Barbara Zaha is a Justmeans staff writer for Social Enterprise because of her passionate commitment to and knowledge of not-for-profit organizations and social enterprises. As an accomplished writer and not-for-profit consultant specializing in integrated communications, comprehensive strategies and development. she has served both local and national organizations as well as held various leadershi...
Kiva's Innovative Impact Offers Poor Students Hope
Earlier this week, the world's first social enterprise to enable person-to-person microfinancing, Kiva, announced a provocative, innovative program that will introduce microfinance opportunities specifically designated for students in poverty stricken regions. The creative social enterprise, formerly hailed by Fortune magazine as the "hottest non-profit on the planet," has once again introduced the world to a new paradigm for positive social change so obvious it's ingenious.
Education being a vital route out of cyclic poverty, Kiva's newest program has been launched in Paraguay, Bolivia, and Lebanon to provide access to higher education for impoverished students. Student loans will be requested, financed and re-paid through the organization's web site, Kiva.org, using the same simple process established to provide microfinancing to social entrepreneurs in poverty stricken regions around the world. By creating a global community of people connected through lending, Kiva has actualized its mission to alleviate poverty through microfinance opportunities. The new project, which the social enterprise intends to expand to 15 additional countries by the end of the year, could very well be the impetus needed to make education accessible for everyone around the world. Imagine the impact! In a world where millions are too poor even to be able to have their children attend elementary school, the idea of using microfinance to access higher education for these very students is, indeed, exponential good.
"Kiva sees the educational loans as part of a larger ecosystem," shares Premal Shah, President of Kiva.org. "What we've seen is of those people that can get an education, there's a 200-300% lift in income level. That's why it's so prized for those that can access it."
Kiva, which is Swahili for "unity" or "agreement," has achieved remarkable results through a simple yet powerful formula. An exceptionally modest minimum loan amount of $25 empowers microlenders, be they institutions or individuals, to literally transform lives by financing entrepreneurial or educational needs of the world's very poor. There is no interest charged or earned in the magnificently simple microfinancing process. Virtually anyone with a desire to enhance the lives of others and an e-mail address can become a microlender via the organization's website. This truly unique peer-to-peer lending approach encourages a real one-to-one connection, a relationship, to evolve which surpasses a typical financial transaction. By amplifying the concept of a global community, Kiva fosters both opportunity and meaningful, often life changing, personal connections that evoke greater understanding and cooperation.
When Kiva.org started up in 2005, it was the world's first microlending website, a true pioneer in the world of microfinance. By inviting people the world over to make interest-free loans as small as $25 to impoverished entrepreneurs with a click of the mouse, Kiva inspired an entire generation of philanthropists. To date, Kiva has been the inspiring catalyst for an astounding $161,899, 525 in loans to 417,338 entrepreneurs in 206 countries. Stats that would be impressive under any condition are staggering for an organization a mere 5 years old. Kiva co-founders Matt and Jessica Flannery have no intention of settling for these astounding results, but instead plan on expanding on the basic precepts of our interconnectedness, the inherent generosity in human nature, and the success attainable by even the poorest if given an opportunity to reach $1 billion in microfinance transactions in the next five years. In the process of doing exponential good around the globe, Kiva promotes dignity, accountability and transparency in all their activities.
Cited as one of the top 50 websites by Time magazine, Kiva has been recognized around the world as authentic trendsetter intent on continuously making an even greater and more pronounced positive impact. By combining the culture and approach of an internet start-up with an intense focus on alleviating global poverty, the social enterprise is poised to take this unprecedented success in social innovation to a whole new level.
Photo Credit: Nasim Fekrat