From: Mike S., Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Microcredit (or microfinance) is working in developing countries. Poor, working people (primarily women) are given a small loan, funded by donors through an NGO (non-governmental organization), to operate a small business. This lifts them and their family out of intractable, chronic poverty.
Microcredit hasn't had a real launch in the United States, because the small loans would obviously have to be larger here than what they would be in the developing world.
Let a bank -- e.g., Bank of America -- sponsor a fund that would be targeted to poor, working people in each of the market areas of each branch bank. Monies to loan out would come in through bank customer donations (the bank could appeal to customers to give "x" dollars each month from their checking accounts), and through a percentage of the bank's own monies. The bank would work with one or more acknowledged microfinance agencies for distribution.
The public relations for the bank would be terrific; this could be a customer magnet for new accounts, far offsetting whatever the bank would be doling out.
From Minneapolis, MN
Like with many things in the US I would be afraid it would be exploited. However it could work if the people "donating" the money got their money back when the borrower begins paying back the loan. This is how Prosper Marketplace, Inc works. But, I like this idea. Give everyone who wants it a reason to be proud of themselves, and feel good about giving back to their local economy. The biggest problem as I see it, is that you have to use people in order to get ahead these days. This is why I will never have enough to make ends meet. But a bunch of small local businesses who can even barter would be good. A little money is exchanged, a promise to help when needed, and the heart of our communities could be returned too.