May 25, 2010 | 1:38 PM
Labels: Our Staff
Ms. Patel joined Grameen America as Director of Development from the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP where she will be an associate in the New York office in October 2010. At Grameen America, Ms. Patel focuses on expansion strategy and development.
How did you first hear about Grameen America?
I knew there were Grameen operations all over the world, but had not realized until last year that there was one focused on alleviating poverty in the U.S.
I first learned about Grameen America through my law firm Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom LLP. When the economic downturn occurred, the firm offered attorneys a nonmandatory "sidebar" program to pursue other interests for one year before coming back to the firm. Skadden Arps is one of Grameen America's pro bono partners, so I was able to get an introduction through one of the Skadden advisory board members.
What does Microfinance mean to you?
Microfinance means providing a hand up, not a hand out.
Why do you believe in Microfinance as a method to alleviate poverty?
I believe that microfinance, implemented through a social business model rather than a profit-maximizing entity, has the ability to give people living below the poverty line the ability to help themselves integrate into the mainstream financial system. Ultimately, people must believe in themselves first in order to attain their goals. Microfinance done properly gives people living below the poverty line a fair shot at the American dream.I also believe, though, that access to affordable financial products is only one piece of the puzzle to help alleviate poverty. The day-to-day reality for people living below the poverty line is that they have many needs--financial, dietary, health, education, etc.--so no one entity will be able to solve all of these problems at once. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has operated for over 30 years and now helps people with issues beyond that of access to low-cost investment capital. I hope to see the same for Grameen America in years to come.
How do Prof. Yunus’ beliefs empower you in your daily work?
Professor Yunus believed in his ability to help poor people despite all the naysayers around him. At minimum, it made me realize that you have to believe in yourself because there will always be people to secondguess your efforts. If something is broken, you can fix it if you believe in yourself and work hard enough.
Where would you like to see Grameen America 10 years from now?
I would like to see Grameen America operating in every major city in the U.S. I would also like to see it branch out its product offering beyond that of microloans for investment capital to loans for affordable housing and children’s education, among other areas.
What do you like most about Grameen America?
I like that Grameen America views itself as a social business rather than as just a nonprofit organization. We must be held accountable for making smart business decisions, as the ability to be self-sustainable and not reliant on donations in the long run is what will help our borrowers the most.
What keeps you excited about coming in to work every day?
I like spending my day with a group of intelligent, motivated, and fun individuals. Ultimately, all of our efforts translate into actual results for thousands of people every day.