A team of four Arizona Microcredit Initiative leaders traveled to Berkeley, California Nov. 15 and 16 to attend a national conference where students involved in microfinance ventures can share and gain insight about everything from lending models to mitigating risk.
The 6th annual Summit was hosted by Lend for America, an organization that helps college students start and run campus microfinance institutions (MFIs). Students involved in 20 different campus MFIs from across the country were invited to join and participate in the conference held at the University of California Berkeley International House.
The purpose of a campus MFI, according to Lend for America, is to find individuals and microbusinesses that need assistance in local college communities. Students can contribute to their community through an MFI by motivating clients, offering basic financial advice and lending small amounts of money they have raised.
Arizona Microcredit Initiative members Chris Mendezona, Alex Gewecke, Connor Baskin and Austin Farr attended the conference to represent AMI as the outgoing and incoming Executive Directors and Directors of Finance.
The team spent weeks preparing a presentation entitled, “After the Loan: Protecting Your Portfolio,” designed to help other students improve their own organizations by explaining the process used by AMI to mitigate risk in selecting clients.
Outgoing AMI executive director Chris Mendezona said he felt the experience was very valuable.
“For me, I’ve been involved in the LFA process since we first joined, so being able to introduce Connor and Austin and Alex to the other organizations was really cool,” Mendezona said.
In addition to attending sessions led by other students involved in MFIs across the country, attendees had the opportunity to network and share experiences, which Mendezona found particularly beneficial.
“Networking with other student leaders is a great way to track the trend in the industry and see how AMI has grown in the past year and the past 6 months,” Mendezona said.
Incoming executive director for 2015 Connor Baskin said he is excited for the potential AMI has as an organization to become a hub that helps link other microfinance organizations together, noting, “A rising tide lifts all ships. If all the organizations are doing well, I think we’ll succeed too.”