To make a dollar you need to catch a dollar. You need a little bit of investment to buy product, supplies or a chair, a desk to be in business. If you are not credit-worthy, you can’t get a loan, you can’t start a business, you can’t get a job–you stay at square one, you remain poor. That is the truth the movie To Catch A Dollar underscores.The documentary follows the story of micro-lending bank Grameen‘s entrance to the US market showing Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and his team’s tireless efforts to spread this message and empower the poor, help them get back on their feet through micro-loans. They give loans strictly to women under the poverty line, defined by the US Census. Why women? Their past experience in other parts of the world have shown that women manage their loans better and when women can start businesses an earn their own living, the rest of the family wins – children go to school, health problems can be addressed and women gain power in extended family relations. Grameen America started it’s first branch in Queens, New York. They ask applicants to form groups of five. Loans are given individually but the group has to approve each business plan. The group also becomes a support system and sounding board as women face life challenges. They meet every week, with a Grameen field worker in lead and they pay back their loans bit by bit. Today, the payback rate is over 98 percent. The personal stories of women’s rise out of poverty revealed in the film are truly touching and inspiring. Besides sheer will power and relentless support of Grameen team, there are several reasons why these women are able to succeed: 1- They feel responsible towards their group: For the program to work successfully, everyone must show up. If one doesn’t show up, she fails four others. 2- They feel responsible for the group’s success: Each person contributes to the group’s success. You are evaluated as a group. 3- They get continuous input from Grameen and from their group members: The group is a sounding board of ideas, therapy session and friendly bonding time. 4- They take small steps and have small payments: Paying $20 back a week is not only manageable but it also instills discipline. 5- The call to action is clear and achievable. The big take away here is that groups work better than solo acts when striving for that big goal. Groups are dynamic and social by nature – they can help sustain activities. They reduce risk of falling out by setting tone and behavior.
We talk a lot about the value of networks in word of mouth marketing. We look for the group leaders and hope they’ll just carry the word for us if we impress them enough. Grameen’s success shows that there needs to be a bit more careful thought put into the way we identify and work with groups.
When thinking about motivating and mobilizing crowds, think how you can organize these people into groups with common goals and how you can enable each member to contribute.