ACCION, Microfinance Pioneer, Marks 50th Birthday, Having Helped Build 62 Microfinance Institutions in 31 Countries on Four Continents

Volunteer Organization Focused Initially on Venezuela Has Evolved into Global Leader Serving Millions of Clients through an Active Loan Portfolio of $4.6 billion

Oct 17, 2011, 12:06 ET from ACCION

BOSTON, Oct. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- ACCION, a pioneer and leader in global microfinance, today marks its 50th anniversary, having grown from a volunteer organization initially focused on Venezuela into a leading global nonprofit with an extraordinary record of helping build microfinance institutions around the world.

Founded to combat poverty in Latin America in 1961 by Joseph Blatchford, ACCION initially functioned as a grassroots community-development initiative, deploying young volunteers to the barrios of Caracas to find ways to help the poor help themselves.  In Venezuela, and subsequently in Argentina, Brazil and Peru, those volunteers engaged in a variety of infrastructure projects and job-creation programs.  

ACCION first began microlending in Brazil in 1973—and continued over the ensuing decades to develop the fledgling movement's methodology and technical capacity.   To date, ACCION has helped build 62 microfinance institutions (MFIs) in 31 countries on four continents, which currently serve millions of clients through an active loan portfolio of $4.6 billion.  

Committed early to building self-sustaining financial institutions, ACCION has helped to achieve a number of industry milestones, including the creation of the first international network of microfinance institutions (1983); the first loan guarantee fund for microfinance institutions (1984); the first private commercial bank for the poor (Bolivia's BancoSol, 1992); the first microfinance certificates of deposit for international institutional  investors (1996); the most successful microfinance IPO (Mexico's Compartamos, 2007); and the largest microfinance network in the United States (1991–present).

From its roots in Latin America, ACCION has worked to extend financial services to many of the world's poorest and most underserved regions, including Africa, India and China.  In the last two years, ACCION has launched new ventures in Inner Mongolia, China; Cameroon; Brazil's Amazonas region; and Bihar, one of India's poorest states, to help provide the underprivileged with economic opportunity.  For a timeline of milestones in the development of ACCION and its partners, please visit ACCION's History.

"The work that ACCION does is life-changing for so many," said Diana Taylor, chair of ACCION's Board of Directors.  "Our clients' optimism and commitment to hard work and the dedication of our staff reaffirms one's faith in the ability to thrive through personal effort.  Microfinance is a very important part of that process."

"Since we began, microfinance has grown in scale by orders of magnitude, serving 150 million of the world's entrepreneurial poor," said Michael Schlein, ACCION president and CEO.  "But there are billions more of the world's poor who could benefit from access to financial services.  Our vision is to build a financially inclusive world and give people access to the financial tools they need to improve their lives.  To accomplish this, we will build the next generation of top-tier microfinance institutions, push the frontiers of financial inclusion beyond MFIs, and build a strong microfinance industry with the highest possible standards."

In recent years, as recognition has grown that the poor need a broad range of financial services, ACCION partners have provided savings accounts to 1.6 million clients, and the organization's investment arm has helped to fund new ventures in microinsurance and electronic payment systems.  

To help broaden the concept and reality of financial inclusion, ACCION established the Center for Financial Inclusion in 2008—an 'action tank' focused on advancing the commercial model of microfinance while upholding the interests and needs of poor clients worldwide.  In 2009, the Center launched the Smart Campaign for client protection.  Today, the campaign has signed up MFIs in 130 countries that reach more than 40 million microfinance clients, and has widely implemented client-protection training and third-party assessment.  

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of ACCION's U.S. microfinance program, launched in 1991 in response to growing income inequality and unemployment.  Today, ACCION is the largest provider of microfinance in the United States, with operations and affiliates in New England, New York, Georgia, Florida, Chicago, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and California, along with national reach through an online loan application process.


ACCION is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need—microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services—to help themselves.  A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil.  Over time, ACCION has helped build 62 microfinance institutions in 31 countries on four continents.  Those institutions are currently reaching millions of clients.  The ACCION U.S. Network is the largest microfinance lending network in the country and has served tens of thousands of clients with $300 million in loans.  For more information, visit