Skoll World Forum: internet, mobile technology and cross-cultural communication

This session at the Skoll World Foum was a natural choice to me. I met Katrin Verclas at the first ever NetSquared two years ago when I went to research how to set up Mentoring Worldwide. Now, like then, I took leave from my job and paid my own way to the conference to do the research I needed. I had won a small prize via the TED blog and conference and went to meet some people who had offered help. I met John Girard and Jan Leeman in the traditional way in a cafe in Palo Alto and they effected an intro to Kiva and I met Fiona Ramsay whom I met in the traditional way in a cafe in San Francisco. Have been following them ever since on their blog now on Social Edge. Bruno Guissani is the European Director for TED, and we met two years ago and he was interested enough to write a piece about the project in Business Week and on his blog.

You might well ask why is the project taking so long to emerge? I will be eternally grateful to Ami Dar of Idealist who in this session said “good ideas travel slowly” ie things take longer than you might imagine to emerge. But I think now the time has come.

I have concentrated here on the Kiva part of the session as I was keen to see how things have moved on in the last two years, but I’ll post on the rest of the session later.

Premal Shah is the President of Kiva.

His three takeaways for the session were: Create an “Addictive” User experience; Be Radically Transparent; Crowdsource against constraints. And he added a couple more for good measure: Build in “increasing returns on data”; “Reach the “Long tail”.

For Premal “Addictive”= Easy + Fun. And the examples he gave were for easy and Facebook for Fun.

“Kiva is for everyday people not the affluent expert. You can see who you are lending to. Business relationship is built on mutual dignity. Quick and easy checkout – can be used in 70 countries.

“How to make it fun? Two constituencies…internet consumers, and microfinance institutions. Loans are snapped up, transactions happen by the minute on the site. Real time unedited progress updates from around the world. Loan officers capacity to write updates on business. Straight to your inbox. 100 businesses on the website being funded, minutes, hours, days. Popularity mix.”

The part I really liked was when he talked about Transparency and made the link between Transparency building Authenticity, which in turns builds Trust It’s also the subject of the project I am working on back at the BBC.

He gave two big examples. The CEO of JetBlue who apologised directly to customers
for cancellations and delays. And Barack Obama talked about cocaine use in a book he wrote . Premal said that one of Obama’s phenomenal appeals in the US “is that his brand reeks of authenticity which is why young people are flocking to him”

In terms of Kiva he defined it as “Radical where data inaccuracy is made explicit in a Data box on site.

Crowdsourcing – useful for constrains. Kiva Fellows and Kiva Translators are the way Kiva does this using volunteers to work with the Microfinance Insitutes and translate the site into other areas.

Premal gave us way more than three takeaways. For the “Addictive user experience – use PayPal. Get photos uploaded. Start a blog. “admit imperfection” “Build an Advisory board – evites people love a party”.

Other bloggers who covered the whole session.



Filed under conferences, Mentoring Worldwide, microfinance, social entrepreneurs, Story

5 responses to “Skoll World Forum: internet, mobile technology and cross-cultural communication

  1. Fascinating. Would you explain “crowdsource against constraints?”
    Thank you.

  2. Sure, in this context I think Premal was saying work with others who want to support you (crowdsourcing) against the constraints you may have (money). So the two examples he gave were of the translators, and the Kiva Fellows – both of which are linked to in the post. Groups of people who volunteer to help you and are associated with you and your enterprise by doing so.

  3. Lucy — the time has come. Go for it! All the best and it was great to briefly see you.


  4. Milena Fiore

    Hi Lucy,

    I just came across your post. Nice to see you are still around!

    I was one of the people who signed up as a mentor as a result of your invitation after TED in 2005. Did it ever get going? I did not hear anything after I signed up—never got any further information, etc. I thought about it many times because I was very excited at the time about being a mentor. I was working in Europe and the US. I am currently working in the US in San Francisco for a company that hired me as a permanent employee (I had a business consulting company at the time), and I have less time available for this kind of effort.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that it was a great idea, and I hope that you or someone else does resurrect it, either in its’ present life or another more perfect incarnation based on the need. It would certainly utilize technology in positive ways and enrich the lives of all participants.

    Happy holidays,


  5. Hi Milena
    Thank you for you post. I have been meaning to write a note to everyone who signed up originally to explain what happened to the idea. A number of people volunteered to do some research to help us get underway. So lots of thought has gone into how to set it up and run it. I thought I needed some extra training, and I trained in mentoring and coaching and went to school in my spare time at the School for Social Entrepreneurs in London. But at the time I was working full time at the BBC and could not also launch this project without some funding. At the time there was a big mentoring online launch in the UK and people wanted to see how that went..some funding promised in the US fell through and so we did not start , sadly. However thanks to you and other pledgers the idea has stayed very much alive. Some other groups are experimenting with ideas like this and I still hope to be able to conduct the trials. Lots of organisations also expressed interest in having this not for profit and its services as part of their Corporate social Responsibility prorammes, and I am talking to some of them again later in the month of January 2009. But what we need is some money to pay someone now to project manage the launch or someone with the appropriate skills who, for some reason, may not need to be paid but would like the experience of setting it up to come forward. For my part I have changed jobs to a setting which would encourage a research project in this area – have only been there three weeks and will update my about pages too. The idea is still alive , and still has great value. Apologies for not having been in touch sooner, but I will mail the whole list to update people to see if anyone has some ideas about how best to move forwards. In the meantime, best wishes for a peaceful 2009.

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