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Mainstreaming Microfinance: How Lending to the Poor Began, Grew, and Came of Age in Bolivia

Elisabeth Rhyne
Mainstreaming Microfinance: How Lending to the Poor Began, Grew, and Came of Age in Bolivia
ISBN: 978-1-56549-127-4
2001/242 pages/LC: 00-054453
A Kumarian Press Book
"Rhyne tells the Bolivian microfinance story with objectivity and conceptual clarity, while writing with a great sense of intimacy. She neither glosses over the difficulties faced by organizations nor gets bogged down in unnecessary detail as she lays out what has undoubtedly been one of the most relevant experiences in the deployment of financial services for the poor.... This is destined to become a classic and integral part of study programs the world over."—Robert Peck Christen, Consultative Group for Assisting the Poorest

"Elisabeth Rhyne demonstrates that the 'Big Bang' that launched microfinance into an expanding, multidimensional universe occurred in Bolivia. The elements that made the 'Big Bang' possible, that shaped its trajectory, are deftly and authoritatively explored. This analysis provides a very important contribution to debates surrounding microfinance as a commercial proposition and as a means of empowering the entrepreneurial poor."—J.D. von Pischke, Frontier Finance International


Microcredit in Bolivia grew and became successful in only a decade, lifting an enormous segment of the country’s population into the financial mainstream in the process. The example of its high-achieving institutions charted a course for the development of the international microfinance field. In this gracefully written book, Elisabeth Rhyne brings the history of the microfinance movement to life through the lens of the Bolivian experience.


Elisabeth Rhyne is managing director of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion. Previously, she served as director of USAID's Office of Microenterprise Development.


Introduction: Why Bolivia? Why Microfinance?
A Sketch of Bolivian Microfinance in 1999.
Microfinance in the Time of Adjustment.
Making Contact: Prodem Learns to Serve Microenterprises.
Builders of Economic Democracy.
The Bolivia Model of Microfinance
Transformation: Ideals and Reality.
Competition, Commercialization, and the Crisis in Microfinance.
Reassessing the Mission: A Search for New Frontiers.
Yes, But Is It Development?
What We Have Learned.