Whitworth has launched a new program called the Social Finance Club (SFC) with a $2,000 grant provided by the Whitworth 2021 Strategic Initiatives Fund to the Whitworth Rural Microfinance Initiate. Although located within the School of Business, the SFC is a campus-wide initiative that will provide financial support to projects and organizations both locally and worldwide.
At first glance, the SFC may appear to function much the same as the already existing School of Business Investment Club; however, the Investment Club is limited in what it can invest in.
“The School of Business Investment Club cannot invest in small-scale privately held organizations, they can only invest in publicly traded stocks, whereas the Social Finance Club can invest in private entrepreneurial projects,” said Vange Ocasio, an assistant professor of economics at Whitworth.
For this year, the main focus of the club will be to utilize Kiva, a non-profit organization that works with microfinance institutions across the globe to provide loan opportunities to people who do not have access to traditional banking systems.
According to the Kiva website, the organization has lent over $700 million since founded in 2005 and has a repayment rate of 98.72 percent.
Ocasio hopes the SFC will expose students to other parts of the world, she said. Through lending with Kiva, the students will learn about the country is going to as well as the individual. For example, some of her students are doing a research paper on a specific country and borrower of their choice.
Because the club is still relatively new, it will use the already established organization of Kiva. However, once the club gains more financial support, the members hope to expand.
“In the beginning, the club will focus on investing abroad,” said David Sloan, a visiting assistant professor in the School of Business. “The goal later on is to have the students create socially minded projects that they can implement here in Spokane.”
The newly appointed president of the SFC Joel Silvius also voiced his intention of expanding the club by focusing on issues closer to home.
“Next year, we will explore ways for the club to invest locally,” Silvius said. “We will look into what kind of development Spokane needs and how Whitworth can help.”
Silvius’ duties as president are still tentative, but he imagines he will work closely with Ocasio and Sloan on projects including planning events to build the investment fund and analyzing lending practices and organizations, he said.
The SFC is a not-for-profit club, but profit can be measured in other ways besides monetarily.
“Percentage and dollars is how profit is normally calculated, but the social impact is how you measure your profit,” Sloan said. “It’s a good dream and aligns with Whitworth’s mission. The idea I like about the Social Finance Club is that it can destigmatize the negative connotations people have with business because there is a shadow and light side to any kind of tool that you use in the world, and this program is the light side of business.”
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