Jack Devoe Arnold ’18

As a Government minor at Bowdoin, Jack “Devoe” Arnold ’18 is no stranger to the relationship between economic inequality and political instability. Through his studies, he realized that microfinance offered an effective solution to both issues: “participants become more economically connected, leading to greater participation in society, longer term success for the whole community, and, consequently, a stronger civil society to pressure bad governance.” Inspired by these connections, Devoe took an internship with the Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI), a non-profit providing small loans to impoverished women in rural Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Devoe helped WMI analyze data about the recipients of its loans and use that data to expand the organization’s reach. Devoe created a one-page fact sheet about the organization for WMI’s administrators to distribute at speeches and compiled in-depth “fact books” detailing this data for potential investors. “It is my hope that this new fact book will attract more funders for WMI, allowing more loans to reach those left out of mainstream banking.”

Through his internship, Devoe discovered not only the logistical realities of microfinance but also their direct individual and societal impacts, which were broader than he’d originally considered. “I learned exactly how one small loan can improve the life of a borrower and her entire family: income increases, food quality and healthcare improve, education for the children becomes more affordable,” and civic engagement becomes more possible. “This experience has affirmed my interest in microfinance as a career….I strongly believe that microfinance can improve governance in Africa and around the world, and I want to contribute to that.”