In 2004, Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley witnessed the power of microfinance firsthand while on a trip which would become a life-changing experience. Visiting East Africa - Jessica conducting impact evaluation surveys for Village Enterprise Fund and Matt filming interviews with small business entrepreneurs - they were able to see and hear firsthand how small grants of only $100 - $150 had been used to build small businesses which could then support a family. They heard stories of people who were able to sleep on mattresses instead of dirt floors, afford to take sugar in their tea daily instead of occasionally, and buy fresh fish for their families a few times every week rather than once a week. Instead of meeting the poor and helpless, they found themselves meeting successful entrepreneurs who had generated enough profits from their small businesses to create a real impact on their standard of living.
This experience led them to three realizations:
We are more connected than we realize. Even in rural East Africa it was possible to remain very connected with friends and family in the United States. Distance means little in the world of communication today.
The poor are very entrepreneurial. While the profit margins may be very different, the spirit of entrepreneurship is as strong among the global poor as it is in Silicon Valley.
Stories connect people in a powerful way. As they listened to story after story of a fishmonger who needed enough money to buy directly from the fishermen at the lake, or a farmer who needed to buy a better breed of cow to produce more milk, Matt and Jessica knew that any of their friends back home would want to support these business ventures if they also heard their stories. With each story came a human connection as similarities were identified, making an African entrepreneur someone easier to relate to despite differences in language, culture or levels of wealth.
Matt and Jessica returned from Africa with one question in mind: "How can we lend to a rural African entrepreneur?"
It was easy to identify that there was no way to make a microloan to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world. It wasn't easy to figure out how to make it possible.
Thus began a year of phonecalls and meetings with microfinance experts, lawyers, economists, Internet experts, and anyone else who would listen to their idea of lending to low-income entrepreneurs via the internet. After much questioning and a lot of skepticism they finally decided to just begin.
In March 2005, through a local contact in Uganda, 7 loans were posted on Kiva for a total of $3,500. They included a goat herder, a fish monger, a cattle farmer and a restauranteur. Six months later every loan had been repaid. These original 7 entrepreneurs became known as the "Dream Team" and proved it was possible to lend to the poor over the Internet.
In October 2005 Kiva announced to the world the first peer-to-peer microlending website via a press release. Shortly after the Daily Kos discovered Kiva and broadcast the website to hundreds of thousands of its readers. The word was out... and the rest is history.
Since its birth Kiva has grown from a small personal project to one of the world's largest microfinance facilitators, connecting entrepreneurs with millions of dollars in loans from hundreds of thousands of lenders around the world.
The progress of social justice is slow and measured. Its growth depends on an increasing number of us becoming aware of the truth and consequences of our actions.
I believe that it is morally wrong to allow our wanton desires to interfere with the basic needs and interests of other sentient beings.
I believe the physical and psychological abuse – confinement, social deprivation, mutilation, genetic and reproductive manipulation, and profit exploitation – imposed by us on other animals is morally wrong.
I believe the suggestion that the exploitation of other sentient beings by humans can be achieved without cruelty, violence, or injustice is false and misleading.
As an advocate for all life, committed to compassion and justice, I refuse to take part in the exploitation of other sentient beings or to collaborate with those caught up in such injustice.
I pledge to do my best to live a life that conveys a clear, sincere and uncompromised message that is free of resentment, fear, exploitation, anger, cynicism, and manipulation.
Furthermore, I pledge to continue to support a broad range of nonviolent initiatives and programs that will hopefully one day eliminate the needless pain and suffering we inflict upon all the many wonderful creatures with whom we share this planet.