Kiva: A Great Idea Whose Time Has Come

By Ben Bull
Published November 14, 2008

Here's a great idea whose time has come. A little website called Kiva is making a difference in the toughest parts of the world.

"The global credit crisis may be rocking the mainstream economy," reports the Star, "but thousands of individuals are still logging on to to lend as little as $25 to entrepreneurs in impoverished countries.

"Founded in 2005 by American Jessica Jackley Flannery and her husband, Matt, the world's first online micro-loan organization has built a network of more than 350,000 lenders from 78 countries who are helping to lift thousands out of poverty in the developing world. To date, Kiva has lent almost $50 million."

It works, too.

"Kiva gives everybody a very specific – and doable – way of doing something amazing," said Kiva founder Jessica Flanner, "to help someone on the other side of the planet with their particular project... It's compelling and intriguing to say hey, if you have $25 we're not even going to ask you to give it away. We're just saying lend it to this goat herder in Uganda and over the next few months the goat herder will tell you how it goes and give the money back. And who can say no to that? ... Most people who try it get hooked."

We've talked quite a bit, on the RTH commentary pages, about 'balance' in the world, the idea that you only get out what you put in. I'm a big proponent of this.

A friend of mine recently headed out to Kenya, to work for the Christian charity AIM (check out my friend's blog). He told me about a small school he was trying to help out. The man running the school wanted a couple of hundred school uniforms, so my friend organized a drive and brought him the money. But then order changed.

"I need more uniforms," said the man. "Another hundred or so should do it."

My friend explained that this man did not seem to understand how difficult it was to raise the cash.

"He had this idea that the West was a big money pit ... that he just had to hold out his hand and the money would appear."

Not that the man wasn't grateful, but he had a skewered sense of what was owed, and how to get it.

Sustainability doesn't just apply to our environment and our economy. It applies to everything we do. Check out Kiva's website and lend a helping hand today.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2008 at 21:42:56

Ben, this is awesome.

I have been reading the stories of these entrepreneurial people and I am very impressed.

I wouldn't even consider this charity, but a true investment in making the world a safer and healthier place for all of us.

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By bm (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2008 at 16:02:34

To promote this model further, Kiva has partnered with Advanta, a credit card company catering to the small businesses in the US, to launch two credit cards - Kiva Business Kiva Consumer. The interesting part is that if I make the grant to Kiva through these cards, Advanta matches my loan upto some $200 per month greatly enhancing my small contribution. Whats more, I also become a part of a select community on which offers good tips to small businesses.

Overall an excellent model to support an entrepreneur and do my bit!!

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