Creation of Alterfin: collaboration between NGOs and banks

We would like to take you back to the start-up of Alterfin, the beginnings of the cooperative, the search for capital and the key partnerships, thanks to which it was born and has grown.

This is how it all began…

In the 1980s, Hugo Couderé worked as a development agent in Africa, where he was in charge of a number of rural development projects. Back in Belgium, he gained his doctorate at Antwerp University in this subject.

In addition, at the time he sat as an adviser on a project commission at 11.11.11, the network that represents the North-South movement in Flanders. This commission is similar to the Alterfin credit committee. Its members decide how the donations it receives should be distributed to projects in the South.

This commission also receives requests for support for economic projects. “Supporting economic projects with donations is certainly not the best way of taking people out of poverty”, Hugo and certain 11.11.11. officials believe. It was on the basis of this observation that 11.11.11 provided funding for Hugo to carry out a study into alternative methods of financing economic projects in the South.

A year later, Hugo presented the results of his research to 11.11.11. This study indicated that a cooperative offering long-term loans to economic projects in the South would be the most viable and the most democratic model in the long term. The cooperative would also enable unique collaboration between development organisations and banks.

Setting up the Board of Directors

This was when Hugo Couderé crossed paths with Jan De Grande. He was the financial manager of an international company and an 11.11.11. volunteer. So he took a close interest in new types of financing for developing countries and was involved in the decision to launch ‘the new cooperative’.

At the request of 11.11.11, Hugo put together a Board of Directors for Alterfin (which could have been called ‘Alfi’ had this name not already been taken!). 11.11.11 was represented by two directorships on the first Alterfin Board, one of which was given to Jan. “Clearly, without the support of 11.11.11, Alterfin would never have come into being”, Jan reminds us. And he adds, “I joined this adventure essentially because of Hugo and the confidence I had in him and his project”.

The foundations are laid!

In 1994, the first Alterfin Board of Directors consisted of six people, representing the founding organisations. Alterfin’s start-up capital, which amounted EUR 600,000 was made up of funds from twelve entities, including 11.11.11, Vredeseilanden, Oxfam–Solidarité, Triodos Bank and others. The twelve founding organisations saw Alterfin as a good alternative means of financing their projects.

In terms of staff, Alterfin began with just two people: Hugo Couderé, the manager, and Bart Van De Wiele, who dealt with the commercial aspects, in the 11.11.11 offices, rue de la Linière in Saint-Gilles (Brussels).

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