About four and a half years ago, I was on a plane to Kenya, about to begin a new job doing microenterprise development throughout East Africa. The next three months would change my life, as I’d meet more than 100 entrepreneurs whose stories would inspire the creation of Kiva.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person microlending Web site, empowering individuals to lend directly to an entrepreneur in a developing country. Combining microfinance with the power of the Internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending.

From a handful of friends and family lending $3,000 to seven entrepreneurs in Uganda, in less than three years since Kiva’s inception, the organization has facilitated nearly $40 million in loans from 330,000 lenders to 60,000 entrepreneurs worldwide.

Kiva has had a number of outstanding corporate partners along the way who have catalyzed our work and helped us create a long-lasting Internet public good. PayPal, for instance, provides Kiva with access to technology, research, workplace resources, employee volunteers, and free payment processing (Kiva’s largest variable cost), thus enabling 100 percent of the loaned funds to reach entrepreneurs in developing countries. Oliver Wyman provides dedicated, ongoing support from their consultants, who spend between four to six months at Kiva’s San Francisco office working alongside Kiva staff to tackle pressing business issues. Yahoo! provides free Yahoo! Search Marketing keywords, and several Yahoo! employees are helping Kiva develop a more robust online platform. There are many more. We’re deeply grateful to all of these innovative, socially-minded organizations for their partnership.

And we’ve been thinking more and more about the individuals who make up those companies, and the tools they need to work together on Kiva more easily. Soon, Kiva will make it even easier for any group of individuals—whether a corporation, school, religious organization, family, or group of friends—to get involved as a group, and show organization-level support.

This fall, Kiva will launch a new feature allowing Kiva users to create or join lending teams. Each lending team will have a page on the Kiva Web site to track and summarize the lending activity of all individual lenders associated with that team.

The way Kiva works is not changing. People will still make loans as individuals. But now, they’ll also have the added option of teaming up with like-minded lenders, inviting others to join in and having their loans count towards a team total. Our hope is that lending teams will provide an easier way for Kiva enthusiasts to spread the word at work, at school, and elsewhere. Keep an eye out for this exciting new feature!

Kiva operates on a simple, but powerful premise: A loan of $25 can change a life. We hope lending teams encourage people to get involved and then involve others in a meaningful way.

imageJessica Jackley Flannery cofounded Kiva, the first peer-to-peer microlending Web site, and believes that microfinance, relationships, and stories are powerful tools for change. She holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.


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