Religion & Spirituality:Christianity
Today we're having a conversation with Rich Stein about the Global Philanthropy Leaders (GPL) initiative that works in churches with small groups of motivated, reliable, and curious youth to help them make microloans to those who wouldn't otherwise have access to capital.
Rich lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut with his wife and they are members of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ridgefield. Rich is a co-founder of the GPL initiative, along with St. Stephen's rector the Rev. Whitney Altopp and their youth coordinator, Jane Lindenberg.
Rich has worked as a private investor for the past two decades. He has a BA in Economics from the University of Chicago and an MBA in Marketing & Strategy from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management of Northwestern University. In addition to being a member of St. Stephen's he now chairs their investment committee, and he also serves on the board of trustees for the investment funds of the Episcopal Church of Connecticut, or ECCT.
Rich joined us by phone, from Chicago.
We began by trying to understand what GPL is all about. (It is NOT related to the free software license also called GPL!!) “It’s about offering youth the opportunity to make a tangible difference in people’s lives half a world away by making microloans to help [them] start or expand a business ... “ he said. They’re also learning how faith helps them inform those decisions.
We got into some of the details of how it works. He talked about what he’s looking for in the young people – high schoolers - who are selected to be part of the initiative, and teaching the guidelines for making the microloans. He later shared that each youth receives $200 to make the loans and is asked to add $25 of their own money.
We also talked about what constitutes a microloan and he provided the example of a farmer who wants to buy a cow for $500 – a huge amount to the farmer, but too small for a bank. And there’s no collateral. Rich explained microfinance work. He works through Kiva, an international nonprofit, and said available loans are listed on the Kiva website. That’s where the GPL youth leaders find their opportunities.
While Rich teaches some of the guidelines and practices that have helped him over the years in making microloans, St. Stephen’s rector wanted to add an explicit component for faith. They incorporate the practice of “Dwelling in the Word” of scripture at their meetings.
Whether we like it or not, money is an exchange of value, Rich said, so we have to be willing to discuss money on a spiritually mature basis.
Rich said the initiative has already spread from St. Stephen’s, Ridgefield to St. John’s, Bridgeport and Saint Luke’s, Darien. To expand further, GPL recently applied for and received a grant for $11,000 from ECCT’s Sustainability Development Fund,which addresses any of the 17 U.N. Sustainability goals (microloans address 13 of 17). The idea is to find additional parishes that want to host a GPL initiative and are willing to match a grant of $1000 with $1000 of their own.
Toward the end of our podcast, Rich explained how he got into microfinance, and how his involvement in microfinance as a spiritual practice. He appreciates that he’s been able to help some of the youth not only learn about economics and microfinance, and to see how it intersects with their faith.
On February 9, 2019, from 1-2 p.m., following the Southwest Region Convocation at St. Matthew’s, Wilton, Rich will do a “Come and See” presentation about what it would take to start a GPL initiative at their parish. More info here.
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