In 1990, Carlos Danel and Carlos Labarthe co-founded Compartamos—which means "let's share" in Spanish—to provide poor residents (mainly rural women) of Mexico with access to economic opportunities. At its inception Compartamos was a nonprofit organization serving mainly indigenous, rural women in some of the poorest regions in Mexico. The company has since evolved into a commercial bank. While some are critical of the company for what they believe is its emphasis on profits over social returns, our research into microfinance and social investment provides a more nuanced response to the criticism. Nonetheless, there's no denying Compartamos' impact on the region. It is currently one of the largest microcredit institutions in all of Latin America. Most of its more than 600,000 clients live in rural areas of Mexico.
We caught up with Carlos Danel in New York, when he was in town for a conference to ask him about some of the most critical questions facing the microfinance industry.