An update from Rahfin’s Engaged Learning blog:

Chelsea Clinton with students at CGI America

Chelsea Clinton with students at CGI America

According to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, American civic engagement is at an all-time low. Fewer people are volunteering. Even fewer are joining clubs and associations. And, yes, bowling alleys — supported by bowling clubs — across the country are closing.

The end impact, according to Putnam, is falling social capital and trust. The glue that makes a democracy work is getting less sticky.

This week, I had the opportunity to attend CGI America. Representatives from the private, public, nonprofit and academic sectors — four sectors often divided — came together to discuss and propose solutions on some of America’s greatest domestic problems: rising inequality, growing urban-rural divide, declining manufacturing, falling test scores and decaying infrastructure.

At first glance, America’s future seems bleak. But, after attending meetings, I can say that America’s future is still bright.

In a session, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew said, “I believe in the resiliency of the American spirit.”

In a new century, Americans will have to tackle problems that there are no frameworks for — climate change, demographic shifts brought on by aging and migration and globalization.

I am here to represent my microfinance organization, Green Riba, which seeks to deliver zero-interest loans to West Dallas, a socioeconomically disadvantaged part of Dallas.

Microfinance organizations usually fall into a high interest trap. Because loan sizes are small and the risk of default is higher but operational costs stay about the same, organizations charge interest rates higher than those at a traditional bank.

Slowly, however, the framework on high interest loans is changing. Recently, Kiva, an international microfinance organization that has delivered more than a million loans, launched Kiva Zip.

The approach is a radical one. Realizing that even traditional microfinance loans left room for financial exclusion, Kiva Zip is dedicated to offering zero-interest loans to the most vulnerable: refugees, the unemployed and the undocumented.

No one framework has the solution. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

It will take new ideas and paradigms to solve our most complex problems. CGI America has given me hope that this type of radical change is possible.