Economic and Social Justice
With a mission to “fight poverty”, ACEM is of course a community based organisation that plays an important role as an anti-poverty initiative. Provincially, the community credit sector, represented by the Quebec Community Credit Network (RQCC) and locally ACEM, participate in government-based consultations concerning poverty reduction.
For ACEM, economic poverty in itself, is not a factor that increases the financial risk associated with the investment in a business project. Low income individuals can be successful entrepreneurs! That is why ACEM encourages the community to invest with us and by doing so, help provide solutions for socio-economic problems.
ACEM‘s mission also includes educating the public about issues related to poverty reduction. As such, ACEM participates in a variety of community-based networks in order to raise awareness of its services, to enhance its own understanding of the issues and the needs of low income communities, and to develop its contacts with other financial and technical assistance providers.
ACEM regularly gives conferences and workshops about its lending practices with low income populations. For example, ACEM often plays an important role in identifying the barriers that prevent its borrowers from accessing funding from both traditional banking institutions as well as government financed economic development agencies. As such, ACEM hopes to motivate other community players to adapt more inclusive lending practices.
ACEM also promotes ethical investment practices. Among other initiatives, ACEM made a presentation to a group of financial advisors during their “lunch-lectures” series organised by the Social Investment Organisation, held in January 2009 in Montreal (www.socialinvestment.ca ).
International cooperation and solidarity
Those of us involved in ACEM’s work believe that it is important to share our reflections with initiatives that lay beyond the borders of Quebec and Canada. In the present era of globalisation, organisations that share a vision of alternative development need to meet and share their thoughts and experiences and also to build links between like minded initiatives such as those found in the micro-credit sector.
Some Recent Examples:
CEDNET Conference, June 2009 Workshop “Sustainability in Microfinance: Canadian and Bolivian Models”
With Anne Kettenbeil, Director-General of ACEM, Gustavo Diez de Medina, Director, Foncresol (Fonds de crédit solidaire), Gerardo Mendieta, Director, ANED (Association nationale œcuménique pour le développement) and Maria-Renée Bejarano of Pro-rural. This workshop compared the lessons learned by ACEM in Canada with those of three of the most experienced microfinance institutions in Bolivia. There was also a debate among the participants on the current and future challenges in the area of economic and community development.
Québec sans frontière : As part of their pre-departure training program, ACEM was asked to meet with youth interns scheduled to leave for Rwanda to support a community initiative there that includes a micro-credit program .
Anne Kettenbeil, ACEM’s Executive Director, gave a brief description of the Community Credit sector in Quebec, and explained the role of ACEM as a Community Loan Funds
Jacqueline Bazompora, Community Credit Councillor at ACEM, originating from Burundi (country neighbouring Rwanda) and having practical experience with the micro-credit organisations in Burundi, gave a picture of the general operation of micro-credit organisations in Rwanda, their successes and limitations.
At the end, Jacqueline gave some practical advice related to Rwandan culture, about the behaviour expected of the interns for a productive stay there.
Programme Jeunes bâtisseurs, jeunes entrepreneurs à Madagascar :
ACEM met with a delegation composed of representatives from this Partnership Program with Canadian Colleges (PPCC) financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); the Association of Community Colleges of Canada (ACCC) and Madagascar Trainers and Managers.
The challenges to be met in Madagascar are numerous: among them, the important one is to promote the emerging new industries to participate in the national economic development. This program, started in 2005, aims to support the training sector of entrepreneurship in Madagascar for a period of five years. A team of teachers experienced in administrative techniques from the two CEGEPS, namely,