Unitus Hosts Annual Microfinance Leadership Summit

February 23, 2006 Press Release

Unitus Hosts Microfinance Leadership Summit in Malaysia

Leaders from 11 Microfinance Institutions to Share Best Practices

Redmond, Wash.—February 23, 2006—Unitus, one of the world’s leading microfinance organizations, is hosting the first-ever Unitus Leadership Summit, which brings together senior leaders from 11 innovative, high-growth microfinance institutions (MFIs).

The conference, which is being held from February 22-25 in Langkawi, Malaysia, offers an opportunity for attendees to share ideas on leadership, innovation and sustainable growth. Representatives are present from all seven of Unitus’s MFI partners in India, Kenya and Mexico, with leaders from other non-Unitus MFIs in India, Mexico and the Philippines attending as well. Also in attendance are Unitus Board members, senior staff and other business leaders, including Donn Tice, former head of Procter & Gamble’s $1 billion Folgers Coffee business.

Unitus President and CEO Geoff Davis started the summit with a discussion on leadership in which he pointed out some of the distinguishing characteristics of effective managers and leaders, ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela. “The combined business experience of the leaders attending this summit is extraordinary,” said Davis. “All of us here share a passion to empower microentrepreneurs, and the discussions we’re having will accelerate that process.”

Some highlights from the first day:

  • Dr. Ramesh Bellamkonda, CEO of Unitus partner BSS in India, made insightful comments about his technology implementation experience at BSS.
  • The Board Chair of Unitus partner Pro Mujer Mexico, Mary O’Keefe, spoke about the importance of respecting local culture when applying a new operational methodology to an MFI.
  • Sitaram Rao, Director of Unitus partner SKS, talked about how SKS empowers their branch managers to act as CEOs for their branches, an approach which has yielded great results.
  • Jamii Bora Trust, Unitus’s partner in Kenya, was represented by the organization’s Operations Manager, Philip Ochola, who related several innovative initiatives at Jamii Bora. For example, Jamii Bora has begun an innovative alcoholic rehabilitation program, and is building low-cost, permanent housing for its clients to purchase.

Before the conference concludes on Saturday, February 25, there will be additional speakers on subjects such as marketing, debt financing, and innovation.

About Unitus (www.unitus.com):
Unitus is a global microfinance accelerator that acts as a social venture capital investor for the microfinance industry. Unitus identifies the highest-potential microfinance institutions (MFIs) in developing countries and helps accelerate their growth through capital investments and capacity-building consulting, thus empowering them to help exponentially more poor people worldwide. In doing so, Unitus aims to demonstrate that MFIs can be run as profitable, large-scale, poverty-focused businesses with links to local capital markets. As of December 2005, Unitus had seven MFI partners worldwide serving more than 540,000 poor clients. Based in Redmond, Wash., USA, and with an office in Bangalore, India, Unitus relies on innovative financial instruments, and the financial resources of like-minded individuals and foundations, to fulfill its mission. Unitus received the 2006 Fast Company / Monitor Group Social Capitalist Award for taking an innovative, entrepreneurial, business-minded approach to alleviating global poverty. For more information about Unitus, please visit:www.unitus.com

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