BOOTSTRAP DREAMS U.S. Microenterprise Development in an Era of Welfare Reform

By Else, John F. | Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

BOOTSTRAP DREAMS U.S. Microenterprise Development in an Era of Welfare Reform


Else, John F., Stanford Social Innovation Review


BOOTSTRAP DREAMS U.S. Microenterprise Development in an Era of Welfare Reform

Nancy C. Jurik

(Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2005)

Nancy C. Jurik's description of the emergence of microenterprise development programs (MDPs) internationally and in the United States is informative, but troubling. Jurik presents a useful summary for people new to the field - descriptions of SEWA, the Grameen Bank, FINCA, and ACCION. She also presents an excellent discussion of the legal and institutional basis for MDPs in U.S. economic development policy, including the initiation of the antipoverty program, community-development corporations, community-development banks, and other agencies and initiatives.

On the other hand, her discussion of the "streams" from which MDP emerged mixes social forces and funding sources and does not give adequate acknowledgement to the various other roots of MDP in the United States - sources presented in literature that she does not cite. The result is the false implication throughout the book that the major root of MDP was in the form of an import from the southern hemisphere.

In addition, the organization of the book creates distracting repetition of methodological references, ideological labels, and excessive citations of literature. Readers are required to dig through these minutiae to find the new and informative content. For example, the author seems focused on justifying one particular research methodology - institutional ethnography. To explain that methodology in the beginning of the book would have been sufficient, but the author makes repeated reference to the methodology, as if it requires such acknowledgement or promotion. For example, I counted seven mentions on page 216 alone.

Similarly, the author seems so locked into ideological labels that she is not able to describe anything without labeling it first. Programs are based on liberal, neoliberal (her favorite), or conservative philosophies. She must use the term "new privatization ideology" 100 times in reference to what she calls the pressure to apply the "for-profit business model" to nonprofit organizations. Most authors refer to the pressure for effectiveness (producing measurable outcomes) and efficiency (reducing cost per outcome) as "accountability" - which is not unique to the for-profit world.

The description of program characteristics presented in Chapter 3 is completely distorted. …

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