Although the United States came relatively late to the microfinance movement, experimentation in the 1980s and 1990s laid the groundwork for the lively network of programs we see today. Acción has been at the forefront of the development of microfinance in the United States. Acción International began its microlending activities in Latin America in 1961 and established an affiliate organization in the United States, Acción USA, in 1991. Over the years, the U.S. Acción network has grown to become one of the country’s largest microfinance providers. Since its founding, the U.S. Acción network has loaned $180 million to nearly 20,000 borrowers in thirty-five states.2
What I find especially interesting about Bernanke’s comments are the notion that, in addition to loans, U.S. microfinance comes in the form of education and information that lowers the risk of failure by a business. This may be a matter of the U.S. economy being more advanced, though I see no shortage of need for capital among entrepreneurs, but I suspect that it is actually a requirement implicit in the information infrastructure that makes the U.S. economy so dynamic. Money without knowledge is a waste when so much depends on rapid learning and experienced judgment.