To Catch a Dollar

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To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America
Directed byGayle Ferraro
Produced byGayle Ferraro
Aerial Productions
Music byClaudio Ragazzi
Release date
  • January 2010 (2010-01)(Sundance)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States

To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America is a 2010 documentary film directed and produced by Gayle Ferraro about the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner's ongoing campaign against poverty around the world. It touches on the beginnings of the original Grameen Bank in the 1970s, then focuses primarily on the beginnings of Grameen America's work in the US, especially the launch of its first programs in Queens, New York in 2008. The title of the film comes from a clip of Muhammed Yunus speaking in the film: "In a world where you need a dollar to catch a dollar, you need to have something to help the bottom people to lift themselves up." [1]


The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. [2] It is expected to open in New York City and Los Angeles in early 2011 and then go into general release in the United States and abroad.


The film focuses on the work of Shah Newaz, a long time Grameen Bank manager, and Alethia Mendez, a Grameen America Center Manager, as they undergo the process of successfully establishing the programs of Grameen America in Queens, New York. The film features stories of some of Grameen America's first clients, women below the poverty line working to build businesses such as a hair salon and a bakery. It shows Newez and Mendez working out of a small office and holding group meetings in people's homes, as group meetings are a core element of the Grameen Bank peer lending model. [3]

Yunus, a former Fulbright Scholar from Bangladesh, is known for developing the concept of microcredit, the extension of small loans to entrepreneurs with no collateral to qualify for traditional bank loans. His concept of microcredit and his desire to reduce the number of people living in poverty led to the creation of Grameen Bank to support people within Bangladesh, and then the Grameen Foundation for supporting people internationally. Cofounded by Yunus, Grameen America opened in January 2008 with a mission "to help create a world free of poverty." [4] In June 2010, Grameen America reported that it had disbursed approximately $4.3 million in loans to 2,002 borrowers and had maintained a repayment rate of 99%. [5]

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Microcredit Small loans to impoverished borrowers

Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to impoverished borrowers who typically lack collateral, steady employment, or a verifiable credit history. It is designed to support entrepreneurship and alleviate poverty. Many recipients are illiterate, and therefore unable to complete paperwork required to get conventional loans. As of 2009 an estimated 74 million people held microloans that totaled US$38 billion. Grameen Bank reports that repayment success rates are between 95 and 98 percent.

Microfinance Provision of microloans to poor entrepreneurs and small businesses

Microfinance is a category of financial services targeting individuals and small businesses who lack access to conventional banking and related services. Microfinance includes microcredit, the provision of small loans to poor clients; savings and checking accounts; microinsurance; and payment systems, among other services. Microfinance services are designed to reach excluded customers, usually poorer population segments, possibly socially marginalized, or geographically more isolated, and to help them become self-sufficient.

Grameen Bank is a microfinance organisation and community development bank founded in Bangladesh. It makes small loans to the impoverished without requiring collateral.

Muhammad Yunus Bangladeshi banker, economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient

Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist and civil society leader who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts through microcredit to create economic and social development from below". The Norwegian Nobel Committee said that "lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty" and that "across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development". Yunus has received several other national and international honours. He received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.

Sixteen Decisions is a documentary film directed and produced by Gayle Ferraro, exploring the impact of the Grameen Bank on impoverished women in Bangladesh. The bank provides micro loans of about $60 each to the poor, as well as promoting a social charter that gave the film its title.

Grameen Foundation, founded as Grameen Foundation USA, also known as "GFUSA", is a global 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that works to replicate the Grameen Bank microfinance model around the world through a global network of partner microfinance institutions. Its CEO is Steve Hollingworth. Grameen Foundation's mission is, "To enable the poor, especially the poorest, to create a world without poverty." According to the OECD, Grameen Foundation’s financing for 2019 development increased by 33% to US$45.5 million.

A micro-enterprise is generally defined as a small business employing nine people or fewer, and having a balance sheet or turnover less than a certain amount. The terms microenterprise and microbusiness have the same meaning, though traditionally when referring to a small business financed by microcredit the term microenterprise is often used. Similarly, when referring to a small, usually legal business that is not financed by microcredit, the term microbusiness is often used. Internationally, most microenterprises are family businesses employing one or two persons. Most microenterprise owners are primarily interested in earning a living to support themselves and their families. They only grow the business when something in their lives changes and they need to generate a larger income. According to information found on the website, microenterprises make up 95% of the 28 million US companies tracked by the census.

The non-governmental organisation based in Bangladesh which provides microcredit financing.

<i>Banker to the Poor</i>

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty is an autobiography of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus. The book describes Yunus' early life, moving into his college years, and into his years as a professor at Chittagong University. While a professor at Chittagong University, Yunus began to take notice of the extreme poverty of the villagers around him. In 1976, Yunus incorporated the help of Maimuna Begum to collect data of people in Jobra who were living in poverty. Most of these impoverished people would take a loan from moneylenders to buy some raw material, using that raw material to create some product, and then selling back the good to the moneylender to repay the loan, earning a very meager profit. One woman interviewed made no more than two cents per day creating bamboo stools using this system. The list Begum brought back to Yunus named 42 women who were living on credit of 856 taka.

The Comilla Model was a rural development programme launched in 1959 by the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development. The academy, which is located on the outskirts of Comilla town, was founded by Akhter Hameed Khan, the cooperative pioneer who was responsible for developing and launching the programme.

Lift Above Poverty Organization

LAPO is a Nigerian organisation with a microfinance bank dedicated to self-employment through microfinance and an NGO, a non-governmental, non-profit community development organization focused on the empowerment of the poor and the vulnerable.

Solidarity lending Lending practice

Solidarity lending is a lending practice where small groups borrow collectively and group members encourage one another to repay. It is an important building block of microfinance.

Grameen Fund is a not-for-profit company in Bangladesh established by Muhammad Yunus to provide risk capital to small and medium enterprises (SME) beyond the scope of Grameen Bank's objectives of providing microcredit to the very poor. Incorporated on 17 January 1994, Grameen Fund started operation in February 1994, inheriting 40 projects of Grameen bank with assets of 391 million Bangladeshi taka investmented in small industries, fisheries and agriculture. Its lending capital is provided by Grameen Bank and other institutions like Calvert Foundation. From the first Calvert Foundation investment, approximately 6,000 permanent jobs have been created or maintained in agriculture, engineering, poultry, dairy, fishery, and handicrafts sectors.

Grameen family of organizations

The Grameen family of organizations has grown beyond Grameen Bank into a multi-faceted group of profitable and non-profit ventures, established by Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize winning founder of Grameen Bank. Most of these organizations have central offices at the Grameen Bank Complex in Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Grameen Bank started to diversify in the late 1980s when it started attending to unutilized or underutilized fishing ponds, as well as irrigation pumps like deep tubewells. In 1989, these diversified interests started growing into separate organizations, as the fisheries project became Grameen Fisheries Foundation and the irrigation project became Grameen Krishi Foundation.

Grameen Danone Foods, popularly known as Grameen Danone, is a social business enterprise, launched in 2006, which has been designed to provide children with many of the key nutrients that are typically missing from their diet in rural Bangladesh. It is run on 'No loss, No dividend' basis. Initially, Grameen Danone agreed to pay an annual dividend of one percent to shareholders, however, in December 2009, the board of Grameen Danone agreed to waive any monetary return.

Grameen America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit microfinance organization based in New York City. It was founded by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus in 2008. Grameen America is run by former Avon Chairman and CEO Andrea Jung. The organization provides loans, savings programs, financial education, and credit establishment to women who live in poverty in the United States. All loans must be used to build small businesses.

Yunus Centre

The Yunus Centre, in Dhaka, Bangladesh is a think tank for issues related to social business, working in the field of poverty alleviation and sustainability. It is 'aimed primarily at promoting and disseminating Professor Yunus’ philosophy, with a special focus on social business' and currently chaired by Prof. Muhammad Yunus. Its Executive Director is Ms. Lamiya Morshed.

The impact of microcredit is a subject of much controversy. Proponents state that it reduces poverty through higher employment and higher incomes. This is expected to lead to improved nutrition and improved education of the borrowers' children. Some argue that microcredit empowers women. In the US and Canada, it is argued that microcredit helps recipients to graduate from welfare programs. Critics say that microcredit has not increased incomes, but has driven poor households into a debt trap, in some cases even leading to suicide. They add that the money from loans is often used for durable consumer goods or consumption instead of being used for productive investments, that it fails to empower women, and that it has not improved health or education.

Gayle Ferraro is a New York-based filmmaker best known for her documentary film To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on American (2010). Her first film was Sixteen Decisions, a 2000 documentary about the effect of Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank on impoverished women in Bangladesh. Ferraro also produced and directed Anonymously Yours (2002), a feature documentary about sex trafficking in Burma, and Ganges: River to Heaven (2003), a documentary about a hospice in Varanasi, India.

Kashf Foundation

Kashf Foundation is a non-profit organization, founded by Roshaneh Zafar in 1996. Kashf is regarded as the first microfinance institution (MFI) of Pakistan that uses village banking methodology in microcredit to alleviate poverty by providing affordable financial and non-financial services to low income households - particularly for women, to build their capacity and enhance their economic role. With headquarters in Lahore, Punjab, Kashf has regional offices in five major cities and over 200 branches across the Pakistan.