If you knew you could loan someone less than $100 and it would dramatically improve their life forever, would you do it?

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThis is what micro-credit is all about – extending small loans to the poor to allow them to engage in commercial activity in their local communities. While many poor people work hard and have great business ideas to provide for themselves and their families, they often lack collateral, and unlike you or I cannot access it from traditional lenders.

In the past this left them either with no capital or at the mercy of middlemen who charged extortionate interest rates on loans. This meant they were basically unable to lift themselves out of the poverty into which they were born. But with micro-credit, where interest is charged at a rate that allows them to turn a profit, they are empowered them to innovate and change their own lives.

Microcredit began in the 1970s when Muhammed Yunnis founded Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, providing small loans to the country’s poorest people. Grameen Bank has now loaned more than $8 billion to the poor people in Bangladesh and touched more than 40 million members and their families.

Since then thousands of micro-credit programs have sprung up around the world, inspired by the Grameen model. Many of these programs, including Grameen, favour lending to women as research has found they are more likely to use the money to benefit the whole family.

Today lending money to poor families is easier than ever before, with online micro-credit organisations such a Kiva linking lenders and borrowers from all over the world. For more information, to take a look at some of the families seeking loans, or to start lending, visit their website here.