Leading in a Global Market : Undergrads Gain Insight into Microfinance in Costa Rica
By Liz Warren-Pederson
This summer, students participating in the Costa Rica Study Tour program got a first-hand look at community microcredit in action.
During the trip, they visited with officials of the Bancre de San Tiago, known as “El Bankito,” an unusual community bank.
El Bankito was founded when the farmers of San Tiago put up their own capital to buy the failed coffee co-op their community depended upon. Now the bank issues loans to community members who would otherwise not have access to credit.
“It was far more personal than any banking experience I have had here in the U.S.,” says Ryan Lawson (BSBA MIS, Operations Management, and Entrepreneurship ’11). “Here, we all bank at a commercial entity that uses our cash as capital for its investment projects. For the residents of San Tiago, each stakeholder in the bank is a dear friend, neighbor, or teacher. Everybody knows everybody, including the president of the bank. The sense of community is strong enough that such banking activities don't yield high default rates.”