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Drake to host free lecture on immigrants and savings groups

The Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship at Drake University will host a free lecture this month titled “Getting Ahead with Almost Nothing: What Immigrant Communities Can Teach Us About Achieving the American Dream.”

Jeffrey Ashe, a scholar and international microfinance expert, will deliver the lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Sussman Theater in the Olmsted Center, 2875 University Ave. The talk is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by The Solidarity Foundation, a non-profit which is based in Des Moines and operates savings groups in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Des Moines. These savings-based microfinance tools, designed by Ashe in the early 2000’s, provide vulnerable populations with safe and affordable ways to save and borrow money. 

Ashe will discuss how immigrants are saving money in small groups using traditions brought with them from their home countries. Often excluded by banks, many immigrants take their financial future into their own hands through a network of informal financial systems. These systems thrive on individual discipline, group accountability, and mutual support, and they often create pathways to achieving the American dream. Ashe will address what immigrants can teach others about achieving the American dream, as well as how work in developing countries can build on these money management traditions.

Ashe is a Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire, and a Research Fellow, Global Development and the Environment, Tufts University. He also teaches microfinance at Columbia and Brandeis universities. Ashe is bringing savings groups to the U.S., building on immigrant savings circles, and introducing savings groups through Conditional Cash Transfer programs as he researches the long-term survival of these groups. His book, “In Their Own Hands: How Savings Groups are Revolutionizing Development,” (www.intheirownhands.com) published by Barrett Koehler, will be available for purchase at the event.

Previously, Ashe led Saving for Change at Oxfam America, which grew to 703,000 savings group members in Mali, Senegal, Cambodia, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Ashe says these groups provide a better way to save and lend, at a fraction of the cost and complexity of financial institutions, by training groups of about 20 people to save money together and lend to each other. Ashe previously founded and led Working Capital, which was this country’s largest microfinance initiative and was honored by President Clinton at the White House. While at Acción International, Ashe directed the PISCES studies, the first worldwide study of microfinance. He has consulted on microfinance projects in more than 30 countries.

This talk is part of the fall 2016 speaker and film series offered by The Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship at Drake. For more information about the Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship, including details on other upcoming events, visit www.drake.edu/cgc or contact David Skidmore, professor of politics and international relations at Drake University, 515-271-3843 or david.skidmore@drake.edu.