So, after a long time of ‘going to‘, I finally made a loan via micro-finance site, kiva.org.
Kiva.org basically take money invested by normal people on the web as a loan offer, and via local funding groups and charities, pool this money to make larger loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs in developing areas of the world. It seems to be a good thing. In their own words:
“Kiva’s mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending.”
I first heard about Kiva in November 2008 in a fairly odd way – I was listening to twit.tv’s open source FLOSS podcast and the Mifos team mentioned that their software was used by several micro-finance organisations including Kiva, and I made a point of following up on it, and then completely failed to actually make a loan despite reading up on several of the hundreds of people looking for investment, and creating a login.
Anyway, a friend on Twitter, @bl0ke, actually had got off the sofa and put some time and money into Kiva, so finally I thought I should too.
Actually, one of the hardest things, I discovered, is selecting which ‘someone’ to invest in – there’s people and ideas literally from all over the world. How to narrow it down? Well I went on a couple of factors for my first loan – firstly, I thought I would try someone inside Asia since that’s been my second home continent for the last decade or so, and secondly, something in manufacturing. I come from a manufacturing background, did manufacturing at university before somehow ending up in IT, and I still believe that a solid manufacturing base is vital in any community and economy.
Eventually then I ended up browsing some companies in Thanh Hoá, Viet Nam, and one was a metal working company essentially run by three women (as Mật Sơn 1- Đông Vệ Group) , who themselves were part of a larger initiative, so there we are, and within a couple of minutes, I’ve donated 25USD to them to be paid back in just over a year.
Done. Sure, I don’t get any interest on that investment, but as I live in Japan, I’m used to not getting paid interest anyway. There’s also an element of risk (~1% of loans don’t get repaid), but really, for just knowing that you can help someone bootstrap or build something for that amount of money to me is fantastic, and what crowd-sourcing is all about.
There are quite a few organisations like this, going from this grass roots work, to more tech and artist savvy places like Kickstarter, but whatever your interest and view point, I think this is a decent use of a few notes.
Give it a try.