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ACCION International Records

Call Number: MS196

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the operations of ACCION International, a global nonprofit institution specializing in microfinance.

Records include executive office and departmental files; financial records; the records of centers, programs, and initiatives; and conference materials. In addition to correspondence, memoranda, meeting minutes, reports, and publications, there are audiovisual materials and photographs. The bulk of the collection dates from 1960 to 2005 and primarily relates to ACCION’s programs and microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States; there is also some material pertaining to ACCION’s operations in Africa and Asia.

The files and papers of several key ACCION employees are integrated into the collection. This includes presidents and CEOs Michael Chu (1993-1999) and Maria Otero (2000-2009); Carlos Castello, executive vice president and head of Global Programs (2006-2016); Susana Barton, vice president and program manager (2004-2012); and Cathy Quense, chief financial officer (1996-2008).


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 -- 2005
  • Creation: 1950 -- 2012


Language of Materials

Materials are in English, French, Mandarin, Spanish, and Portuguese.


This collection contains some restricted material. Specific restrictions are noted in the detailed contents list in each series.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for publication will be forwarded to Accion.

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see "Reproductions and Use" on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish.

Any intellectual property rights which the donor possesses have not been transferred to Tufts University.

Biographical / Historical

ACCION International was founded in 1961 by Joseph H. Blatchford, a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley Law School. Moved to action by the political upheaval and poverty he saw traveling in Latin America, Blatchford viewed community grassroots development as a way to help improve lives. In 1961, he enlisted the help of two other UC Berkeley students, Jerry Brady and Gary Glenn, to recruit the first class of thirty American volunteers to work on their first projects in Venezuela.

ACCION’s initial projects involved improving infrastructure in the community through both fundraising and manual labor such as building schools and digging ditches. They also worked to provide technical support and assistance, enabling local residents to embark on their own projects. Blatchford expanded ACCION with chapters in Brazil, Peru, and New York in the late 1960s. In the first decade of ACCION’s existence, the news media frequently made comparisons between the organization and the Peace Corps. Blatchford was appointed Director of the Peace Corps in 1969.

In the 1970s, ACCION sought to address lack of economic opportunity in urban Latin America by establishing a microlending program. In 1973 the ACCION organization UNO (Recife, Brazil), issued its first loans to small, informal enterprises. ACCION’s success in microlending led to their subsequent focus on microfinance. From 1980 to 1990, ACCION established microfinance programs in fourteen Latin American and Caribbean countries. In 1984, ACCION created the Latin American Bridge Fund, a guaranteed fund through which ACCION affiliates could secure lines of credit.

The Gran Salto “Great Leap” expansion campaign of the 1990s developed ACCION’s programs in the United States as well as extending their reach in Latin America. In 1991, ACCION founded the ACCION U.S. Network to create microfinance programs in the United States. The pilot program was launched in Brooklyn, New York and the program grew steadily across the United States.

In 1992, ACCION joined with nonprofit microlender PRODEM and other local banks and investors to found BancoSol, the world’s first commercial bank focused solely on microfinance, in Bolivia. ACCION established the Gateway Fund to make investments in microfinance institutions worldwide in 1996 and continued to expand its international operations outside the Americas in the 2000s by establishing partnerships with aspiring small business owners in sub-Saharan Africa and India. A partnership with Ecobank led to the founding of EB-Accion Savings and Loans in Ghana in 2007.

ACCION established the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI), a think tank dedicated to taking action to ensure broad access to financial services, in 2008. CFI has collaborated with microfinance experts, financial advisers, banking institutions, investors, and a number of other stakeholders to achieve its goals of financial inclusion.


129.2 Linear Feet

238 Audiovisual Object(s)

558 Digital Object(s)

2 Web sites


This collection is arranged in 12 series: Origins and founding documents; Board of Directors records; CEO records; Financial records; Communications and External Affairs records; Resource Development records; Human Resources records; Center for Financial Inclusion records; Global Programs records; Administrative records; Strategic planning records; and Conference records.

Processing Information

The bulk of this collection was originally organized by Erin Dornbusch at ACCION in 2012. Initial accessions in Series 001 and 006 were processed at the folder level by Sarah Gustafson in 2013. The remainder of the collection was minimally processed in November 2015 -- March 2016 by Dan Bullman and Rose Oliveira, Archives and Research Assistants, under the supervision of Adrienne Pruitt, Collections Management Archivist.

In MS196.006.006: Communications and External Affairs records - Photographs and audiovisual materials, Some items will require further preservation actions in the future, such as rehousing uncut negatives and loose slides. An attempt may be made to reformat two decaying film reels (MS196.006.006.086), if they are salvageable. Duplicate slides and a mousepad were separated for return to the donor. Two used instant film cameras and one roll of exposed 35mm film were also separated pending further donor decisions.

In MS196.008: Human Resources records, Photograph albums were rehoused in a new box. These could be potentially be disassembled for preservation reasons, if a more granular level of processing is done in the future.

In MS196.009, 1.5 cubic feet of duplicative material was separated from the collection. A half of a box of materials related to the merger between ACCION USA and Peer Partnerships INC., Working Capital was moved from Series 9 to Series 10. This material was determined to be more appropriate in Series 10. This series was processed by Rose Oliveira, Archives and Research Assistant, in January 2016.

In MS196.011: Administrative records, this series was processed by Dan Bullman, Archives and Research Assistant, in February 2016. Some personally identifiable information was found, so a 75 year restriction was applied to the series.

In MS196.012: Strategic planning records, this series was processed by Dan Bullman, Archives and Research Assistant, in February 2016.

Notes from Erin Dornbusch, a former ACCION International intern who worked on this collection, were retained in the analog collection documentation file for MS196.

Accession MS-2020-049, including administrative, financial, and human resources records in Series 4, 7, and 10, were processed by Records and Accessioning Archivist, Jane Kelly, in Spring 2020. Accession MS-2022-011, including origins and founding, Board of Directors, Communications and External Affairs, and administrative records in Series 1, 2, 5, and 10, were processed by Records and Accessioning Archivist, Jane Kelly, in Fall 2021. Material was placed in archival folders and series- and collection-level notes were updated at the time of processing.

Processing status

This collection is processed.

Repository Details

Part of the Tufts Archival Research Center Repository

35 Professors Row
Tisch Library Building
Tufts University
Medford Massachusetts 02155 United States