In Mazunte, a small town on Mexico's Pacific coast, the owners of a cooperatively owned cosmetics company dubbed their brand new factory the "Miracle of Mazunte."
How would you like to be able to move house -- packing, transportation, cleaning, moving materials removal, and gardening included -- without spending a dollar? If you lived in New South Wales, Australia, you could use shells, issued in points, to pay for everything but the gardening, which you would pay for with time.
The global financial crisis is opening eyes to creative ways to bank with the world's poorest borrowers, a move that could actually help struggling financial institutions generate more profit in difficult times.
While traditional investment markets freeze up or melt away, microfinance institutions (MFIs) that make small loans to poor people are now being appreciated as - ironically - a relatively safe investment in a potentially huge and largely untapped market.