangladesh;
  • bring the disadvantaged, mostly the women from the poorest households, within the fold of an organizational format which they can understand and manage by themselves; and
  • reverse the age-old vicious circle of “low income, low saving & low investment”, into virtuous circle of “low income, injection of credit, investment, more income, more savings, more investment, more income”.

The action research demonstrated its strength in Jobra (a village adjacent to Chittagong University) and some of the neighboring villages during 1976-1979. With the sponsorship of the central bank of the country and support of the nationalized commercial banks, the project was extended to Tangail district (a district north of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh) in 1979. With the success in Tangail, the project was extended to several other districts in  the country. In October 1983, the Grameen Bank Project was transformed into an independent bank by government legislation. Today Grameen Bank is owned by the rural poor whom it serves. Borrowers of the Bank own 90% of its shares, while the remaining 10% is owned by the government.

No Collateral, No Legal Instrument, No Group-Guarantee or Joint Liability
Grameen Bank does not require any collateral against its micro-loans. Since the bank does not wish to take any borrower to the court of law in case of non-repayment, it does not require the borrowers to sign any legal instrument.
Although each borrower must belong to a five-member group, the group is not required to give any guarantee for a loan to its member. Repayment responsibility solely rests on the individual borrower, while the group and the centre oversee that everyone behaves in a responsible way and none gets into repayment problem. There is no form of joint liability, i.e. group members are not responsible to pay on behalf of a defaulting member.
97 per cent Women
Total number of borrowers is 8.35 million, 96 per cent of them are women.
Grameen Bank has 2,565 branches. It works in 81,379 villages. Total staff is 22,124
Over Tk 684 billion Disbursed

Solutions Innovation Process

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Grameen Foundation’s Solutions Innovation Process combines our innovative approach to product development using the AppLab Incubator with deep expertise helping financial institutions implement a go-to-market strategy to test and scale financial products for the poor.

There are six phases: research and ideation, concept development, prototyping, pilot readiness / planning, pilot testing, product roll-out and launch.

Human-Centered Design

We put the poor at the center of the design process, leveraging principles of human-centered design to develop appropriate new solutions to the challenges facing the rural poor. We keep these products affordable to the poor and commercially sustainable to our partners through deep user engagement, multi-disciplinary teams with diverse perspectives, frequent early testing, and a focus on innovation in products and business models. Learn more about our solutions innovation process.