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January 16, 2007

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Funny, It Feels Cool Even Without All the Extra Zeroes

Hey! My first Kiva microloan just got paid back in full. Word to the Imani Group Store in Tanzania.

I am getting set to re-loan the money (it was just $25) to Jessica Arreaga of Ecuador. Only $350 more to go and she can buy a grill to sell shish kabobs. Any other micromoguls out there who want to pitch in?

Posted January 16, 2007 at 5:30 | Comments (7) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Society/Culture


That IS cool. I'm gonna do it now!

Thanks for the reminder! Last time I was at Kiva they weren't accepting new registrations. (Yes, a while ago.)

On a (slightly) related note: does anyone know of any systems in place for a distributed/collaborative way to help the environment? I'm thinking along the lines of "collaborative land purchase and preservation", where people can all pitch in $25 and then purchase a patch of rainforest. There are many charities that you can donate to if you want to "save the rainforest" but is there a microlending way of cutting out the large organizations and corporations and put your money directly to the main goal?

The missing piece there would be "who actually buys the land and watches over the land, etc?" but that piece of the microlending framework ("who filters the applications, and distributes, tracks, and collects the money?") is filled nicely by microfinance institutions. Is there a similar type of organization?

Please share back if you know of any actual systems in this type of space, or other parallels in action.

Another thought that came to me last night -- why am I so excited about helping small business around the world in third world countries but not thinking about helping small businesses here in America?

What about doing something like this (on a larger scale) here in the US? Get 1000 people to chip in $25 for a small businessman in the midwest who needs a new tractor for his farm to compete with large corporate farms. Is it just a game of scale, that 10 people helping one person in Togo seems more efficient that 1000 people helping one person in our own country? Is it that the farmer should be expected to go to a bank and get a loan, which is not available in other countries? (Though there are many small businesses in America that don't have access to that kind of credit.)


Peer-to-peer lending in the US is available at

I have some thoughts on the other stuff, but I am tired and will go to sleep now, sorry.

-- PoN

Thanks PoN, I'll look into that.

I think it is a game of scale.

There's the notion, per Princeton ethicist Peter Singer, that our dollars go so much farther and relieve so much more suffering in the developing world that there is an imperative to send them there.

That argument rests on the assumption that all human suffering (and opportunity!) counts the same, regardless of distance from your front door.

So, given $1000 to loan out to people, if you can give ten $100 loans to women entrepreneurs in Dhaka or one $1000 to a woman entrepreneur in Detroit, a pure utilitarian analysis says you should go for Dhaka.

But, utilitarian analysis is not all there is, and if somebody felt strongly that their funds ought to go back into their neighborhood, say, I wouldn't try to argue them down.

There's also the notion of being upfront about what you want out of the transaction. If it's sheer charity, Dhaka gives you more bang for your buck. But if you see donations as paybakcs, reinvestments in your community, the establishment of meta-economic ties, and the purchasing of a gift---these are all reasons to get more utility out of something closer to home. You're buying yourself a particular kind of pleasure, not unlike a Wii or a cream puff. There's also the idea of taking responsible for what's around you, with around defined in various concentric sizes. No one in Bangladesh is going to sponsor the Michigan farmer.

That said, I would apply WAY more skepticism and filtration to an American project than a Kiva project. Perhaps that's patronizing, but there you have it.

Community Supported Agriculture is similar, I think. Personally I fantasize about setting up green loans for the purchase of bikes and solar panels.

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