Carter GarberDr. Garber is an economist and practitioner with more than 4 decades of professional experience in the field of community economic development and finance. He is an accomplished consultant in the field of international microfinance and enterprise development and has worked on projects in four continents during more than 2.5 decades. He currently directs IDEAS, the Institute for Development, Evaluation, Assistance and Solutions, a non-profit organization that he founded. Carter is a social entrepreneur who has helped found 5 financial institutions:

  • He conceptualized and created a non-profit microfinance institution (MFI) in Nicaragua called PRESTANIC, for which he was the first General Manager. Started in 1991, it was the first Nicaraguan MFI that depended on socially responsible investors for the vast majority of its capital;
  • He was the organizing Chair of the Board for a for-profit MFI in El Salvador (Enlace) as it sought shareholders from Europe, US and El Salvador;
  • He created a Microfinance Investment Vehicle (MIV) to channel socially responsible investments in MFIs and agricultural cooperatives in Nicaragua. Twenty years later, Working Capital for Community needs lends in 5 other countries;
  • He was the lead consultant to assist CARE to found MicroVest, a for-profit MIV that works worldwide;
  • As the Financial Officer, he created the organizing effort and led the effort to obtain a federal charter for a credit union designed to serve Latinos and other underserved populations.

He founded and managed Southern Neighborhoods Network (dba IDEAS) a consulting group in the Southern US in the 1970s-80s as well as an international consulting agency from the 1990s to present. In addition, Dr. Garber has been the social entrepreneur helping to found some 20 other social enterprises and development organizations in North and Latin America. These include being the founder of three housing enterprises, the organizing chair of a credit bureau in El Salvador, founding staff director of several development corporations and a foundation. He assisted with the formation of a health clinic, was the founding editor of two development periodicals, and established various tuition-based educational institutes in the US, Central America and Africa. Carter was the founding Director of a statewide network of social enterprises, TNCED, the Tennessee Network for Community Economic Development.

One distinguishing mark is that Dr. Garber not only founds social enterprises and turns them over in a turn-key manner to indigenous staff after proving their viability but he builds enterprises to last. It is noteworthy that eight have continued beyond their 20th anniversary. In addition, he has lent to a wide variety of social enterprises and MFIs in Latin and North America.

Dr. Garber is currently the Executive Director of IDEAS, an international non-profit with a network of microfinance and development consultants around the world. Carter and the team consult in market research, product development, microfinance institutional development, poverty assessment, and different types of evaluation. Under Carter’s leadership the team has developed tools and educational curriculum in impact assessment and social performance management used by many prominent national MFIs and MFI networks. Carter has consulted on private investment with microfinance institutions and MIVs.

After more than a decade of doing research and work on microenterprise development, Dr. Garber began promoting microfranchise as a new approach to strengthening the enterprises of low income persons.  He has developed some of the first microfranchise training materials in Spanish and taught a graduate course in Spanish in Nicaragua in 2010 on the subject. He was an invited speaker on microfranchise to 200 microfinance professionals at the REDCAMIF Regional Conference in Costa Rica. He has been an invited speaker to two audiences by the El Salvadoran governmental Commission for Micro and Small Enterprise, introducing microfranchising to many enterprise professionals and government officials. He has shared information with both the Ministry of Economy and the Economic Secretariat of the Office of the Presidency in El Salvador. Carter has led research in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was contracted by the American University (UAM) and the Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce, which were funded by the Inter-American Bank, to do field investigation, carry out 50 interviews, and write a hundred page document in Spanish on the “Potential to Develop Microfranchises in Nicaragua.”  Recently, he founded the first microfranchise in Nicaragua, TecAp. As the General Manager, he is piloting a microfranchise in which rural women sell solar-powered items such as flashlights, lanterns, cell phone chargers as well as panels (

Carter has the benefit of knowing a wide range of microfinance institutions (MFIs) from many vantage points while making considerable contributions to the field. For example he:

  • Has been the General Manager of PRESTANIC in Nicaragua;
  • Chaired the Board of Enlace in El Salvador;
  • Performed due diligence and helped make decisions to lend to many MFIs and fair trade coffee cooperatives as well as other agricultural coops;
  • Provided strategic advice to European and US lending agencies and donors to MFIs;
  • Pioneered channeling socially responsible investment capital to international microfinance.
  • Has been a speaker on social investment at forums like SRI in the Rockies and the Microcredit Summit;
  • Evaluated many MFIs and assisted others to do self-appraisals as well as market research to develop new products.
  • Provided consultancy services through the years to a variety of actors, including MFIs, their parent NGOs, their affiliated PVO networks, lending agencies, and donors.

Dr. Garber has served as a trainer and consultant to national microfinance networks in Latin America and Africa. He also has consulted on various occasions with SEEP Network (its members are most of the major PVOs in North America doing microfinance internationally). He has been an international microfinance consultant to many of the SEEP Network members, like CARE, Catholic Relief Services, FINCA International, Opportunity International, MEDA, Freedom from Hunger, World Vision, and Katalysis. Many other SEEP members have sent their senior staff to be trained by him.  He has served as a consultant in socially responsible investments to Oikocredit, Calvert Social Investment Foundation, and helped CARE set up MicroVest.

Dr. Garber has written and taught in academic venues on microfinance in the United States, Africa, and Latin America. He was the founder of the Microenterprise Development Institute in 1998 at Southern New Hampshire University and taught there for 10 years. He helped develop a regional microfinance curriculum at the university level throughout Central America and taught in a Masters in Microfinance in Nicaragua at the American University (UAM). He in an adjunct professor at Tulane University.

Carter has written articles for development journals and periodicals. He has authored monographs and book chapters and developed many training materials in English and Spanish. He was the founder & editor of a periodical in the southern US for 11 years and another in Tennessee for 6 years. Before going to live and work in Central America for over a decade, Carter worked for 13 years in community economics in the Southeastern US. Carter earned a Ph.D. in Economics with concentrations in finance, development economics and microeconomics. His dissertation is entitled “Private Financing of Microcredit: The Models and Potential of U.S. Socially Responsible Investment in International Small Enterprise Credit.” He earned a M.A. in Economics with an emphasis in Development Economics from Vermont College.  Carter received his B.A. with High Distinction from the University of Michigan with High Honors in both majors of History and Middle Eastern Studies. He worked in the Middle East in community development after his degree.

Gabriel Gaitán Argeñal, Nicaraguan, is a consultant in microfinance. He studied Banking and Finance at the Baptist Polytechnic University of Nicaragua, along with courses in the specialization of inversion projects. Mr. Gaitán has a Master’s in Business Administration through the Commercial Exterior Program of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. He has taken a series of courses related to urban and rural Gabriel teaching UPOLI Plan de Negocios 9 Oct 09development as well as microfinance.

Mr. Gaitán has had extensive experience in the field of development. He worked in the Evangelical Committee for Development Assistance (CEPAD), holding different positions such as: Director of Rural Development, Financial Director, and Economic Development Director. In each of his roles he developed projects dealing with international donors. In 1991, he participated in the formation of a Nicaraguan MFI, PRESTANIC, along with Dr. Carter Garber. Using loans from socially responsible investors in the US and Europe for the first time in Nicaragua, this much success and is one of the primary projects that united Northern and Southern efforts for the benefit of poor rural entrepreneurs.

From 1995 to present, Mr. Gaitán has worked with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the area of Microfinance, first in Nicaragua and now in El Salvador as part of the international staff of this organization. In this stage he has participated in more than ten evaluation processes in different Latin American countries where CRS has microfinance programs. In this institution, Mr. Gaitán has held important roles such as Chair of the Business Development Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (1996-1998) as well as Mentor for the CRS Ecuadorian program from June 2000. In 1999 he was chosen and named “the Best Worker of Latin American and the Caribbean” by CRS.

Mr. Gaitán has lectured in various Nicaraguan and El Salvadoran universities. In October of 2002 he was accredited as a Certified Service Provider of MicroSave after his field work in Mexico and El Salvador. In El Salvador, he did field work with Carter Garber. Gabriel currently is the Vice President of Latin America on the Board of Directors of IDEAS.