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.
This is the third part of a four-part publication 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. This installment is a single story about Anne, one of my favorites about her determination, powers of persuasion, and personal courage.
In 2006, Hastings was en route to a conference I was organizing in India when her purse containing a passport, cell phone, wallet and jewelry was stolen by a crooked security guard at the airport. (He convinced his colleagues to detain Hastings before going through the metal detector while her purse lay unattended on the other wide of the scanner – giving him time to grab it and run through a door leading to the parking lot.)
Determined to continue on her journey to India, she reached the guard on her cell phone and explained – in heated Creole – that she needed her belongings back and that his mother would not approve of what he had done. Against reason she tried to convince him that the conference in India was essential for Haiti’s development. (Like many humanitarian giants, they believe in the basic goodness of all people and their ability to bring it out through argument and persuasion.)
The thief demanded more money in exchange for the passport, and let on to Hastings and her trusted “fixer” Alexandre Hector that he had just been to a grimy brothel three miles from the airport. Hastings immediately decided to go to the brothel. Throughout the drive, she was yelling at the driver to go faster, while Hector tried to convince her to slow down and consider other options. Unarmed and without any police presence, they ultimately barged into a room they correctly figured out was the one used by the thief. There, they were greeted by a large Haitian man (who they quickly realized was not the robber) with a towel wrapped around this waist and a naked woman on the bed. Undeterred, she walked past the brothel patron and found her belongings (minus the cash) in a desk drawer, collected everything, and rushed back to make the last flight to Miami that day.