On Wednesday, October 11, together with Seattle Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Washington honored global philanthropists at a dinner with Bill and Paula Clapp, and the Clapps’ longtime friend and mentor, Nobel Laureate and founder of the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus.
In his talk Professor Yunus shared his philosophy on charity, his views on the nature of poverty, and his new book, A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions.
David Wertheimer, director of community and civic engagement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, welcomed the assembled philanthropists and other distinguished guests. Afterwards, Tony Mestres, President & CEO of Seattle Foundation, gave remarks about the importance of global giving to Seattle Foundation, including observing that in a recent report from Council on Foundations, the Seattle region ranked number two among its community foundation peers across the nation in terms of percentage of total international giving. “I think we should all aim for number one,” he said, drawing a round of applause.
Bill Clapp then spoke about how he and his wife Paula were first exposed to extreme poverty and inequality on a visit to El Salvador in 1992. Stunned by what they saw, they were also heartened by “this thing called microcredit” they had heard about, a way to give small loans to help people work their way out of poverty.
The Clapps went on to visit Professor Yunus in Bangladesh to learn more about microfinance, and Bill recalled inquiring about how it worked and where to start. At one point during that trip over two decades ago, Professor Yunus looked at him and said, “Just do it.”
So they did. The Clapps started Global Partnerships, and shortly after founded Seattle International Foundation and Global Washington, a member association for both for-profit and non-profits in Washington state that are working to improve lives in developing countries. Today, membership in Global Washington has grown to 160 organizations.
“The [global] development community is good for the business community, our cities and our state,” said Bill. “It makes Washington a good place to visit and do business. Singapore is marketing itself as an international development center. And we should too. We know we have to care about the world we live in, and the planet we inhabit together.”
The origins of Grameen Bank started in 1976 with $27 in loans to a small group of women basket weavers in Bangladesh. The bank has come a long way since. Last year, Grameen lent over $2.5 billion to nine million women globally. The fact that women who are taking out loans today are also saving money with the bank at an even higher rate, prompted Professor Yunus to share the importance of referring to them as not just borrowers, but also lenders. Professor Yunus also talked about his role in founding Grameen America, a microcredit organization serving nearly 100,000 women in the United States through nearly $760 million in capital across 12 cities.
The evening topped off with the exciting announcement of the Bill & Paula Clapp Legacy Fund to inspire philanthropy for global issues. Details of the fund will be rolled out over the next few months.