Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Get Personal with Kiva

This video shows New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof personally following up on a loan he made through Kiva to a baker in Kabul. As a card carrying optimist, I am often baffled by people who find the world a complication of impossible problems. Certainly there’s a lot to be done and done quickly, but there is also cause for hope. People do want to help each other out, but often they just don’t know how to go about it. Enter Kiva and its smart use of the Internet to make contributing to other people’s dreams compelling, accountable and very personal. Kiva is founded on the fantastic principle that the way to change the world is one person at a time. The idea is simple and draws on the ground-breaking work on microcredit done by Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Through Kiva you can make small loans to people who want to get ahead, in places where that is often not an easy thing to do. The key word is loans and all but a small fraction of them are repaid. It is a classic case of thinking local and going global. Kiva works with organizations on the ground in places where a couple of hundred dollars can make a difference to someone with entrepreneurial spirit. A woman wanting to expand her restaurant in Mexico, another in Cambodia who needs to increase her retail stock of fish, a family that wants to build their daughter’s tailoring business. What’s great about Kiva is not just that you can learn about what different businesses need, you can also read about the other lenders and their motivations. We may not all being able to pay a personal visit as Nicholas Kristof did, but the Web certainly can draw us closer together. Kiva is helping to make the world a better place one person at a time. Way to go.


mimi said...

Fantastic, just one of many examples of the power of social networks when done correctly.

Some other things which are along the same vein and worth checking out for those who haven't had a chance:
- "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" ( must read )
- "Design for the Other 90%" only available until Sept 23rd! go see it! run! :) ( http://www.cooperhewitt.org/exhibitions/other/ )
- The work of Amy Smith ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Smith )
- http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/globalcities/default.shtm
( will surely force a sense of empathy to even the most callous soul - eye opening details of everyday lives in global cities )

mimi / canalmercer / ---

Susan Plunkett said...

My son had directed me to Yunas' work some months ago and I felt thrilled and humbled and misty eyed when I read (and read again today). And so VERY encouraged that he has had such an incredibly high pay back rate - that very few have defaulted. An incredible model and schema. I loved the Kristof piece also. I agreed with him that people are often skeptical about where aid goes. When I was young my father worked for a drug company who donated a full boatload of powdered milk to an o/s cause however when they discovered the lot was sold on the black market they withdrew their corporate charity work.

Across my life I've seen quite wealthy people be extraordinarily generous - both of their time and relative wealth and sometimes mentorship or giving people a chance (which is an enormous gift at times). On the other hand it's often the tradespeople and lower middle class who give enormously and most often when they have known themselves what it is to be battlers.

I think most people want a chance to show what they can do and a chance to be truly independent. That's about the nub of my goals I think but if I could pull another or others up with me I would.

I would prompt the thought that in considering overseas aid one might also look at aid at home. I'm not promoting Oprah in saying this and nor am I a regularly viewer however, some years ago I watched a show on the poor middle class and it really opened my eyes. People who had good jobs and a sound education, suddenly living out of cars and so on; often still going to work but doing all they could to hide their living reality from their boss or workmates. Always excusing out of office lunches because they didn't have enough money; showering at truckstops and so on.

Two years ago I found myself homeless and only with the help of my son was I able to go into a cheap motel - where I had to stay for a couple of months.

I would never want to have to do that again but being placed in that situation has probably altered me for ever even though I was significantly better off than people sleeping under a bridge on wet stained mattresses as many were in my town back then.

How do educated, intelligent people find themselves in these positions? It's partly a workforce, open opportunity, closed shop issue - it's a big topic. Unlike many on Oprah I was not badly extended financially, didn't have a gambling problem, had not succumbed to the 'spending-beyond-means' lifestyle. I simply didn't have enough income and enough opportunity to deal with a crisis situation that presented.

Maybe this is why I can get misty about today's topic. It has meaning but has such optimism and hope. As I said to someone recently, I always have time for charity options and I always will no matter how my life turns.

Kempton said...

Kiva is a great organization. My blog friend Mike has used it as a tool to teach his children the important lesson of giving before last Christmas,
and he provided an update this June,

Piotr Jakubowski said...

As soon as you mentioned the way Kiva worked, I thought of the Grameen Bank project that Yunas had previously developed. Needless to say, this is really a great idea - utiilizing the power of internet and technology to better address the needs of people who are less fortunate than we are. It takes the "sponsor a child" format to a new level.

As I peruse through their website, I think I will keep this organization in mind when I find myself contributing back to society in the future.

mimi said...

Why wait for the future when you can start now? :)

Susan Plunkett said...

Piotr.. How about a parallel or companion scheme where you can donate a skill or something material. Certainly many people are better having money but you have great photographic skills and combined with a printery or ISP or... you could offer brochures or business cards or similar which undoubtedly some businesses would embrace and be grateful for. It may be a scheme you could propose at your university (student body or student union) where $ may be short but skills and willingness often aplenty. Jingles, radio ads...many ideas could be applied in such a program.

Susan Plunkett said...

If I may...It can be useful to offer a path of options and suggestions. If one just prompts action it may be at the expense of the person who simply may not be able to afford the option on the table. I know what it's like not to have money hence I look at scenarios from different perspectives and try to pose another way of doing or being that is just as useful but does not demand what an individual may simply be unable to give.

I couldn't give much money either at the moment but I could certainly give time and skill and I do that where I can in my own community - even if it's knitting scarves or beanies and handing them to an underdressed (for weather) homeless person sitting against wall as I walk past them.