When we think of microfinance, we usually tend to first think of it in terms of developing countries. However, microfinance and microlending can have a significant impact on more developed countries in North America and Europe.
ACCION Chicago is an organization that provides access to credit for small business owners that are otherwise denied loans from more traditional banking and finance institutions. Located in Chicago, Illinois, ACCION has made partnerships with thousands of customers, offering loans anywhere from $500 to $25,000 for established businesses. ACCION Chicago also provides Credit Builder loans that range from $200 to $2,500, in order to help those with poor credit history. In addition to its financial services and products, ACCION Chicago offers a wide range of business counseling.
Founded in 1994, ACCION Chicago was formerly an associate of ACCION International, a global non-profit organization, but now is affiliated with ACCION USA, which includes a variety of other ACCION locations in San Diego, Texas and New Mexico.
At ACCION Chicago, clients aren’t just numbers. ACCION’s lending program is determined by character, and not based on collateral, credit or revenue. By using references from customers and suppliers, ACCION Chicago is able to judge a potential client’s dedication to their own business—all on a case-by-case basis.
Interestingly, ACCION Chicago holds impact surveys in order to judge what changes its loans are making on job creation and small business wealth. In a survey of loan recipients from 2007 to 2009, 50 percent of those asked stated they had had a 100 percent or greater increase in business income since they received the loan. What’s more, the businesses have created or maintained 2.6 jobs each, on average.
In many ways, ACCION Chicago is changing the face of what it means to be a microfinance organization in the United States. For the less privileged in the U.S., the highly unequal finance systems are incredibly inaccessible, making ACCION Chicago crucial in order to fill in the missing gaps.
ACCION Chicago Website
1436 W. Randolph Street, Suite 300