The think-tank Ekklesia, which examines religion in public life and promotes constructive alternatives within the social, political and economic realm, has said that the Oikocredit global social investment initiative is "an investment in hope" through the small loans it is able to make.
Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow said: "Oikocredit is an important and imaginative initiative which demonstrates how ground-up action can help reshape social and economic priorities in a divided and unequal world. This is the kind of thing our research and reporting is seeking to highlight."
He added: "With its origins in work carried out by the World Council of Churches, it is also a great example of Christians working alongside those of other faith or simply 'good faith' and furthering the human good without regard to the things - including religion, sadly - that can sometimes separate us. It is also one very positive answer the the often asked question, 'what can I do that will make a difference?'"
Oikocredit UK rep Patrick Hynes explains: "People's investment enables Oikocredit to back microfinance institutions (MFIs), co-operatives and small to medium sized enterprises. Loans have proven to be very effective in stimulating economic productivity. Where grants may lead to dependency, loans create a real business partnership based on mutual respect. Plus, repaid loans are recycled time and again into new loans."
He adds: "If you invest £1,000, with Oikocredit's usual dividend standing at 2% per annum, this will normally provide you a financial return of £20 plus a substantial social return. If you placed that money in the bank you might earn say £50, a difference of £30. You could of course donate £30 to charity, but ask yourself what will do more good: a donation of £30 or a loan of £1,000?"
Those interested in helping can download a UK prospectus and application form and also get information about projects which show how the money is used. Further questions may be directed to the Oikocredit UK Representative, or your local support association.