Anne Hastings Profile (Part Four of Four)
This is the fourth and final installment of excerpts of my draft article on Fonkoze that profiles Anne Hastings, the CEO of Fonkoze Financial Services. The article is a precursor to my book.
In some ways, Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus and Anne Hastings were cut from the same cloth. They are both extroverted, stubborn, absurdly hard-working, utterly lacking in any materialistic impulse, are adept at developing rapport with poverty-stricken people as well as wealthy ones. They are outwardly unreligious humanists working in organizations with many deeply religious people. Both are unafraid to challenge the status quo in conventional microfinance.
In other respects, they were polar opposites. One worked in his native land, the other as an expatriate. One surrounded himself mostly with men, the other mostly with women. Yunus had come to reject the idea of charity and even philanthropy, while Hastings worked feverishly and without apology to get as much aid money as possible. Yunus was in his heart a nationalist who usually resisted the intrusion of foreign advisors, employees and investors into his network of organizations in Bangladesh unless they were on very advantageous terms for a limited time. Hastings, and her mentor Father Joseph, were internationalists who welcomed anyone to Haiti who was willing to work for modest earthly rewards in solidarity with the poor.
At least until the time when I began intensively researching Fonkoze in late 2010, I had never been particularly close to Anne Hastings despite serving on the board of Fonkoze USA with her since 2006. (Grameen Foundation that I founded and lead had been collaborating with Fonkoze off and on beginning in the late 1990s, but for the most part my staff managed the work.) I admired her intensity and creativity in the area of product development, and the fact that despite being a strong leader she did not cultivate a cult of personality like I had seen in some male-led, Asian MFIs (particularly in India).
Indeed, even as she promoted Fonkoze, Hastings often deflected credit for its accomplishments to her Haitian colleagues and was always deferential to Father Joseph – something else I liked in the international humanitarian field where expatriates, especially Americans I am sad to say, often claim more credit than is their due. She was a fierce if occasionally erratic protector of the Fonkoze brand, but never the Anne Hastings brand.
Every so often, her legendary single-mindedness of purpose led to confrontations between us. We all have our “Anne stories.” Clearly, Hastings is a woman who does not back down from a fight when she thinks she is doing what is best for her organization and the village women it serves. Yet, she inspires intense loyalty even among those she has repeatedly wounded. But unlike some other leaders whose careers I have followed, there is no loose network of disgruntled former Hastings protégés and partners.