CGD Policy Blogs
I haven't blogged much in the last week because other things have occupied me. After helping my San Francisco sister celebrate a significant birthday of undisclosed number, I had a great visit to Kiva's headquarters (stay tuned). Over the weekend I taught dance for the first time (very satisfying, and under redwoods so awe-inspiring I can only call them sacred). I had a passing encounter with my family in DC.
[I am honored to host Matt Flannery as my first guest blogger. My October 2 post about Kiva generated copious commentary and tweeting. Accepting a guest strays somewhat from the construct of this blog, but seems highly appropriate in this case.--David Roodman]
This is Matt Flannery, Co-Founder and CEO of Kiva.
I recently read and enjoyed David’s article “Kiva Is Not Quite What It Seems”. The article is well-written and thoughtful, and has generated a lot of passionate responses. I'm writing here because I thought it would be helpful to hear from Kiva, as part of this dialogue, to increase understanding about what Kiva does and where it is going.
I see Kiva as a public property, “owned”, in a sense, by its three main constituents---the entrepreneurs, the lenders and the MFI partners, all of whom we serve. It is a delicate balance to serve all three at once. Sometimes it may seem that, for a particular decision, one has to benefit at the expense of the others. However, this is a short-sighted way of looking at things.
I firmly believe that, in the long run, each of Kiva’s constituencies want the others to be well-served, as they are all inter-connected, and rely on each other in their shared efforts towards poverty alleviation. What is needed to create this environment of mutual support is rich communication, promoting greater understanding around the challenges and needs of each constituent.
The Kiva website serves as the hub for that communication to take place. However, large gaps in communication still remain. We at Kiva have a long way to go to increase the level of understanding between the three parties and this article sheds some light on certain areas where we can improve.
Chapter 7 of my book analyzes the impacts microfinance through Amartya Sen's definition of "development as freedom." It focuses on credit, the financial service whose impacts on freedom are most ambiguous. Perusing the thoughtful commentary on the blog post for the chapter draft, I was struck by how most of it deals in concepts.
Kiva is the path-breaking, fast-growing person-to-person microlending site. It works this way: Kiva posts pictures and stories of people needing loans. You give your money to Kiva. Kiva sends it to a microlender. The lender makes the loan to a person you choose. He or she ordinarily repays. You get your money back with no interest. It's like eBay for microcredit. You knew that, right? Well guess what: you're wrong, and so is Kiva's diagram. Less that 5% of Kiva loans are disbursed after they are listed and funded on Kiva's site.