Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finding your own voice in the proud stories of entrepreneurs:

This class is becoming more than a learning experience for me. I am really enjoying the materials we are covering and the project I am working on, but most of all, I feel like I am reconnecting with my business school essays, and reminding myself why I came here and what I want to do in the future.

Listening to Jessica Flannery, Kiva’s founder, present to our Power of Social Technology class was an eye-opening experience in that regard. She is living proof that it is possible to translate what you are passionate about into a business. She is committed to a cause- solving poverty in the developing world- and she has dedicated her life to it. She spent years in the poorest countries, not because she feels guilty about her comfortable life here in the US or because she pities the people who don’t have the same comforts that she enjoys. Rather, she follows this pursuit because she is fascinated by the stories of the people she has met along the way and because she wants to contribute to a happy ending in those narratives. These people’s stories inspired her just as her story inspired me. These are “stories of hope and dignity” as Professor Muhammed Yunus says.

The power of story:

The presentation started with a photo of a woman. It was zoomed in so that only her face could be seen in the picture. It was similar to marketing materials you would see from any international NGO. I felt the following emotions: “She needs your help. Please donate.” You don’t establish a positive emotional connection with the individual in the picture or the cause NGO is trying to grab your attention to.

Jessica confirmed these feelings saying that this is how people tried to approach the problem so far. People tend not to focus on the negative feelings. The next slide was the same picture but zoomed out; the women in a marketplace with baskets of tomatoes that she was trying to sell. The faces of the students in the room changed immediately; instead of being tense and defensive, as they were initially, curiosity was evident in their eyes and they were smiling.

Then we saw the third slide, which is the same picture that’s on’s website. This slide had all of the information about the woman. She had a name, a nickname, a job. People got even more curious.

Jessica spoke about the woman with the tomatoes. I felt emotions that were invoked by looking at the photo. I was able to observe how people care about other peoples’ hopes and dreams. This is the powerful nature of being able to interconnect people. This is the power of the story and the thing that brings millions to Kiva to help.

I once wrote that “creativity” matters to me the most. I am really fond of the intellectual arsenal I am gaining at business school, but I think creativity also requires the involvement of inspiration through emotions. After listening to Jessica Flannery today, I felt inspired and I realized that my true essence—being creative—needs more attention and care.


1 comment:

  1. One of the things Jessica said that really stuck with me was:
    "These are the people I've had the privilege of lending to", while showing us her profile page of borrowers. Her progressive outlook on development work really comes through in the specific vocabulary that she consistently uses. I've been thinking about the power of vocabulary lately in affecting change, and how powerful intelligent and innovate word-choice can be. She really drove that home.