Annual Penn Microfinance Conference

The Annual Penn Microfinance Conference, currently in its 10th year, is the first undergraduate microfinance conference in the United States. This year’s conference theme is “Banking on Change.” The conference will explore the different ways that microfinance has developed in terms of product offerings and lending methods in wake of increased government regulation and recent ethical crises.

Keynote Speaker: Jeffrey Ashe

Through March 2013 Jeff lead Saving for Change at Oxfam America which grew to 650,000 savings group members in Mali, Senegal, Cambodia, El Salvador and Guatemala. Jeff previously founded and led Working Capital for several years America’s largest microcredit initiative that was honored by President Clinton at the White House. While at Acción International he directed the PISCES studies the first worldwide study of microfinance and introduced group lending to Acción in 1981. He has consulted to microfinance projects in more than 30 countries and teaches microfinance at Columbia and Brandeis Universities. Through Carsey Jeff is bringing savings groups to the USA, introducing savings groups through Conditional Cash Transfer programs, and launching research on the long term survival of these groups. His book “In Their Own Hands: How Savings Groups are Revolutionizing Development” published by Berrett Koehler is now available.


Technological Advances

Innovations in technology-based financial services have broadened the reach and scope of microfinance. The growth of mobile banking, increased internet access, and online financial literacy due to technology have begun to transform the industry. While these technologies have improved the quantity of microfinance services offered, it remains to be seen whether they will equally improve the quality of poverty alleviation efforts.  Could reducing barriers between borrowers and lenders through technology advance the ability of MFIs to service their customers? Do new technologies empower MFIs to service large, previously untapped markets?


Microfinance allows many individuals to overcome challenges that confine them financially. With the help of microfinance institutions, micro-entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to execute their innovative ideas to create businesses of their own. Come listen to local micro-entrepreneurs as they speak about their experiences and how microfinance has helped them achieve their goals.

Nonprofit vs. Profit

The vast majority of microfinance borrowers live under the poverty line. With no credit history, collateral, or networks, these vulnerable people’s livelihoods are hugely dependent on the discretion of microfinance institutions. Some microfinance institutions are non-profit, while others profit on the interest paid on microloans. Is it legitimate to make a profit when the predominant focus should be relief work? Alternatively, does profit drive better talent and services in this industry?

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date: Saturday, April 9, 2016