Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Ever wondered how to say “unity” or “agreement” in Swahili?
Founded by Matt and Jessica Flannery in 2005 as the world’s first online micro-lending system, kiva.org partners with microfinance institutions around the world, known as Field Partners (in Kiva language), to help finance small loans to individuals, known as entrepreneurs (in Kiva language), who need loans to sustain their businesses.
Thanks to kiva.org, Kiva is now known as an “agreement” in both Swahili and in English. It is a connection. It is a community. It is a source of livelihood formed through an agreement of loans made by one individual to another. By empowering both the lender and the entrepreneur through their online lending system, Kiva has created a “global community of people connected through lending.”
Kiva has not only provided an opportunity for the poor to live in dignity and respect by pursuing their dreams through partnerships rather than “benefactor relationships,” but it has raised awareness about the importance of microfinancing institutions around the world.
Microfinance institutions fill the void of the lack of financial services available to people who have little cash or income. Since banks generally require clients to have a base amount of assets or income to qualify for a loan (which are accompanied by interest rates), poor people are generally excluded from such financial opportunities.
Kiva uses its field partners (microfinance institutions) on the ground in various regions of the world “to disburse a microloan to an entrepreneur in their community.” A microloan is a small loan given to those living in poverty to help encourage entrepreneurship among those who lack collateral, a credit history, or other financial opportunity.
After the field partners upload an individual entrepreneur’s profile to the Kiva website, lenders on kiva.org, like you and me, can search through the profiles and lend to various entrepreneurs around the world.
Usually, field partners have already made a loan to an entrepreneur by the time their profile is loaded to kiva.org. Therefore, the loans that lenders make on kiva.org are most likely going towards “funds to backfill the loan they’ve (field partners) already disbursed to the entrepreneur.”
Once the entrepreneur repays the loan over time, the field partner repays the loans back to Kiva and through a “net billing system” (used to speed up and minimize the costs of wire transfers), Kiva credits the lender’s account on kiva.org so that the lender can now relend their funds to another entrepreneurial venture.
While some may find the details a bit confusing, Kiva counts on the accountability of loans, rather “than donations where repayment is not expected.”
With a minimum payment of $25 for a loan on kiva.org, one individual has the opportunity to change another’s life. Kiva uses the internet to form a virtual lending institution- to raise funds for their field partners around the world who are constantly lending to local entrepreneurs.
Through the microlending cycle “as of November 2009, Kiva has facilitated over $100 million in loans.”
Although the 34 full-time employees at the Kiva headquarters reside in San Francisco, CA, Kiva’s loans reach the far ends of the earth.
Kiva believes that “People are by nature generous, and will help others if given the opportunity to do so in a transparent, accountable way.”
$25. Whose business will you finance?
Please visit kiva.org to learn more.
(Kiva's mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty).