Intersection spotlight: Kiva

Intersections are important (See previous blog post for more on this). There are many examples of great ways people all over the world are using different ideas and skill sets to benefit journalism. However, I also think it is beneficial to look outside any one particular field for further inspiration. When I am not exploring journalism topics, I often find myself exploring non-profit innovation. In particular I read about social entrepreneurship, and organizations that focus on teaching people skills in entrepreneurship so they can build their own sustainable communities. This week I spent hours reading a case study about one of my favorite such organizations, Kiva. Although the non-profit is technically outside of the journalism realm, a lot can be learned about the way Kiva uses intersections between technology, charity and entrepreneurship.


What Kiva does: 

Kiva is a non-profit organization that has established a unique model of “charity” through its creation of person-to-person micro lending. Kiva allows online users to lend impoverished people around the world as little as $25 to help them in entrepreneurial ventures they would otherwise not have access to. The organization works with microfinance institutions in 73 countries, and has, to date, provided nearly $550 million in microloans with a repayment rate of 99 percent.

What makes Kiva unique:

Person-to-person micro lending essentially didn’t exist before the creation of Kiva. Micro finance institutions functioned to support entrepreneurial ventures in other countries, but they had difficulty tracking loans and impact to particular people. Kiva essentially saw an opportunity to fundamentally change the “charity” model. Instead of encouraging giving money to a generic cause, Kiva emphasizes loaning money to people around the world who are actively working to create and grow a personal business. Kiva also makes these loans social and addictive through its online platform.

Intersections that matter at Kiva:

  • Traditional charity mission + accountability of a traditional business
  • Recognition of international differences + acknowledgement of problems every entrepreneur faces
  • Encouragement of donations + public social profiles to track donations
  • New world online platform + familiar charity feel
  • Giving money to people in need + accountability and purpose with money received

If you’re not as passionate about social entrepreneurship and micro lending as I am, Kiva still may not seem to stand out to you. However, I would argue that Kiva has made an impact far beyond the non-profit realm. For example, Kickstarter and Indiegogo use a very similar “funding” model to that of Kiva. The sites allow users to create a profile and then explain a need for funding. From there, numerous donors all contribute online to that user’s cause with the expectation that the money will be used to accomplish a specific task. This all happens with a focus on social engagement that journalists can especially learn from. Journalists should always be looking for intersections and untapped interest in ways that Kiva did. For instance, journalists should examine how technology can be used to engage an audience in a new way. Journalists can also focus on the importance of person-to-person interactions in trying to engage an audience. I try to look to my interests in technology, entrepreneurship and journalism to consider new, innovative ways to impact the journalism industry. Just as Kiva valued intersections that hadn’t existed before, journalists, too, can benefit from consider of innovation and application in a variety of different fields. Also, side note, working at Kiva or somewhere like it is my absolute dream job. I would love to combine interests in international studies, entrepreneurship and journalism.


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