Feminist systemic intervention : crossing the Rubicon with microfinanced women

Lewis, Ellen D.

Microfinanced businesses; Organisation development; Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F)

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©2014 University of Hull

Rain or shine, 365 days a year, hundreds of women in rural regions of the Caribbean Basin walk down slender dirt paths to their businesses nestled in nearby tropical hillsides. The women’s microfinanced businesses represent diverse market sectors in their respective developing countries, producing predominantly agricultural products (e.g., fish, bees, sheep, vegetables) to be sold locally. However, as their production grows and they experience surpluses, the women start to sell their products at formal markets, hours away from their villages, with a longer-term ambition of international trade. These microfinanced endeavours promise profoundly different futures for the entrepreneurs compared with their current realities. At best, the women could reap socio-economic rewards for themselves, educational opportunities beyond the third grade for their children, abundant and healthy nutrition for their families, clean drinking water for their villages and environmental healing for their country. At worst, the collapse of these projects could produce successive generations of poverty, overwhelming debt, embittered communities, and shattered dreams. Nevertheless, by participating in microfinancing, the women are ‘Crossing the Rubicon,’ for better or for worse, and are charting a course of action that, once embarked upon, forever alters their lives.

This research project will analyse the role that Organisation Development (OD) plays in Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F), an international aid program, seeking to intervene using a systems approach for the improvement of that program. With a cadre of volunteer ‘experts’, F2F deploys community development efforts in Microfinancing Investments (MFI) with nascent, primarily female entrepreneurs in the Caribbean Basin (e.g., Dominican Republic, Haiti). Viewing microfinancing as a web of local and global interdependent systems, I will utilize multiple theoretical and methodological strands to interpret how these systems currently deliver and support OD in the field and how systems thinking might improve these efforts.

Centre for Systems Studies, the University of Hull
Peer reviewed
Additional notes
Formal assessment report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the University of Hull, December 4, 2014.
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