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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kiva.org works

I've made a lot of microfinance loans in developing countries through Kiva.org. If you are curious, you can look at my loan profile.

As I read through these profiles, I've become concerned about the "Queen for a Day" nature of these stories. "Queen for a Day" is a classic game show of the 1950's in which 3 women told a sob story of their woes, and the one the audience judged most deserving -- by an Applause-O-Meter -- won. They usually won a washer and dryer. (Even as a kid, I never thought Queen Elizabeth did her own laundry.)

I like seeing what the money is being used for, but I can't judge in reading these profiles who's worthy and who's not and I feel uncomfortable feeling that an ignorant person thousands of miles away (me) is deciding who gets "Loans that change lives" and who doesn't.  And I hate to think somebody's going to be told "No, you said you needed $1000 but the rich Americans only donated $225. Maybe if you'd looked more pitiful in your picture." 

I'm happy to see that they've updated their explanation of how it really works, and that I'm not really making the decision, just supporting the microlending agency on this specific loan to a specific person and on others which they have already made, in order for them to make similar loans in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:10 AM

    I can relate to the uncomfortable feeling you have when choosing who to loan to. On the one hand, I console myself with the thought that (I'm guessing) most entrepreneurs are funded, so few submissions get retracted. On the other hand, I see it as a limitation not so much of Kiva but of the extent of development and use of the Internet as applied to social entrepreneurship. As technology improves and is applied to greater extents to solve social problems, perhaps Kiva and/or new sites can grow that can connect people around the world in more tangible, intimate, and long-term ways. Already, the accomplishment of Kiva to host a large community of people with a common purpose (lenders and borrowers) can be used for tremendous social impact in the future. As for the criticisms that Kiva has misled lenders in their marketing, I think they go too far, because if you sit down with Kiva for a half an hour, you fully understand how Kiva works in the sense that lenders fund microfinance institutions, not individuals directly, because the website is so transparent. (Van)