William Foote

Ashoka Fellow
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when William Foote was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Willy is pioneering a new lending methodology that provides affordable, accessible loan finance for the rural poor. With the organization he founded, “Root Capital,” the inherent potential of rural small and growing businesses (SGBs) is being harnessed and turned into increased production, profits to the producers, and product supply to global markets.

By using fixed-price forward contracts as loan collateral, Willy is creating a shift in the traditional paradigm in which risk is borne solely by the most vulnerable producers to one in which it is shared and minimized in direct trading relationships. This change allows Root Capital to take a new approach to underwriting and providing much-needed finance to rural SGBs.

This reassessment of risk means that Willy is able to provide prefinancing and term lending to small-holders cooperatives and associations that previously were considered unbankable. This approach to securing commodities contracts removes the major barrier that many rural communities faced in maximizing their access to relevant supply chains (such as Fair Trade coffee).

By proving that rural SGB lending is viable, Root Capital is able to take the system to scale through mainstream financial institutions, opening up business lending to millions of previously unbankable rural poor. In this way, global and local banks will become key players in the eradication of rural poverty and the improvement of livelihoods and conservation of the environment.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You