Friday, January 23, 2009

Class 6: Kiva Case

Hi everyone! My name is Anna and I will be working Jennifer as well as other course advisors for the duration of the class. I will mostly attend the Monday classes. I will also take notes and in hope that they help, will post them on the blog.

This first post includes two main sections: I) Summary and II) High Level Insights. The second part is broken down into IIA) Overall Points IIB) Student Comments IIC) Jennifer’s Comments.

I am very open to feedback so please let me know what updates I can make to the notes format that would help.


"The numbers are really interesting but they are not what make my heart sing." – Jessica Flannery

As everyone walked into the room Monday afternoon, The WillIAm video regarding Obama played overhead.

Monday’s class focused on the Kiva case – a wonderful example of hot to get attention as well as how to engage others. Kiva is a micro lending website filled with pictures and stories of entrepreneurs in need of funding. Each post on Kiva tells its own story and in Monday’s class Jessica Flannery, co-founder of Kiva, told us hers.

The class began with a story-telling exercise. Jessica put up a picture in front of the class and asked the group to begin crafting a story. The stories shared were very different. Some focused on the clothes – noting that the group dressed-up for the occasion, was excited and posing for the shot. Others commented on a woman’s gestures in the middle of the frame – antsy, possibly unsatisfied and not enjoying her stance in front of the camera.

Next, Jessica projected a close-up shot of a woman, calling our attention to previous associations of such images with poverty as well as the ambiguity of the woman’s expression. Just as this picture began to elicit feelings of guilt and possibly pity, Jessica zoomed the picture out from the close-up of the woman. Now the woman sat in the middle of a market, surrounded by tremendous amounts of ripe produce. Suddenly, the new information conjured feelings of curiosity, respect, and intrigue. The take-away is that additional information and the presentation of your story are very influential to the meaning.

After this exercise, Jessica began story. Her own journey began when she traveled to Tahiti during her high-school years. The poverty she saw stayed with her. In college, Jessica studied philosophy because she wanted to study to ask the right questions, she studied political science to study rules and become familiar with those who made them, and she studied poetry because it helped her express herself. She traveled the world during Semester at Sea as well as on her on volition. Spending three months in Africa, she passed out grants to entrepreneurs in need (i.e. one grant allowed a man with three wives and many children to buy fishnets for his business).

Jessica sent out stories from her travels and noticed that her family and friends wanted to get involved in socially responsible investing (without caring for the jargon of ‘micro lending’. She noticed that upon hearing personalized stories of people in need, her family and friends 1) became engaged 2) began to act / donate and 3) see each other differently as a result.
With this realization, Kiva was born. Jessica co-founded Kiva with her husband Matt.

Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva: 1) empowers individuals on a human level / people view themselves differently as a result of their actions 2) people love and are passionate about Kiva 3) the brand is not copyrighted, which is in line with feelings of intimacy and empowerment the company is founded upon 3) people want to participate; there are lenders that go above and beyond just lending i.e. kivapedia 4) people are not always rational decision-makers / external characteristics matter (i.e. African women get targeted 10x more than Bulgarian men) 5) aesthetically pleasing and very simple layout of site.

A few interesting student comments focused on: 1) The power of detail in a story 2) The factors that contributed to the success of the Kiva site. Jessica attributes a lot of Kiva’s initial success to the fact that the entrepreneurs’ stories were very fun to read. The stories on Kiva were also very personal as opposed to the stories on MicroPlace ( 3) A student inquired about using pictures versus video as the mediums through which content is shared on Kiva. Jessica explained that site plans to launch videos this summer. However, she did emphasize that too much information is bad. 4) Finally, class agreed that in this day and age, it is possible to fund a company through contests.

1) Goal of a Pod is to not make it a transactional experience but a changing experience 2) As think about your stories, keep thinking about the role of measurement. Keep an eye on any opportunity to measure the current state of your cause. It is very important to have a baseline. 3) Play with experimentation and make sure that you keep measuring not only reaction but impressions. 4) One way to view the purpose of this class is to reconnect you with stories that got you into GSB (think: your arsenal of personal stories) 5) One of the most important take-aways from this class is “small”. Everything that we should be doing is “granular.” 5) There is a lot in a name (i.e. .org [highly associated with warm, people do not want to work there, seen as needy] versus .com [competitive, efficient, cool] 6) Jennifer loves the idea of being in love; encourages us to keep thinking about the relationships that we are trying to cultivate.

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