I'm a big enthusiast for Oikocredit, the global social investment initiative that works against poverty and for human and environmental development through small loans - correcting an imbalance within the wider economic system (it is hard for small, poor groups to get credit). Of course larger political and economic challenges to the predominant neoliberal order are also needed, but alternatives at the grassroots are vital. Ground-up action can help reshape priorities in a divided and unequal world. At the moment the initiative is seeking to kick start in the UK and needs all the backing it can get.
With its origins in work carried out by the World Council of Churches, Oikocredit is also a great example of Christians working alongside those of other faith or simply 'good faith' and furthering the human good without regard to the things - including religion, sadly - that can sometimes separate us. It is one very positive answer the the often asked question, 'what can I do that will make a difference?'"
Oikocredit UK rep Patrick Hynes explains: "People's investment enables Oikocredit to back microfinance institutions (MFIs), co-operatives and small to medium sized enterprises. Loans have proven to be very effective in stimulating economic productivity. Where grants may lead to dependency, loans create a real business partnership based on mutual respect. Plus, repaid loans are recycled time and again into new loans."
He adds: "If you invest £1,000, with Oikocredit's usual dividend standing at 2% per annum, this will normally provide you a financial return of £20 plus a substantial social return. If you placed that money in the bank you might earn say £50, a difference of £30. You could of course donate £30 to charity, but ask yourself what will do more good: a donation of £30 or a loan of £1,000?"
Those interested in helping can download a UK prospectus and application form and also get information about projects which show how the money is used. Further questions may be directed to the Oikocredit UK Representative, or your local support association.
You can also help spread the word with Oikocredit leaflets for your local community, church, group or meeting.