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Dec 2
Oprah, Letterman and Leadership
I have laughed often at David Letterman poking fun at people. He seems to do his best work or maybe I just find it funniest when he finds humor in those that take themselves quite seriously. That is one reason I have enjoyed watching him lead up to last night’s show with super serious, superstar Oprah Winfrey. oprah letterman.jpg

If you haven’t been keeping up on “the television event of the decade” as Dave says tongue-in–cheek, Oprah was last on Letterman in 1989 and vowed to never return. Since then Dave has pointed out often the weekly calls to Oprah to have her on his show. Well his wish came true last night. Unfortunately for most diehard fans of Letterman, he may have met Oprah more than half way, forgetting how to be funny.

Reviews ranged from sour at As I Please to sweet at Jack Bog’s Blog.

Since I am not a TV critic, (try TV Filter) and just a Letterman fan, I won’t say much more about the merits of the show. The reason that any of this is noteworthy from this blog’s perspective was when Oprah told of her planned trip to South Africa to establish a girls leadership academy. I had read about this cause in Newsweek that featured Women Leaders (Oprah was the cover). Oprah said,

"I'm going to change the future for thousands and thousands of girls because I'm going to give them an education. I'm going to go out into the villages, into the rural areas, the forgotten places, and find the girls who have the potential to excel and be leaders in the world. I'm going to create a leadership academy. I believe that the future of Africa depends upon the future of its girls and women. That's the only thing that's going to turn that continent around."

Hats off to her and her effort in such a noble cause. That coincides with the great concept of microfinance and helping women out of poverty. As I have mentioned before, Unitus is leading this charge. Who knows, maybe their causes will cross paths. One thing is clear, their leadership and willingness to give back is a great example.
Human Creativity and Commitment

I discussed Unitus and an interview with its Chairman, Mike Murray by Robert Scoble in a post yesterday. While the interview with Mike was enlightening for many, based on some comments it also raised several questions about micro-credit. What I think the interview communicates best, and why I mentioned it, is the leadership and innovation that Unitus is providing in addressing this important cause.

Unitus, as Mike suggests, is applying proven business principles such as “Innovation, best practices, good IT thinking, good management thinking” to the non-profit space. These are principles that Mike and others developed as executives at Microsoft, Apple, etc. They know from which they speak.

He calls Unitus a micro-credit accelerator because they are taking the principles of microfinance that have been around for several decades and are as he says “stepping on the gas pedal.” Their goals are ambitious but based on some excellent and proven data.

“Why lend these people money at 20%? Why not just give them $100?” 

Micro-credit is all about economic self-reliance and empowering an individual to lift herself out of poverty. This principle of sustainable self-reliance, more than any amount of money, changes people. It applies the laws of capitalism and free-market economics to the problem of third-world poverty where some form of socialism has been the norm. In the case of micro-credit, debt acts as a strict taskmaster that extracts fiscal discipline of this new entrepreneur. The lenders can’t be there to monitor the borrower like in traditional credit markets that we are familiar with in the U.S. 

“Isn’t an interest rate of 20% to 30% excessive?  Why doesn’t micro-credit charge interest rates at lower rates like those we see in traditional banks?” 

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