I recently registered for the MESH conference in Toronto (April 7 & 8 at the fabulous MaRS Collaboration Centre), and one of the keynote speakers is Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org a new spin on microfinancing.
I remember hearing about micro-financing many years ago when I worked for the International Development Research Centre. The concept was first introduced by the Grameen Bank as a way to help alleviate poverty in developing countries by empowering people to take action themselves. It’s a great concept, and over time it’s certainly proven it’s value as one means of helping people to help themselves, and to provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
Kiva.org broadens the concept through the power of the participatory web to allow anyone around the world to become a micro-lender. It’s quick and simple to create an account, add funds through PayPal or with a credit card, and direct those funds to micro-borrowers from anywhere around the world. Kiva works with a network of microfinancing institutions around the world to receive funding requests and dispurse loans.
Through the Kiva website lenders can easily track the repayment of funds, and search for other opportunities to support interesting ventures of entrepreneurs in developing countries. Kiva also helps to connect lenders through their groups feature, which allows group members to collaborate with each other, and target their funds together in support of partiuclar ventures.
Great to see the power of web 2.0 being put to such great use and having a significant impact (over $64 million in funds dispursed to almost 100,000 unique loan requests) to improve the lives of people who are otherwise quite removed from the developed world.
I’m looking forward to hearing more from Jessica at the MESH conference in a few weeks. In the interim, be sure to check out Kiva.org.