Journal of Microfinance / ESR Review


Jeffrey Ashe


Working Capital is the United States' largest peer-group lending program. This article reviews what Working Capital has learned about the market, its customers, program impact, and service delivery over its ten year history. It presents a model for understanding how participating in peer lending groups develops “social and economic capital” in poor communities. The article then discusses how participants judge the group model as they identify the characteristics of successful groups and the impact of the group on their businesses, on themselves personally, and on the larger community. The rest of the article discusses how Working Capital evolved from a start-up operation in a single town into a multistate program and explores the advantages and limitations of rapid expansion. A checklist for choosing affiliate partners is presented, along with a list of the lessons learned about delivering services though affiliates.


Jeffrey Ashe, currently a Senior Fellow at Brandeis University's Institute for Sustainable Development, founded and served for eight years as the Executive Director of Working Capital, the United States' largest group-based microlending program. He has served as a consultant to microfinance programs in the United States and twenty-five countries, with clients ranging from the World Bank and the foreign aid programs of the United States, Canada, and England, to NGOs, including Freedom from Hunger, Catholic Relief Services, and Pact. He was previously Senior Associate Director at ACCION International, where he directed the AID-sponsored Pisces Project. Pisces, the first worldwide investigation of microenterprise programs, provided the base for much of the work that has followed in this field. He has lectured and taught at major universities, published widely, and earned a BA in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley and an MA in Sociology from Boston University.



Journal Title

Journal of Microfinance

Issue and Volume