You are here

Main Content

Coalition for Women's Economic Development Collection

A microenterprise is a business which operates with ten employees or less, though it is common for these smaller than small businesses to operate with only one or two employees. It is estimated that 85%-95.8% of all U.S. businesses are microenterprises. Despite this high percentage, many of these business owners do not qualify to participate in the commercial banking sector, making it very difficult to gain access to start-up capital and traditional financing and credit services. To combat this, microenterprise development organizations (MDOs) like the Coalition for Women's Economic Development (CWED) began emerging in the United States in the mid- to late-1980s to provide better economic options for micro-entrepreneurs.

CWED was the first organization of its kind in the city of Los Angeles and one of the first in the United States. The organization borrowed strategies from Grameen Bank, a Bangladeshi community bank which provided micro-credit loans to those living in abject poverty. CWED engaged in solidarity lending, or giving loans to small groups whose members hold one another accountable to repay the collectively owned debt. The practice often eliminates the need for collateral, and lowers costs for the lending institution. During CWED's operation, more than $600,000 in loans were disbursed to micro-entrepreneurs across Los Angeles who did not qualify for funding through commercial banks.

In addition to solidarity lending, CWED also delivered multilingual training workshops to thousands of participants from 1989 to 1995. Targeting low-income women, particularly ethnic minorities, Resolution for Coalition for Women's Economic Development, 1984CWED combined economic development with social welfare strategies to educate and empower their participants to "…achieve self-sufficiency through self-employment"—the group's founding mission. The coalition also contributed to policy development regarding street vending and home-based business ordinances and set up relief funds for businesses affected by L.A.'s civil unrest in 1992. CWED helped to establish the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) in 1991, the California Association for Microenterprise Opportunity (CAMEO) in 1992, and the Self-Employment Learning Project (SELP) under the direction of the Aspen Institute in 1992; these organizations are still in operation today.

During the 1990s, the field of microenterprise development grew exponentially in the United States. CWED was one of just a few groups collecting programming statistics during the 1990s, but by the 2000s many others began tracking the effect of microenterprise development, especially the ASPEN Institute, Welfare to Work, and CAMEO. It became clear that the programs improved options for micro entrepreneurs.

The Coalition for Women's Economic Development Collection, 1980-1999 provides a wealth of information regarding the field of microenterprise development during its inception in the United States, including early collaborative efforts, and documents the important achievements of the women, ethnic minorities, and immigrants who worked to combat poverty and social inequality in the United States. The collection may be of particular use to those conducting research in Economics, Business and Financial Management, Africana Studies, Chicana/o Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, Educational Methodologies, Family and Consumer Sciences, Sociology, Social Work, Sociolinguistics, Urban Studies, Public Administration, Public Sector Management, and those interested in local Los Angeles history and the history of American economics.

Promotional brochure describing the mission and goals of CWED
Promotional flier for training, technical assistance, and business loans through CWED
Promotional flier, Programs de CWED, in Spanish
Promotional flier describing CWED's small business strategy
Promotional brochure featuring CWED's solidarity lending services
Los Angeles Times article, Needy Firms Seek Out Grass-Roots Loans, November 3, 1993
Los Angeles Times article, Investing in Trust, May 23, 1993
CWED newsletter, Self Starter, Spring 1991
CWED newsletter, Self Starter, Spring 1992.
Graduates of a Micro-Business Workshop posing with CWED staff
Letter from Senator Diane E. Wilson commending CWED and its graduates, January 8, 1991
CWED staff poses for a group portrait
CWED Executive Director, Forescee Hogan-Rowles, with representatives from Women and Minority Business Enterprises
Enrollment and Graduation Statistics for CWED’s Micro-Business Workshops, 1989-1993
Excerpt from "The Institutionalization of Microcredit: Moving Forward by Looking Back," by Lisa J. Servon, 1993
Excerpt from "Help Yourself, Part II: To Succeed in Business, Low-Income Women Need Some Help and Seed Money," November 1993
Resolution from the California State Senate, July 12, 1994
CWED: Helping Self-Starters Become Self-Sufficient, artistic print by Ann Glover, 1993

Read more Peek in the Stacks blog entries