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Microenterprise is "entry-level" business. It's starting a business on a shoe string, with one employee -- yourself -- or perhaps as a co-op, with several people pooling talents and resources and skills. It is "what'cha do with what'cha got". It may be selling tamales from a wagon or handicrafts at a flea market or homemade clothes, quilts, blankets, or toys.
Microenterprise projects are the leading edge of the movement to redeem the structures that perpetuate, enable, and transmit poverty across the generations.
The concept and the practice is strongly supported within the justice teachings of the Catholic Church, which clearly proclaim the dignity of work, and the importance of encouraging a multiplicity of organizations within society. Larger businesses and organizations should not combine together to drive small operators out of business. Society, culture, and government should protect a place for the economic activity of poor people.
One of the tragedies of the modern era is the hostility that micro-entrepreneurs face from city, county, state, and federal governments. Here in the United States, a wide variety of honest work can be classified as criminal -- depending on the status of the worker and whether they have the resources to comply with the many demands made upon them by unelected bureaucrats. Many of these tax, licensing, and zoning/planning regulations were encouraged by large businesses, as a way of reducing competition from upstart newcomers.
Each year, Catholics in the United States support two major offerings which devote significant resources to funding microenterprise opportunities for very poor people: Operation Rice Bowl, which funds the Catholic Relief Services organization, and the Campaign for Human Development.
The links below highlight various aspects of microenterprise and cooperative enterprise. Not all
of them are Catholic, but they are all in direct, practical, and productive solidarity with the poor.
Campaign for Human Development official home page, sponsored by the US Catholic bishops.
Access to resources.
Catholic Relief Services Home Page, for the official relief and development agency of the US Catholic Conference. Operates a microenterprise program to alleviate poverty.
International Association of Charity is the oldest continuing charitable organization for lay women in the world, founded in 1617 by St. Vincent de Paul. With the theme, "Against all forms of poverty, acting together", and with 250,000 members in 42 associations on every continent, the associates concentrate on the situation of women, their children and families, focusing on working with the destitute to assist them in their self-help efforts to better their own circumstances. They encourage the poor to launch initiatives and to plan self-achievement projects, as well as defending the human rights of the destitute. This site has excellent catechetical materials on the practical, street-level application of the Church's justice teachings.
Landless Peasants Movement in Brazil movement organized with Catholic seed-money, has
helped 140,000 families acquire land and membership in farming cooperatives in the past 12
years. Has 38,000 students and 1500 teachers (teaching poor self-help techniques and learning
how to teach them). Sponsors formation of cooperatives, has established 1,564 movement
settlements (site is in English).
NON-CATHOLIC and SECULAR RESOURCES
Accion International creating income and employment in the Americas. Microenterprise publications and policy issues.
Action Without Borders, non-Catholic, secular, linking people and organizations in 20 countries, lists of volunteer opportunities, internships, non-governmental organizations. Type "microenterprise" in their search engine for several useful links.
Co-op America, non-catholic, secular, "Consumer Strategies for a Better World", has information about sweatshop issues, alternative economic organizations and methodologies.
Development Capital, globally responsible investments. Site of a mutual fund that invests in microenterprise programs in the third world and that pays excellent returns to individual investors. Has downloadable prospectus. Microenterprise development fact sheet.
Enterprise Development Website an annotated meta-index and information clearinghouse on enterprise development, entrepreneurship, business, finance, international trade and the economy. The focus is on microenterprise, small and medium scale enterprises, cooperatives, community economic development, in both developed and developing countries.
Grameen Bank of Bangladesh a financial institution pioneer in the area of microcredit and microenterprise.
Partners of the Americas programs for microenterprise and community development. In English and Portuguese. Latest News on Social Banking information regarding microenterprise including links to the page for the microcredit summit.. Links in English and Portuguese.
Real Change, Seattle's homeless newspaper (sold on the streets by homeless people to make money.)
Results is an international clearing house, perhaps the largest microenterprise group active today. Considers the problem of microcredit -- which is the need for microentrepreneurs for capital to start their programs. Excellent and attractive site. Sponsored a microcredit summit last year.
Trickle-Up Program an international non-profit organization working to reduce poverty by
providing the poorest people with the opportunity to develop their own microenterprises (non-Catholic, secular). Provides business training material and $100 start-up capital to a family or
group to start a business. Has assisted 300,000 entrepreneurs and their dependents in 114
countries. In 1996, the program was managing work in 57 countries with a staff of 14 in their
head office. They added 9,000 new micro-businesses in 1966.
Holy Week Home Page access to meditations and scripture for Holy Week
Lenten Meditations Page daily justice and peace meditations for Lent, based on the lectionary readings. Lent Entrance Page
Just War and the Iraqi Escalation page of information and prayers relating to the on-going escalation of the situation in Iraq. Includes novena to Our Lady of Sorrows and Angelus in Time of War.
Roe v. Wade Anniversary with a prayer to Mary for Life by Pope John Paul II.
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