Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World


Praise for Small Loans, Big Dreams

"I was enthralled to see the difference a few dollars loaned with no collateral in Bangladesh could benefit and change Chicago's poorest of the poor. I learned how pennies defeated myths about the poor. This book will renew your belief in the American dream and show that there can be economic liberty and justice for all—here AND abroad! This story must be told and retold—and then updated again as the successes pour in. Please keep ...

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Praise for Small Loans, Big Dreams

"I was enthralled to see the difference a few dollars loaned with no collateral in Bangladesh could benefit and change Chicago's poorest of the poor. I learned how pennies defeated myths about the poor. This book will renew your belief in the American dream and show that there can be economic liberty and justice for all—here AND abroad! This story must be told and retold—and then updated again as the successes pour in. Please keep fast-forwarding!"
—MIKE ENZI, U.S. Senator, Wyoming

"Counts moves past facts and figures to show the human side—and human cost — of poverty. By focusing on the experiences of individual women, Counts demonstrates the power of microfinance to bring opportunity where it otherwise would not exist, and ultimately transform people's lives. I am pleased to be able to support Grameen, as I believe its important work addresses one of the critical issues of our time."
—Pierre Omidyar, founder and Chairman, eBay, cofounder and founding partner, Omidyar Network

"Microfinance is the most effective and noble tool for combating poverty. It builds on the strengths rather than the perceived weaknesses of poor communities. In this memorable book, Alex Counts tells of working with Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer of the movement, and he illustrates his analysis with fascinating and inspiring tales of how the process has worked."
—WALTER ISAACSON, President, The Aspen Institute

"In Small Loans, Big Dreams, Alex Counts humanizes, through deft storytelling and solid analysis, the borrowers as well as the leaders of the microfinance movement. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize broadened the awareness of microfinance and Grameen. This book deepens ones understanding of this emerging industry, and lets the reader see that it is about not just transactions, but transformations—of people and of entire economies."
—PAUL MARITZ, former senior vice president, Microsoft Corporation

"Small Loans, Big Dreams provides a powerful and poignant glimpse into the real world of microfinance. From the well-told stories, we learn that the success of Grameen and microfinance is not just having innovative business models nor good intentions. Rather, it is organizations' and people's willingness and ability to touch the lives of individuals—to hear their stories, to understand their needs and aspirations, and to provide them with an opportunity to improve their own livelihood that makes the Grameen model and similar programs such a successful poverty-alleviation tool."
—MARGE MAGNER, founder and Managing partner, Brysam Global Partners

"At a time when 'change' is the watchword, here is a story of the devotion and tenacity it takes to turn a powerful idea into a powerful reality."
—JANET McKINLEY, retired chair, The Income Fund of America, Inc.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470196328
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/4/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 410
  • Sales rank: 970,727
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Alex Counts is President and CEO of the Grameen Foundation, a nonprofit, Washington, D.C.–based organization that has grown from modest beginnings in 1997 to become a global network of forty-six microfinance partners in twenty-four countries. Under his leadership, the Grameen Foundation impacts an estimated eighteen million lives in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Arab World. Counts trained to be a catalyst for change under Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the founder and Managing Director of the Grameen Bank and corecipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Table of Contents



Introduction to the 2008 Edition.

Introduction to the First Edition.

Chapter 1. Muhammad Yunus -From Vanderbilt To Chittagong.

Chapter 2. The Birth Of The Grameen Bank.

Chapter 3. Zianpur Bazaar.

Chapter 4. Las Papillons.

Chapter 5. Amena Begum's Dream.

Chapter 6. Omiyale Dupart.

Chapter 7. The Haldar Para.

Chapter 8. The Maxwell Street Market.

Chapter 9. Krishna Das Bala.

Chapter 10. The Hip Hop Shop.

Chapter 11. Dry Money in a Monsoon.

Chapter 12. The Black on Black Love Festival.

Chapter 13. The Sixteen Decisions.

Chapter 14. 'We're Here For You'.


Appendix A.


About the Author.


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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2010

    An in-depth look into the world of Microfinance

    As an aspiring social entrepreneur and recent college graduate, I am grateful for the insights provided by Alex Counts into the history and inner workings of Grameen Bank and the greater microfinance movement. Having worked directly with the Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus for decades in addressing poverty both in Bangladesh in the U.S., Counts has a unique perspective into this powerful approach to poverty alleviation. He effectively utilizes the stories of the day-to-day lives of women in rural Bangladesh, in juxtaposition with those of women in Urban Chicago, to demonstrate the universal applicability of microcredit as well its potential to unlock the hidden entrepreneurial potential of the poor. I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about one of the most exciting movements in the present fight against global poverty.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Small Loans, Big Dreams - a must read that you will not want to put down

    Small Loans, Big Dreams is a great read on many levels. It reads like an inspiring novel that you just don't want to put down AND it captures the history, current reality and rich potential for the future of one of the most effective programs for empowering the poor - microcredit. Put this on your must read list and be prepared to enjoy.

    This book is perfect for people who enjoy reading about everyday heros - regular people who overcome personal and social obstacles to create a better life for themselves, their families and others. It is difficult not to be touched and get a deeper appreciation for our humanity as you read the stories of the women who step out of out what is comfortable and familiar in their culture and become leaders for a new future. Reading the stories of these women creating a new future in the circumstances they have, it is hard not to be left with more courage and commitment to tackle the issues and circumstances in our personal lives and our communities. With simplicity, gradualism, faith and partnership, truly any difference can be made. This book demonstrates this.

    This book is ALSO perfect for people who like to read books about real world issues. Alex shares the evolution of perhaps the most effective program of all time to combat poverty and he does it so that the reader has multiple perspectives (Muhammad Yunus's personal history/journey to empower the poorest of the poor, the current economic and social constraints that disable the poor from participating in capitalism and pulling themselves out of poverty, a glimpse of the day to day experience and dedication of the staff at the Grameen Bank and those women who use micro-finance to give themselves and their families better lives). It is useful, understandable and insightful to readers regardless of whether you consider yourself knowledgeable about economics or a complete beginner.

    This book would be excellent for book clubs and discussion groups - there is something for everyone to love and so many directions that discussions could take, every reader would have much to contribute and also be left wanting to learn more. I knew nothing of economics before I read this and now I both know more and what to know more. It was interesting to see the comparisons of the programs in the US and Bangladesh and to realize in our American 'land of opportunity for all' we literally have more societal and legal constraints that are actually in the way of empowering our poor to get out of poverty.

    The original micro-finance programs have been able to be duplicated in many different cultures and countries, which is a testimony to the integrity and resiliency of Yunus' thinking and design and the work of many people. Alex also presents the future opportunity for real social change through the strengths of the networks and relationships. You will be left with both opportunity and optimism for our future.

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    If "Poverty is the worst form of violence"- Muhammad Yunus is the real superman.

    If "Poverty is the worst form of violence"- Muhammad Yunus is the real superman.

    Capitalism, especially in a developing country, creates a blind eye to the poor. The noble prize winning philanthropist, and an economist created what many believe is a process towards the end of poverty. By essentially loaning very small amount of money to people in 3rd world countries he found that the people could make their own businesses and end contract slavery. Beggars are the heart of this process and the product is people who can support themselves. The major theme of "small loans big dreams" is the ending of poverty, and the capital forming effects of micro lending. Not only are the loans that Grameen Bank offers not collateralized, but also have a 99% return rate of loan + interest. There are two types of banks within the micro lending technique the socio-bank, which is essentially socialized, where the profits are put back into the society. The other is the for-profit bank, which is highly profitable. The other major theme would be the rebirth of capitalism. Capitalism is seen as harsh, there are winners and loser, and then there are the poor. The poor do not exist in capitalism, as so before Muhammad Yunus. The poor are seen as another part of the capital-creating machine, not a deterrent. The book starts with a story on a woman weaving a basket who had to work a ridiculously long time and not make almost any money. Muhammad asked the woman why she made no money. She told him that she had to buy the weaving material from the same person who she sold the final basket too. She could not afford the material and was forced to sell it to the material seller at pennies of what she could have done. If someone loaned her only 25 dollars she could buy her own material and sell it to someone at a much higher price thus ending her torment and allowing the person who loaned her the money to make a profit. The idea of uncollateralized loans seems crazy, but this bank makes a ridiculous amount of profit while helping almost everyone who wants help. The part, which I found most profound, was how Mr.Yunus can take capitalism and bring it to people who cannot afford it. Muhammad Yunus entrepreneurship and philanthropy synergy truly inspires. It is also interesting to see the differences between old capitalism and this new form of capitalism. The new one is not just based on greed like the old one, but based of the ability to help yourself and help someone else which brings the ideas of Adam Smith and Carl Marx together. Socio-capitalism is the new idea, based on ideas of humanity not just machines. The end of poverty might seem some impossible ideal, but we are much closer now then ever before.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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