Goldin Institute's Travis Rejman Interviewed on Worldview


Interested in learning more about the promise and peril of microcredit?

The current debate about the efficacy of microfinance is marked by the absence of those who have most at stake in the controversy: loan recipients. The Goldin Institute is working to lift up these voices—most often marginalized women—and restore their perspectives, insights and aspirations to the discussion.

Based on the Goldin Institute's work in Bangladesh to listen to loan recipients and lift up their voices as the basis for improving microcredit, Executive Director Travis Rejman speaks with Jerome McDonald on NPR's Worldview Program to provide perspective and analysis on the microcredit movement. We were thrilled to be joined for the interview with our colleague Susan Beaudry from Grantmakers Without Borders who edited the Funders Guide to Microcredit.

The conversation can be listened to in it's entirety by direct stream or downloadable podcast by clicking here.  

Transcript of Roundtable Dialogue in Bangladesh

Microcredit Summit in Dhaka

Groundbreaking meeting between microcredit recipients, lenders and regulators, hosted in June 2010.

We are pleased to share the recently compiled transcript from the "Listening to the Experiences of Microcredit Recipients" roundtable discussion that took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on June 21, 2010.  This groundbreaking summit was the first dialogue between microcredit recipients, lenders and regulators in Bangladesh and is leading to new, more recipient-focused policies at the National Level.  

The dialogue was facilitated by our partner Khushi Kabir, Coordinator of Nijera Kori, who opened the dialogue by stating "Sometimes both sides become defensive while discussing the positive and negative impacts of micro-credit. To avoid this situation, we are calling upon all of you for an open and civil discussion."

Important quotes from the unedited transcript include:

[quote]We talked to the micro-credit recipients and came to know about their plight. I have seen their silent tears. The crude cycle of paying installment (kisti) begins from within one week of taking the credit. The poor cannot even have three meals a day, cannot properly feed their children but they must return back the installment. Otherwise, NGO employees come to snatch away cattle, do verbal abuse and sexually harass the female credit-recipients and so many other things. The pain of paying installments within just one week of taking loans detracts the members from pursuing other pleasures of life, like buying even a fruit for the children."[/quote]

- Hosne Ara, Community Researcher

[quote]Generally, credit is given in the name of the woman. The credit agencies do not grant credit if there is not a woman residing in the household. This is why male members of our homes or husbands sometimes force us to take credit. But, if we take credit, we have to hand it over to our husband or father-in-law who uses it in any way he wishes. But, the NGO employees come to recover the money from us (women) and we have to face many insults and indignities ... It is the men who spend the money. But, payment of installment is sought from the women. We talk of women before all and talk of empowerment, but women are used within the traps and labyrinths of micro-credit."[/quote]

- Kohinoor Begum, Community Researcher

[quote]Women are deprived of their rights. Since women have begun taking micro-credit, oppression on her has multiplied. The evil practice of dowry became manifold. Because of micro-credit, social solidarity in villages is at stake."[/quote]

- Kohinoor Begum, Community Researcher

[quote]One has to take a loan from a NGO to repay the installment of another NGO. Thus we are getting entrapped in debt cycles."[/quote]

- Nurul Islam, Community Researcher

[quote]This is the first time that the community researchers have conducted research on their own. And, we could hear the content of their research directly from them."[/quote]

- Lopita Haque, BRAC Development Institute

[quote]Thanks for giving me the opportunity to directly talk with those for whom I am working ... This is the first time I heard their direct experiences. If the slightest portion of the facts revealed in this workshop are true, then it is surely alarming. We have a policy problem at the state level from top to bottom."[/quote]

- Lila Rashid, Director, Micro-credit Regulatory Authority of Bangladesh

[quote]... [microcredit] is for 'public benefit.' Public benefit cannot be measured only through the 'recovery rate.' Rather it should really benefit the target people for whom the micro-credit scheme is designed."[/quote]

- Iftikharuzzman, Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh

[quote]Generally, we evaluate micro-credit from the viewpoint of outcomes and numbers and look for empirical ends, but we ignore the social process. But the social process is a huge pressure in itself."[/quote]

- Dr. Dina Siddique, Senior Associate. Womens Studies Centre, University of Pennsylvania

[quote]Problems that existed during that time still exist and will continue to exist ... But, we want it to be limited within an acceptable number and to be addressed through discussion and limitation. We do often hear the problems, which have been discussed in today's round-table. We hear such complaints every time."[/quote]

- Azim Hossain, ASA

How can the hard-core poor pay the interest within one week of taking micro-credit? He cannot pay it without selling his assets. And, when a poor man or woman sells his or her asset, it is not a proper sale. But it becomes a 'forced sale' or 'distress sale.' S/he does not get the proper price for it. Does micro-credit accelerate the process of 'distress sale' for the poor? In my opinion, yes, it does."

- Professor Abul Barkat


Click to download the entire transcript.

Community Based Oral Testimony

Community Based Oral Testimony

Rethinking Research from the Perspective of Community Experience

In debates on development, the voices of those it affects the most are often conspicuously absent.  Our strategy for bringing their voices back in was simple: we decided to ask them. We adopted a strategy known as "oral testimony" which relies on extended semi-structured interviews to let participants tell their own stories in their own words, share their opinions and experiences and convey their own understandings of how development and poverty has transformed the history of their lives and villages.

CBOTImage1We wanted to take this approach a step further. Often oral testimony research is colored by power-dynamics between "researchers" and "subjects". Within these dynamics, answers to questions are often pre-determined by what each party expects to hear from the other. We decided to address this by inviting microcredit recipients in Arampur, a village in rural Northern Bangladesh, to interview each other about their own experiences with loans. We hoped that the content of these interviews would be shaped by mutual dialogue, rather than by top down agendas and expectations about what we, as researchers, wanted to hear.


In order to do this, we trained a group of villagers in basic, qualitative research techniques and invited them to interview their peers and neighbors. The result was open-ended, conversation-style interviews, recorded using digital-audio recorders, in which the interviewees participated in directing the discussion by framing conversations through stories, life experiences and their own personal histories with microcredit lending organizations. Using this approach we heard what people had to say about microcredit on their own terms.

"There are many things hidden there that nobody knows, not everyone feels comfortable about saying everything any place. There are so many secrets to know, so many strange events that have happened, I never heard of anything like these stories before. There are so many kinds of people in this world! Even I myself have a long history which cannot be told in one sitting." - Kohinoor Begum, Community Researcher

What are the advantages of this approach?

  • The community researchers themselves were all microcredit loan recipients. They were able to give us early insight into the landscape of credit and poverty within the village. They participated in shaping and revising our research goals to better answer our questions about microcredit, as well as transforming the strategies we employed to accomplish them.
  • As community members, they understood the best ways to conduct the work within the cultural context of rural Bangladesh. They understood what the best times to approach people were, how to make each interview session as comfortable for respondents as possible, how to best navigate the complexities of rural Bangladeshi household and gender power dynamics, and how to ask probing questions without crossing sensitive lines.
  • As community members, they understood the best ways to conduct the work within the cultural context of rural Bangladesh. They understood what the best times to approach people were, how to make each interview session as comfortable for respondents as possible, how to best navigate the complexities of rural Bangladeshi household and gender power dynamics, and how to ask probing questions without crossing sensitive lines.
  • Respondents were more comfortable speaking with their neighbors than they would be with a researcher from outside. Respondents did not have to explain taken for granted points. They did not have to couch their language or speaking style to be understandable to an outsider. Further, the semi and unstructured interview strategy allowed the respondents to direct the conversation, steering discussions to what they wished to talk about.
  • Community researchers were better situated to explain and help us interpret stories and experiences as they were shared. They did this by recording audio field notes after every interview and by sharing their stories in daily debriefing sessions.
  • Community researchers were able to elicit different kinds of responses and stories than those we could have gathered on our own. The stories shared by respondents were of a remarkably different kind than those that could or would have been shared with outside researchers. As such, the interviews collected by our fieldworkers contain different kinds of insights, stories, and critiques that shed a new light on microcredit in rural Bangladesh.
  • Community researchers knew their community and therefore knew what questions to ask. They knew their respondents and were able to ask about specific incidents from their lives and histories. They could seek targeted information about their families and livelihoods. They knew the intimate details of cultural, agricultural, and political processes in the village. They were able to ask questions that pertained directly to local practices and histories.


To learn more about this unique methodology and its impact in Bangladesh, click to download a copy of the Community Based Oral Testimony Overview.

Microcredit: A Guide for Funders

MicrocreditGuideThe Goldin Institute partnered with Grantmakers Without Borders to produce a groundbreaking guide to understanding and improving microcredit. This guide and its recommendations have been distributed throughout our combined global networks of donors, practitioners and recipients of microcredit.

MicrofinanceGuideCoverA central premise of the Guide is that In debates on development, the voices of those it affects are often conspicuously absent. Based on the Goldin Institute's pioneering work to bring the voices of recipients back to the table through Community Based Oral Testimony in Bangladesh, this guide helps donors and practitioners learn from the experiences, suggestions and aspirations of the very people who have the most at stake: borrowers.

Click to download the guide.