Thursday, January 22, 2009

Getting Personal with Kiva

Yesterday, Jessica Flannery – the founder of Kiva – came and shared her personal story with the class. As Diego has already captured her amazing story-telling capability, I will focus on 3 other aspects that really struck me during her speech.
1) Changing the way people view poverty
2) A clear focus on the individual
3) The analogy of “falling in love”

Changing the way people view poverty
Often, poverty is presented to the public with the message that YOU should feel bad. Jessica mentioned that when she would see images of women or children in poverty, it would make her feel sad and almost sick inside. After traveling through East Africa with the Village Enterprise Fund, she saw stories of dignity and hope, and began to think about people in poverty much differently. Part of her goal is to give a different view of poverty. As we saw with the Help Sameer campaign, portraying an issue in a more light-hearted nature can be extremely effective.

A clear focus on the individual
The best example of this is when Jessica mentioned that large corporations have offered to donate large amounts of money to Kiva. Kiva will only accept these donations if the money to individuals on the site, not as a large lump sum. This would take away from Kiva’s mission to connect people.

Falling in Love
Kiva has done ~$57M in loans and has over 360,000 lenders. Why do people keep re-lending their money and why does Kiva occasionally run out of people who need loans? Jessica said she can only use the analogy that people have fallen in love with Kiva and the individuals they lend money to, and people in love do not always act rationally. This can be seen by the creation of Kiva-pedia, and other Kiva initiatives that were not started by the staff.

For our own projects, we should strive for people to fall in love with the individual and portray stories of hope.

-Lisa Robinson


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  2. Technology only becomes powerful when their is a compelling social purpose. Until yesterday, our project had a clear goal: raise scholarships for underprivileged students. But is it only this that separates children from reaching their goals? Today we met Ariel, a wonderful 16 year old student at Phoenix Academy whose greatest problem is commuting from her new house to the school where she belongs. 3 hours per day that she use in a more productive way. When asked about her greatest need to get a better education her answer was a car. Should we help her raise/borrow money for that? Will our focus distract our purpose or will our focus distract our purpose? Shouldn't the network decide? Will she be offended if the network ignores her demand?