Investours is the first organization to bridge the worlds of microfinance and educational tourism. Inspired by Trip Sweeney’s article explaining how “microfinance tours” could serve as an ethical alternative to slum tours, Ashwin Kaja traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2008 to conduct research on the topic.
In Oaxaca, Ashwin introduced the idea for Investours to Carlos Topete, the director of a Spanish language institute in the city, who was excited by its potential. Ashwin and Carlos worked together to establish a pilot program to test the idea, and so Investours was born. Over the next two years, the Investours pilot program ran dozens of tours with hundreds of tourists that provided interest-free micro-loans to over 120 entrepreneurs. This was made possible by the generous contributions of time and energy of a number of people, including David Kim, Lain Heringman, Emily Berens, and Kurt Mansperger. Investours’ pilot program was completed in early 2010, but an organization called Fundación En Vía continues to offer similar microfinance tours in Oaxaca.
After becoming incorporated as a non-profit organization in the United States in May 2010 (assisted by the Harvard Law School Transactional Law Clinics), Investours began scaling its powerful microfinance tourism model to new areas.
In the summer of 2010, Katie Ranhorn and Heshan Illangkoon developed the program in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in partnership with Maisha Finance [INTERNAL LINK]. Soon after, Anna Ruman and Ryan Pukos launched an Investours program in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in partnership with about positions on our Sé Mas Microfinanzas . The Tanzania program has grown to include a location in Arusha. In the coming years, we expect to see Investours programs providing opportunities for socially minded travelers in destinations across the developing world.