Back to Listing

"Tipping Points"

07 March 2011

I'm going to say it out loud. I'm not going to be modest about it because by admitting it and doing it I can do more for people than by hiding my light under a bushel.

I'm a \"Connector\".

I fall into what Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book, The Tipping Point, as the \"handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances\". (His description not mine, but I like it and I'm going to \"use my power for good not evil\", as they say in the classics.)

Of course, I understand that where I work and what I do has provided me with the space to take the opportunities to have some large and wide ranging spheres of influence... but I'm also getting out and doing my bit for women as me in the sphere of influence that is 'Larke Riemer'.

Just the other day I went online and joined in a whole new way of giving. It's called Good Return and it's all about micro-finance, personally providing people with opportunities and empowering them to get a business up and running. (We have a matching gifts program at the bank. So, my giving will be matched by Westpac at the end of the financial year.)

We've also recently begun our own microfinance projects here in Australia and I have mentioned in previous blogs that our first loan through our micro-financing partner went to a woman to begin her own dog grooming business. In my role with the GBA (Global Banking Alliance), I've had even wider exposure to the benefits and good of micro-financing projects. So when Good Return was introduced to me and I saw how simple it was to get online and be part of it, I acted.

New initiatives

I've chosen a woman in Timor, Apriana Nahak, because it's close to home and I wanted to do something in the region. She had a little business selling firewood and now wants to open a kiosk to support her family. She needed a $300 loan and had $150 left to go. The loan she repays at a nominal rate of interest per month (according to Good Return, the rate varies from country to country dependent on economic factors and is paid to ensure the MFI is sustainable.) And the money can be paid back to me or back to Good Return or I can choose to relend the money to another entrepreneurial woman on the site.

According to Di Bowles, Community Engagement and Development Manager at World Education Australia Good Return, the whole idea of the site is to foster social justice through a hand-up rather than a hand-out. It's actually a whole new way of giving and I'm a convert. I can see myself going in and finding that this woman here only needs $50 more to get to her goal, or that one needs just $25, and I'll be sending it.

It's simple. It's easy. And it achieves tangible results through a transparent process. The money goes to the person you designate. If you wish on repayment to donate the money to Good Return, they can then use it to help fund their educational component because, as Di says, allowing people to get into loan debt without education is negligent behaviour.

Di also told me that most lenders are choosing to be paid back and are then relending the money to another woman.

And why women?

They're better at repaying, according to all the evidence, and when they make profits it goes into the family. Once everything is stable at home they then look to the community.

Making it count

\"Hand-up\" is the buzzword out there, and I'm going to start a \"positive epidemic\" around it. (According to Malcolm, it's pretty easy to do and if you read The Tipping Point he shows you through case studies how to start one, because: \"The virtue of an epidemic... is that just a little input is enough to get it started, and it can spread very, very quickly.\")

Not so long ago I was at a CEW event and was approached by the new CEO for Habitat For Humanity Australia, Jo Brennan, about an idea she has for celebrating 100 years of International Women's Day next year. (Jo is also one of our Women @ Work this month, which I'd recommend Ruby-ites read.)

Jo wants to get 100 women involved in March 2011 in a project in Nepal to begin building homes for a whole community that will take 18 months to two years to complete.

IWD and me

Now, everyone knows that International Women's Day is my space and that we're keen to celebrate it in a big way next year. So, what Jo had to say immediately caught my ear.

I was inspired by what she told me about Habitat and its hand-up philosophy, and when she asked me if I could use my sphere of influence in some way, I thought, what better way than to organise a networking lunch with women I know would want to be involved in this project.

So, from my own personal giving to getting women I know interested in giving on Good Return or maybe joining Jo in Nepal next year with Habitat (shoot me an email if you want more information), there's the wider movement we're working with that's focussed on changing our carbon consumption behaviours, Natalie Isaac's 1 million women. In Canberra recently for a breakfast to further that green epidemic, I was part of a panel of speakers getting out there and connecting with people who want to make a difference by acting now.

Tax time

All of which has made me think what's it about this time of the year that has me concentrating on giving. Maybe it's that dreaded phrase \"tax time\", which really should be recast as \"inspirational giving time\". Firstly, I'd recommend everyone think about their Super and where their own financial security is at, because if we don't look after ourselves how will it be possible to use our spheres of influence for the greater good. And then in the same breath, we need to think about the security of women and children all around the world and what we can do as women to lend a hand-up not just give a hand-out.