Many people are aware of the excellent work done by the Grameen bank. They have pioneered micro loans as a way to fuel economic development. A new twist to this is http://kiva.org which is attempting to link donors to the people who are taking the loans. They describe their system as P2P micro loans.
Over the last few years there have been a number of people who have suggested (rightly I think) that the most effective tool against poverty are jobs, and one of the best creator of jobs are for-profit companies?! A couple hundred years ago this wouldn’t be a suprise. But in our age of corporate greed people seem to have forgotten this. C. K. Prahalad has written widely about how business can eradicate rather than promote poverty. A nice introduction to some of his work can be found in the article The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid which appeared in Booz, Allen, Hamilton’s strategy+business newsletter, issues 26, published in 1st quarter 2002. For significantly more details check out his book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits. The world bank hosts a private sector development blog which periodically has interesting information posted to it.
There has been a growing interest in the Christian community in considering how business folks can live out their faith in their work, and turn their jobs into a real vocation. Global Spectrum has been sponsoring the yearly Intersection Conference which brings together pastors, missions thinker, and people from the “secular” world to discuss how their faith can make a positive impact.