I watched Jessica Jackley’s recently uploaded Tedtalk with growing bewilderment.
It was a wonderful story, or rather, set of stories. Jackley’s own story, of how Muhammad Yunus inspired her to set off to Africa and connect with people to whom she could lend money. Their stories too. And the story of how that grew into Kiva, the $100 million a year mega-gorilla of microfinance for the rest of us. The story of how important stories are, and love, and better tomorrows, and everything. Jessica’s stories were very touching. Heck, she even touched herself. So why the bewilderment?
Because Kiva has never once lived up to its promise to share with me the stories of the people I have lent to.
I’ve been on to Kiva for a long time, having first blogged about it in March 2008. I lent to a group of women in Uganda, who wanted to expand their poultry business. I guess they did that, because they eventually repaid the loan. But I never heard from them or from the intermediaries who handle the money for Kiva (and me). The same story with my second loan. My third loan has not yet finished paying back, and again, I have absolutely no idea how Glória Paulo Ndlala Luela in Mozambique is getting on with her vegetable business.
And that lack of contact is probably why I have made fewer than half the average number of Kiva loans, and why I’m not in a tearing hurry to make more. Selfish? Possibly. But if stories and her relationship with the people she came to know are what motivated Jessica Jackley, perhaps the same would work for me?
I suspect the problem is that precisely because it offered a personal connection to people who needed a loan to work for a better tomorrow, Kiva grew too fast. It is actually a struggle to find a loan I want to fund these days; with so many lenders chasing each project. How could Kiva possibly hope to connect every lender with “their” borrowers? Maybe I’ve just been unlucky. There are lots of journal entries from borrowers, but not mine.1
Kiva helpfully supplies a mass of statistics on each of the intermediaries. That includes some stats on the number of journal entries. I have no idea whether the raw data are available, but I’d love to know whether the frequency with which lenders receive journal entries has an influence on the average number of loans they make.
It would influence me.
2021-10-26: Interesting that today there doesn't seem to be anything on the site resembling those old journal entries. There is a blog. Maybe that's enough. ↩