Gates Foundation Provides USD 6 Million Research Grant to University of Maryland

Dec 2006
United States of America , December, 20 2006 - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently provided the IRIS Center, an economic growth and development research center based at the University of Maryland with a USD 6 million 5-year research grant. It will be used to research the impact of microfinance services which have been financed by other grants from the Foundation. The study, which will be conducted jointly with the Washington D.C.-based non-profit Microfinance Opportunities, will analyze six microfinance programs located in eight countries. IRIS and Microfinance Opportunities will examine the programs' effect on poverty alleviation and their ability to become self-sustainable in order to determine, "which financial products and services and delivery systems are most promising.” It will be managed by the executive director of the IRIS Center, Dennis Wood, and the president of Microfinance Opportunities, Monique Cohen.

MicroCapital has previously covered the Gates Foundation’s new focus on microfinance. This has included its involvement in a new ratings system for microfinance funds which invest in MFIs. According to the Foundation’s website, total assets are valued at USD 31.9 million as of August 2006(p. 3).

Microfinance Opportunities is a non-profit organization established in 2002 which provides research and training for microfinance organizations. Its activities focus on financial education, microinsurance, and client assessment. Its partner in the program, Freedom from Hunger, is a charity established in 1946 to fight hunger in the developing world using self-help programs.

The IRIS Center was founded in 1990 by University of Maryland economist Mancur Olson. It acts as a policy research institute focusing on reform strategies in the developing world. In the past, it has emphasized the role of market-augmenting institutions in economic development. Aside from its headquarters at the university, it has offices in Armenia, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Peru.


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