It’s done! As of last night, I and 27 others have officially becomes Kiva Fellows Class 7. We are joining about 140 others that have already undergone the training and worked in the field over the last 3 years of Kiva’s existance. And I got to say – it feels pretty damn great! As many have mentioned at a graduation dinner yesterday, you feel privileged being a part of an organization like this.
So, what exactly is Kiva and what is the role of a Kiva Fellow?
If I haven’t described it to you yet – in a nutshell, Kiva.org is a non-profit organization that enables people to lend small sums of money (starting at $25) to entrepreneurs in the developing world through technology. The purpose of these loans is to help people create new income opportunities for themselves by having resources to start micro-businesses, whether it’s raising chickens or selling goods at a local market. You’d be amazed how far a small loan of $500-1,000 can go.
As a lender through Kiva, you have a unique opportunity to observe the impact that the loan is making on the borrower through journal updates on the site. And, unlike with a donation, you actually get your money back – currently, the repayment rate stays strong at almost 98%.
Think of it as social investment – instead of getting a 1-3% interest on your money by putting them in a CD, you get a social return of helping another individual better their life.
One of the past Fellows created a terrific video showing exactly how the process works. It’s a great video – check it out using the link below:
So what are you going to be doing with Kiva exactly, Borya?
This is probably the most common question I’ve been getting since I announced my plans. And, unfortunately, probably the most difficult one to answer.
Let me start at the beginning.
Kiva facilitates these loans (80,000 of them so far) in over 70 developing countries through local organizations on the ground called MFIs (microfinance institutions). These organizations existed prior to Kiva, and they are an integral part of this system – as they are the ones that find the borrowers, do their due diligence, handle the disbursement and collections, and provide information back to the lenders.
The role of a Kiva Fellow (me!) is to work with these Field Partners to improve the relationship between them and Kiva, as well as to document the impact of microfinance on the borrowers. These MFIs get funding from Kiva (Kiva’s lenders, to be exact) at 0% interest in exchange for providing information about the borrowers (pictures, descriptions, journal updates, and so on).
The role of each Fellow can vary tremendously. The Kiva staff has a challenge of training 28 people in just 5 days for very different and unique experiences that everyone will face. Granted, at its core, our roles are similar in that we’ll be working at our respective MicroFinance organizations to help them embrace the Kiva platform at its fullest.
But each partner is different – they are based in different countries, have different organizational cultures, have different needs and goals – so that’s why all of our workplans are purposely kept flexible, so that we can adapt to the situation on the ground.
Over the next 7 months, I will be blogging both about the experience of living in Central Asia (and wherever else I wind up), as well as the information I learn and pick up about micro-finance. My first placement is a 10-week assignment at an MFI in Dushanbe, Tajikistan called Humo. I’ll have a lot more information about them in future posts.
Till next time!