The Grameen Group is a multi-faceted group comprising a series of foundations and trusts, as well as for-profit and non-profit ventures, united by the same vision: to improve the social and economic conditions of the Bangladeshi population, with a special focus on creating opportunities for people living in poverty. It was established by Dr Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning founder of the Grameen Bank. The Grameen Group can be seen as a vast seedbed for entrepreneurship.
Developed over two decades, the Grameen group engages in a wide array of activities, such as fostering entrepreneurship through microcredit facilities, enabling access to phone and internet services, promoting renewable sources of energy, and setting up healthcare services; this is done through 25 different organisations, creating a network of foundations and companies, each responding to a specific identified need.
What is remarkable is that the organisational structure of each entity results directly from a continuous process of exploring ideas and transforming them into viable non-profit business. Firstly, initial initiatives are put in place to try to resolve an identified issue, such as the lack of access to microcredit to set up a small business, so that it can be ascertained which format works better. Details are then worked out, through continuous discussion with field staff and the target “beneficiaries”, such as young people, in order to adjust the procedure.
Grameen Fund – promoting entrepreneurship
The Grameen Fund exists to invest in start-ups and business experimentation and acts as a venture capital fund supporting individuals and organisations with innovative, entrepreneurial ideas. Financial assistance to new business ventures include lean financing, bridge and mezzanine financing, management buyouts of promising but troubled companies, and corporate guarantees for borrowing by growth-oriented enterprises. The most common type of financing is equity financing, whereby the Fund typically takes 51% of the total equity in a company.
Grameen Trust – spreading the word and replicating microcredit models worldwide
The Trust provides many kinds of assistance to microfinance institutions (MFIs). This includes developing training programmes for staff and managers of MFIs, workshops that facilitate the sharing of ideas and experiences among MFI leaders from around the world, and dialogue programmes for institutions and individuals eager to learn how microcredit works. Grameen Trust experts also provide consulting, evaluation, monitoring, and other forms of technical assistance to MFIs.
Over time, the Trust has also become a wholesaler of donor funds to MFIs that are too small to arrange their own funding. As a result, many microfinance institutions around the world owe their start to seed money from the Grameen Trust.
A major activity of the Trust is to promote the Grameen Bank Approach, providing direct financial and technical support to Grameen Bank Replication Projects worldwide, through deploying its experienced staff to a specific region or country, such as recently in Bahrain, to set up and implement projects; this strategy drastically lowers implementation time, as well as training costs. Since its inception, the Trust has successfully supported more than 2000 MFI projects in 37 countries.