Release to refresh
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Happy to be here. Looking forward to a thoughtful conversation!
This Q&A took place between 7/1/15 and 7/8/15. Unanswered questions have been hidden
17 questions
Founder, 10 TRAITS Leadership Institute; UN Virtual Mentor
As a KIVA donor, I have found the experience very rewarding. My question: Has KIVA looked at the issue of *human trafficking* and the impact that donations may have in creating an economic safety net for high risk slum women? As a Virtual Mentor with the United Nations I have recommended KIVA to a young woman African leader in Uganda. She has been lifting 200 young women out of the slums of Kampala by teaching them micro-entrepreneurship. I saw it as a way to help their micro businesses achieve economic success and thus reduce the HIGH risk of Human Trafficking.
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Kiva has several Field Partners working with vulnerable populations including high-risk, high-poverty women. You can see a list of those partners and others here:

If your friend in Uganda is interested in becoming a Field Partner with Kiva you can direct her here
How did you mobilise and engage the community to actually fund individuals when you first started? Trust is a key element here, so how did you actually create that sense within your initial communities?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
We started small, and knew every single one of our initial lenders, so the trust was already there in our existing relationships. From there, we grew through word of mouth as our friends and family told more and more of their friends and family (again, trust already existed). Beyond this though, I think we helped build trust by making a commitment to stay as transparent as possible in our work and show the good, bad, and ugly – the realities of the start-up journey – along the way. This made people feel a part of everything that unfolded, and I think really galvanized their loyalty.
Suppose Kiva was a for profit company, and not a non-profit. Would that have made accelerated or impeded growth, and why?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
If Kiva had been a for-profit company, I believe it would've severely impeded growth, if not stopped us in our tracks altogether. People gave us a lot of goodwill because the organization was mission driven, and this was a big deal when we were one of just two (Prosper.come started in Oct 2005 as well) groups pioneering p2p lending online. So, I think we had an easier time than others in those early stages, taking a big risk on a new product (p2p loans) in a nascent industry. This goodwill also existed among other partners and potential lenders. For example, PayPal waived their transaction fees for Kiva early on and continues to do so. That's been a huge advantage.
Would transforming Kiva into a platform that offers low interest loans -- and thus provides a return to the lenders, as well as a financing stream for the organization itself (the spread) -- allow it to scale more rapidly?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Disclaimer, I'm just speaking personally (not for Kiva!) but my gut says no. There's a ton of demand for the 0% loan product. And Kiva has other levers they could pull to turn on add'l revenue streams if they chose to, like collecting interest from field partners, for instance. Adding interest - again just my opinion here - would muddy the waters and split motivations among lenders, instead of seeing people participate for purely social reasons. (Also see question/answer at the very top of this Q&A about Kiva being a non-profit or a for-profit.)
Hi! Thanks for doing this Q&A. Do you think Kiva's micro-lending model could be scaled to solving poverty and wealth inequality on a global scale?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
I think we have a long way to go but believe that this is already beginning to happen; Kiva works in countries all over the world. I think we need to go beyond microlending to include other financial products and services too, like microinsurance and microsavings as well.
Researcher @ Harvard | Parlio community manager
Do you think Kiva is scalable across different cultures? I assume that there's a degree of localization that's required, but I wonder if this is a particularly relevant consideration (or not really).
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Kiva has lenders and borrowers all over the world - so yes!
PhD candidate at George Mason University
Thanks Jessica for taking my question! You built Keiva on the concept of lending, do you think building the same project on the concept of shares and stock market would work as well?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Of course. But it's much more complicated legally. My second company focused on helping U.S. entrepreneurs crowdfund for investment capital - more info here if you'd like
Hi Jessica, I like Kiva and think it's s really great. I can see it highly needed and working in underdeveloped, but stable countries.
Unfortunately, in our part of the world, it looks like we'll be seeing a very rough decade ahead of us (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya,..).
Do you think in the future we'll start seeing mini-Kiva platforms focuses on specific areas, for example one for Refugees Camps?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Kiva is working in many conflict regions including Iraq and Yemen, they also have partners working with Syrian refugees throughout the region from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Through Kiva’s main lending page you can select entrepreneurs by country and you can also select entrepreneurs by “attributes” including vulnerable groups, conflict zones and disaster recovery.

For Kiva’s beginning attempts to develop mini-Kiva platforms for various audiences and regions you can check out or
Product Guy / Fellow @ Harvard Ash Center
Thanks for helping make Kiva happen! I'm a big fan of your work. Kiva's 98% repayment rate is surprisingly high. I was wondering what were the main reasons behind maintaining such an impressive metric from the beginning? Did you anticipate that to happen when you launched Kiva?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Well thank you for making Parlio happen! The high repayment rates are indicative of great field partners and great borrowers. Kiva's field partners (and many microfinance institutions worldwide) are committed to being mission driven and doing whatever they can to help borrowers succeed. And borrowers work harder than anyone to improve their lives and the lives of their families.
I did anticipate this kind of borrower success when Kiva was beginning, because high repayment rates are common throughout the microfinance sector.
I've read about the beautiful benefits realized by Kiva entrepreneurs after receiving funds. Have you ever queried or studied the benefits realized by those who have donated funds? Have their financial contributions positively impacted their lives? If so, in what ways?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
I don't have data on this but Kiva may. In my anecdotal experience, though, Kiva gives lenders a way to see the world differently - ideally, their eyes are opened to 1) others' entrepreneurial potential, 2) their own ability to be a changemaker, and 3) the reality that there are opportunities everywhere to make the world better.
Chief Digital Officer @MetMuseum • tech evangelist & skeptic
What are three things you'd have to do differently if Kiva were launching today?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
1) Start sooner
2) Move more quickly
3) Worry less
Hi Jessica, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! As a prominent business woman, you have been able to overcome the subtle societal barriers against female leaders. How have you maintained your authority while embracing your femininity and avoiding backlash that many other women have suffered for contradicting gender norms?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Thanks for the question. In short, I think I've just tried to interact in a genuine, transparent way with each individual/group before me, trying my best to speak their language and meet people where they are. From my experience, any sort of broader assumptions people might have about you - whether because of gender, race, or anything else - can be overcome by 1-1 personal interactions.
Associate Dean, Columbia U- Graduate School of Journalism
Hi Jackie. First, I think that Kiva is a really amazing thing! And second, thank you for taking our questions. What made you think of pairing framing entrepreneurship as a means to assist others? Does asking people to provide loan money attract different demographics than asking for donations? Why $25 rather than a larger amount or allowing folks to set the amount they want to give to a given project/person?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
I wanted to tell a new story of poverty and potential, not just the stories focused on sadness and suffering many NGOs perpetuate. Check out my TED talk for the fuller story
Hi Jessica! So happy you're doing this--thank you so much for sharing your time. I have a couple questions.

As an entrepreneur, your work focuses on ideas that can be useful to different communities. What initially interested you in the social justice which drives your entrepreneurship?

What's the best decision you made in your professional career?

Any advice for young, aspiring entrepreneurs?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Best decision I made in my career is also the best advice I have for aspiring young social entrepreneurs: to take a big risk early on to go get close to the people I wanted to serve. This allowed me to better understand them, gain important insights that would shape my work for years to come, and gain some legitimacy. For me this meant taking an unpaid internship in East Africa for three months. For you it may (and probably will!) mean something else!
Grad student at Northwestern University
Regarding the effectiveness of microfinance and social enterprise in addressing poverty, there are many criticisms. What's your take on it? And what do you think the role of social entrepreneurs are for a young person, vs. going into governance with an entrepreneurial and data-driven mindset, in the impacts?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Microcredit, of the kind offered by Kiva and their Field Partners helps serve the 2.5 billion “unbanked” by helping them get access to formal sector financial services. Financial inclusion doesn’t single-handedly cure poverty, but it can be an important stepping stone toward poverty alleviation.

There are many microcredit providers and many different microcredit services. Therefore microcredit overall cannot be painted with one big brush. One of the lead researchers in this space is Dean Karlan, who points out the dangers of oversimplifying microcredit to “always good” or “always bad.” In his paper “Innovation, Inclusion and Trust: The Role of Non-Profits in Microfinance,” Karlan argues there is still important work to be done in search of a sweet spot between financial viability and social impact.
He went on to state that, “NGOs may be better suited to exploring creative improvements. Because an NGO’s final goal is not profit but increasing the welfare of a population, they can innovate with a focus on impact, not mere financial profits.”

This type of innovation and experimentation is what Kiva, as a nonprofit, is doing by partnering with social mission driven Field Partners around the globe. Kiva is directing more and more of their crowdfunded capital to social enterprises, NGOs, and microfinance institutions that are going beyond classic microcredit to address issues central to the improvement of microcredit and poverty alleviation. Issues such as: flexible repayments, wrap-around services, access to education, and others.

Kiva is in a unique position to help the industry adapt and evolve. Check out and here:
Chief Digital Officer @MetMuseum • tech evangelist & skeptic
What are some ways Silicon Valley can solve its diversity crisis?
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Ahh. This is a tough one. Where to start. I think orgs need to acknowledge the problem, and continue having open conversations about what's working, and what's not. They need to work harder - and spend more resources on - recruiting from a wider range of colleges and geographic regions. They need to hire differently for non-tech roles too. Culture needs to shift and become more welcoming. And, importantly, once a great diverse team is in the door, there's a lot of work to be done to maintain great work environments and retain talent for the long haul - especially during times when, for instance, people are going through more intense seasons outside of work, like becoming new parents. We have a long way to go!
Negotiator with a passion for cultural differences
Hi Jessica. It is not often that we get the chance to ask questions to someone who had such a big impact on the world.

My question. How did you manage to go viral with Kiva? Did you focus on a great product and people noticed you? Or was there a grand plan that you came up with? I usually think that the "build it and they will come" is an illusion.... However I would like to be proven wrong :)
Author of Clay Water Brick, Co-founder of Kiva
Like anything, it had to do with both 1) what we could control and 2) what we couldn't. Re: what we could control, we did try to build a great product, build in virality, give up a lot of control to users and encourage them to spread the word, etc. And, no one else was doing exactly what we were doing (0% p2p loans) so that in and of itself helped generate some buzz. It was new and unique. But then, the things we couldn't control took over. We ended up having great timing -it was the UN year of microcredit, and Dr. Muhammed Yunus won the Nobel prize a few months after we launched, and a number of other things unfolded that drove traffic to the site. At the end of the day, we just tried to be good stewards of this idea and the incredible entrepreneurs' stories that are told on the site. We were lucky to get to attempt this idea first!