Harnessing Technology for Social Change

Technology is powerful. It creates endless possibilities for those who choose to harness its potential, such as a doctor who collaborates with an international colleague on a difficult medical case via social media or a busy mom who is able to work from home in order to spend time with her children and circumvent the cost of daycare. Ordinary people leverage the power of technology every day, and more often than realized, conscientious individuals employ the power of technology for the good of others.

Founded in 2005 by Matt and Jessica Flannery, Kiva is a non-profit organization that enables individuals in developed countries to provide microloans to small businesses in developing countries. Partnering with a network of microfinance institutions around the world, Kiva leverages the internet to create opportunities in areas of poverty. Kiva.org is an online platform that channels microloans (as little as $25) to field partners worldwide who in turn distribute the funds to individual borrowers. Furthermore, every Kiva lender has a Kiva account to which the borrower’s payments are deposited based on the specific repayment term and schedule.

A key aspect of Kiva is that it allows lenders to select the individuals and businesses they wish to fund. Kiva relies on its global volunteer base to translate borrowers’ stories to English, allowing lenders to determine which cause they deem important. One such story is that of Blanca Ofelia. Based in Managua, Nicaragua, Blanca is seeking an $850 loan to buy charcoal in order to satisfy local buyer demand. As of March 21, 2013, 41 percent of Blanca’s requested loan has been raised by Kiva lenders.

What sets Kiva apart from the many other peer-to-peer lending websites that have entered the micro-lending space in recent years is that Kiva doesn’t pay interest to lenders. Therefore, in lieu of the financial return you’d often expect from a typical investment, lenders gain the satisfaction of knowing that they are making a tangible difference in the world.

Since its humble beginning, Kiva has grown to include 909,161 lenders, 190 field partners, 450 global volunteers, and operates in 67 countries. It has raised $415,583,075 in loans and has a 99% repayment rate. (http://www.Kiva.org/about) Most notably, every dollar lent though Kiva goes directly toward funding loans. Kiva operations are funded only through donations, grants, corporate sponsors, and foundations.

People interact with technology on a daily basis, but learning how to leverage technology for social good takes strength of mind. Kiva is just one example of how individuals can harness technology’s superpowers to create social change, but similar acts can be observed every day. Technology is powerful, but so are those who understand its potential.