February: Winnipeg: A Prospective Social Business and Microfinance Capital of Canada

Helal Mohiuddin, Ph.D.

As a graduate research assistant at the University of Manitoba I interviewed a number of poor inner city Winnipeg residents in 2003. The objective of that fieldwork was to explore the reasons of impoverishment and socio-economic marginalization of inner-city Winnipeg communities.

Again in 2016 summer I made a follow-up visit to gain insight of impacts many community economic development (CED) measures in those neighbourhoods. Over the years I also met many people from immigrant and refugee communities to learn about their integration and assimilation into greater Canadian societies.

To be honest, I always felt that despite honest and sincere supports from federal, provincial and city governments to community economic development partners and organizations—poverty situation in Winnipeg will remain unchanged due to absence of the most appropriate interventions principled on social business’ and ‘microfinance’ models.

In Winnipeg we have many ‘microloan’ initiatives for small business ‘entrepreneurship’ development. Often financial supports are extended to needy people in the form of grant or giveaway-like-loans. The recipients are expected to develop their capacity to properly utilize and manage grants that bring high-yielding economic outcome first, and social well-being second in trickled-down or spilled over fashion.

A 2014 entrepreneurship study showed that 58% small business entrepreneurs started their enterprises with less than $5000. It means that a person do not require huge initial investment to become entrepreneur. Whatsoever, I am to speak about cooperative but individual entrepreneurship which may cost much less to have many entrepreneurs instead of one.

Existing CED interventions are mostly individual-focused, top-down support services that aim assisting people to recover from financial distress, and generate self-employment. They are hardly micro-scale people’s cooperatives whereby cooperative members act as each-others’ collateral and insurance, and grow evenly within a caring and sharing ideated interactive livelihood management for attaining socio-economic well-being, independence, autonomy, dignity, self-esteem and innovative managerialism.

The ‘Grameen Model’ (The Grameen Bank: The Bank of the Poor) of microfinance and social business received global recognition for its dynamic approaches i.e., ‘ownership of the members’, ‘women first’, ‘zero collateral credit’, ‘mandatory savings’, ‘peer-responsible enterprise management’, ‘turn-taking in leadership’, ‘collaborative social priority selection’ and many more. The model is replicated in 113 countries in the world with overwhelming success. [Dr. Md. Yunus, the founder of the Bank, was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of the Bank’s contribution in peace restoration].

Winnipeg’s socio-economic condition conforms most to the countries and regions that yielded most profound microeconomic success by replicating the Grameen Model. The ‘zero point of North America’—Winnipeg is the most appropriate geographical location as well to become the ‘social business’ hub and ‘microfinance’ capital of Canada.

One of many significant reasons is that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) is located in Winnipeg, and that the museum would likely turn Winnipeg as the human rights capital of the world. In reality, ‘microfinance’ and ‘social business’ goals go hand in hand with human rights objectives. They complement each other.

(❚ Helal Mohiuddin, Ph.D. Research Fellow, St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba. 204-219-9863, mohiuddinh@yahoo.com)