The UK wing of the global social investment initiative Oikocredit has teamed up with the Livesimply campaign to promote a shared vision for social justice. Oikocredit provides vital loans to creative but impoverished communities.
Launched in November 2006, Livesimply calls on people to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with those who are poor, say its organisers. It has created a substantial new network of Christian, principally Catholic, organisations determined to encourage people to take responsibility for creating a fairer world.
"Oikocredit is a radical form of investment that will not make you rich but will make a big difference to the lives of people in small communities", a spokesperson told Ekklesia.
"It is about making a commitment to take a little less, and thereby allow others whose need is greater to have more. This is a message which speaks to people from all over the world; to those of faith and all those who want to work for the common good."
People invest in Oikocredit because they want to fight poverty with part of their savings. Oikocredit invests their money in the productive enterprises of poor and disadvantaged people who want to work their way out of poverty. Investors are individuals, organisations, local churches as well as national church related groups.
Oikocredit works with 623 project partners around the world, such as locally based microfinance institutions (MFIs). Oikocredit provides the MFIs with credit, so that small loans can be made to micro entrepreneurs, subsistence farmers and the self-employed (the local equivalent of £5 to £300).
Unlike traditional financial service providers, lack of collateral such as land or property does not exclude the recipient from receiving a loan. In fact, Oikocredit’s experience shows that the commitment of people themselves is often a more powerful guarantee of success than the ability to put forward collateral.
Investors in Oikocredit choose this simple social investment and accept a lower rate of return (typically 2% each year) than they could find with their bank. Many investors choose to waive their dividend altogether. By accepting less financial return they are enabling others to make use of part of their individual savings, or part of the reserves of an organisation.
A typical Oikocredit loan recipient could be a smallholder who works his land and sells his produce within the local community, or a mother running a clothing business from her home, who needs money to purchase a sewing machine, the organisation explains.
"And it’s not just about money, Oikocredit is fundamentally about people", says Patrick Hynes, the UK representative.
He adds: "Through a network of locally employed staff, Oikocredit can reach the projects that others would not consider. Typically, these are projects in rural areas where the social benefits of a loan are high, but so are the financial risks. The aim is always to help the recipients better their circumstances, improve their quality of life and take more control of their future."
"In this small way, Oikocredit enables people to live in solidarity with people who are poor and disadvantaged: through using part of their savings for the common good, rather than merely maximising the financial return on all their savings."
The word 'oikos' is a classical and biblical one in Greek meaning 'household', and is related to 'economia' (managing the household economy) and oikumene (ecumenical - the 'whole inhabited earth'). The word credit is also linked to 'credere'in Latin; to believe.