Category Archives: microfinance

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 Amazon.com 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.

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

what microloans miss, the business in the middle

From the New Yorker

“The cult of the entrepreneur that the microfinance boom has helped foster is understandably appealing. But thinking that everyone is, and should be, an entrepreneur leads us to underrate the virtues of larger businesses and of the income that a steady job can provide.”

via Ethan – thank you!

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Filed under microfinance, philanthropy

Nata Village Blog

Pledger Curt Hopkins alerted me recently to the Nata Village Blog, and put Jon Rawlinson in touch with us at MW.

Jon and I finally met this week and he told me how his travels in Africa, videoblogging along the way have changed his life.

Stopping off in a remote village in Botswana he chanced across a US peace corps worker who had set up home in Nata Village. With his travelling companian he chucked in his plans for a comfortable night at the lodge to visit the village and stay closer to the ground. The visit and people he met changed a lot and Jon has since set up a blog for the Nata Village project and Melody Jenkins’ many projects educating locals about HIV and setting up a clinic there.

Currently in London, Jon is looking for ways of using his considerable video shooting and editing skills to contribute more. Have immediately snapped him up as a mentor. But what did hearten me was to find that he has scoured this blog and has now been in touch with Kiva.org (see previous post) and it’s CEO Matt Flannery , and will be visiting them in San Francisco mid August to offer his help.

You can read about the two Microsoft Fellow’s findings (see previous blog post) here, or on Matt’s blog.

Without describing our whole conversation – all my old documentary making tendencies came pouring out as we discussed the power of narrative and the kind of storytelling video is good at. He is off too to meet Current TV who if they have any sense, will snap him up. Hmmm, got me thinking. Given they pay $500 per video used maybe I should take it up again to fund Mentoring Worldwide!

Glad our blog is working. Come September, following a real holiday, I hope others will want to start co-blogging here, and we work together to get our trial/ proof of conept up and running for real.

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Filed under Africa, communities, mentees, mentors, microfinance, non profits, pledger

serendipity – Kiva and Life in Africa

Friday June 2nd (apologies, blog is so out of synch). I am preparing to meet Fiona Ramsay of Kiva in San Francisco. Researching the organisation I find , on their front page no less, a description of Life In Africa…the project run by Christina Jordan …one of our pledgers! Something is definately going right. Christina is a pledger active in the Omidyar Network (and we have quite a few people from the Omidyar Network community who did pledge). She is also an Ashoka Fellow living in Uganda.

Fiona desicribes the groundbreaking work that Kiva is doing. Barely a year old they are winning plaudits, and pioneering an effective peer-to-peer microfinance organisation which as Fiona diplomatically puts it is “deceptively complex”. I leave inspired and with a new sense of how mentoring could make a difference. Perhaps not directly with entrepreneurs on the ground, but with the newer and smaller Micro Finance Institutions who report on the projects, write journals and suggest the entrepreneurs to Kiva. They have a great model and we will talk again. If you are interested in Microfinance I strongly encourage to take a look at their work and get involved.They have two interns blogging from Africa at present, and their founder, Matthew Flannery blogs at Social Edge.

Back in London I book a call with Christina. Life In Africa has potentially six mentees for us. I hear about the project, but also am immensly encouraged to ask for help. The time is coming and we’ll soon have a framework that people can volunteer into. I listen too , this time in the Omidyar Network, to her amazing efforts to work with the best of internet and computer providers in the area (Kampala and Gulu) BushNet and Inveneo and realise that while the solutions may be out there, getting people on the ground to join up the dots is still unbelievably hard, and patience, courage and perseverence are the name of the game. She has two Microsoft Fellows visiting to learn about the project and the difficulties and needs in the area of connectivity. Sounds fascinating.

It somehow did not seem so suprising when I called Fiona today a month after the conversation with Christina to find the same Microsoft Fellows about to report their findings to Kiva, tomorrow.

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Filed under Africa, mentees, microfinance, non profits, pledger, trial

green tea in palo alto

Leaving Cisco and Netsquared behind, back on the Light Rail and Cal Train to Palo Alto where I met with pledgers and supporters John Girard of Clickability and Jan Leeman.

They listened hard and got their impressive brains working on who I should meet in my remaining two days. They suggested three companies and got me meetings, or phone meetings with all of them there and then!

Microfinance is an area many people have suggested might be fruitful in terms of finding mentees and I was put in touch with a new and very impressive company, Kiva. to start talking about the realities of this suggestion.

My quest to find a good user-centred design approach to our cross-cultural needs, the desire to keep things simple to use, and simple to manage led to a call to brand new start-up Ruby Red Labs.

And third Taproot, an organisation that matches volunteers with non-profits who need volunteers to help them with their capacity building.

More about all of these organisations in due course. In the meantime though – check out this elegant tea bag. green tea( hesitate to call it bag really made, as it was , from the finest muslin)!

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Filed under design, microfinance, non profits, pledger, social enterprise