This week the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation convened world leaders in Seattle for the first-ever Global Savings Forum. The two-day event focused on building global partnerships to enable the delivery of viable approaches to financial services for the world's poor. Melinda Gates also announced $40 million in grants as part of an unprecedented $500 million pledge over five years. Savings and tools like mobile banking were key elements of the initial grants to organizations working in Bangladesh, Kenya, and around the world.
Helping to make the complex picture of financial inclusion digestible are two new short films, which were produced as part of the Sundance-Gates short film initiative. Glenn Baker's Small Change=Big Idea and Director Jonathan Stack and Producer Mara Batlin's Making Money Mobile show the importance of affordable savings opportunities, and the potential impact of mobile technology in financial services. Baker's film was shot recently in Bangladesh, a place where financial services for the poor have been evolving rapidly since Muhammad Yunus introduced micro-loan systems more than 25 years ago. Stack's film addresses the delivery of financial services through "mobile money" or the use of cellular technology to enable mobile payments. In a time when less than 10% of the world's poor have access to financial services but most have access to cell phones, "mobile money" is the next logical step in providing financial services for the poor.
These films were created as part of the Sundance Institute-Gates Foundation partnership, which will produce six short films that explore issues of global health, financial services for the poor, and U.S. education. The Revolutionary Optimists, directed by Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham, premiered September 20th at TEDxChange in New York City. Learn more about the short films here.