Patricia Foley Hinnen founded Capital Sisters after decades in economic development, public policy, and international affairs with the US Congress, the State Department, and the microfinance industry because she was discouraged by the increasing feminization of poverty in spite of billions of dollars in international aid. Patricia’s interest in poverty alleviation dates back to her Peace Corps service in Africa where she observed the horrors of predatory moneylenders first-hand while working with impoverished market women who were paying as much as 20% interest a day. Her experiences in more than 60 countries over the decades since then have only reinforced her commitment to remove the systemic inequities that keep people marginalized. Her passion for social justice, confidence in women’s resourcefulness, and respect for human dignity all greatly inspired her innovative investment model for micro loans.
As someone who travels constantly between two worlds – one where the air conditioning is too cold and another where 20,000 children die every day from preventable causes – Patricia had the creative advantage of duality.
She had a very simple idea: if concerned individuals in developed countries could each play a small role building a loan fund for impoverished women in developing countries, collectively they could provide business loans for millions of destitute people – and then get their money back. She knew an investment model would succeed if she could show the human face of poverty in the same way that charities do when raising donations so she created a model that matches investors with impoverished women entrepreneurs in developing countries. But nothing like this had ever been done before – using loans from everyday people rather than donations – to improve life for impoverished women.
To test these ideas, Patricia helped establish seven microfinance organizations under the Capital Sisters umbrella as she experimented with the matching model in the US and around the world. She started piloting the idea in 2000 by matching groups of donors with groups of borrowers, and sharing borrower profiles and photos with the funders. For “proof of concept” she raised funding to finance 100,000 micro business loans for impoverished women in 25 countries using a combination of grants and loans; built a global network of alliances; recruited world class microfinance partners, advisors, staff and board members; developed organizational capacity to manage an investment fund, and implemented the inaugural investments in a pilot program that has already raised nearly $6 million in bond commitments for 60,000 micro loans.
With proof of concept established, Capital Sisters is launching its innovative Sister Bonds® investment product onto the national stage. The launch of our impact investment fund comes at a time when the general public’s interest in women’s empowerment and impact investing is at an all-time high. And we are landing in a market space where very few impact investment products are available to the general public, and even fewer gender-lens investing opportunities. We invite you to join us in this important work.