Kiva and the Man Behind It

The two week training in San Francisco was truly phenomenal. I have learned firsthand from powerful leaders from both the private and public sectors. I am talking about people who have worked with Bill Gates and President Kennedy.  And within the NGO world, I met with founders and CEOs directly. I write this only to express how privileged I am to have been able to siphon from such a great wealth of knowledge and experience.

To highlight one of those leaders, I want to share the story of Kiva and its founder, Matt Flannery. Kiva is a “… [NGO which] empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining micro-finance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending.”

That means one can go to the Kiva website, see a photo of an entrepreneur in the developing world and choose to lend them as little as 25 dollars. That person, who otherwise would not have been able to receive a loan due to their lack of collateral (aka, because they live in poverty), can then start a small business to support themselves, their families and local communities and economies. Usually after about six months, they repay the loan in full and continue managing their financially viable ventures.  The Kiva lenders receive their money back and can choose to make new loans, if they wish.

Kiva Facts:

Total value of all loans made through Kiva: $165,001,725

Number of loans that have been funded through Kiva: 226,005

Repayment Rate: 98.91%

After catching a glimpse of their headquarters, we thirty-three fellows and team leaders crammed into a conference room built to accommodate fifteen tops. Then in comes in the big man who had the big idea. But he’s not your stereotypical corporate type. Matt is wearing jeans and a casual short sleeve button down, untucked. Paper coffee cup in hand, he starts to share his story; Kiva’s story. Throughout the presentation, his demeanor is anything but dominating.

“I’m just a computer guy,” he says. “I’m just good at building a platform, so that’s what I do.”

His humility is stirring. He has accomplished so much and he is just 33.

I encourage anyone to visit Kiva online, learn more about the system, and make a loan.  I currently have outstanding loans in Peru, Ecuador, Uganda and Mali.

I would like to offer a round of applause to the GCY staff for bringing so many outstanding speakers into contact with a young and passionate group of high school graduates. I will carry the many lessons and inspirations with me to my future work in Senegal and beyond.