Andy and Jill with a Grameen Bank Center Manager and Borrowers
If you talk to anyone at Grameen Bank they will tell you that the real bank can only be found by going to the villages where Grameen operates. Grameen, after all, means rural, and in fact by law Grameen can only operate its lending programs in the villages. It is for this reason that on our third day in Bangladesh we–Jill, me, an Australian named Mark, our translator Matin and Mark’s translator Yunus–are all crammed into a mini-van barreling down the roads that lead to Rashahi, the zone that we will be visiting. Traffic here is an eclectic mix of motorcycles, bicycle rickshaws, cars, trucks hauling absurdly large loads and comically unstable buses all chaotically weaving and swerving, honking and narrowly avoiding catastrophe.
After 6 hours of bouncing along these roads we are happy, if not relieved, to have arrived at the Branch that will be our home for the next 10 days. It is a two-story building–the first occupied by Grameen–with two small rooms for guests. In order to understand where branches fit into the Grameen hierarchy, I need to take a moment to explain how the bank is organized. For in truth, Grameen is nothing short of an organizational miracle. In fact, I would go so far as to say that while Dr. Muhammad Yunus is praised for recognizing that the poor can be credit worthy, his real, lasting achievement is in the details of how he goes about delivering that credit to them in a cost-effective manner.