This piece was written by Elisha (Eli) Hodgson, who has been working as a Community Support associate at Kiva for over a year now in our Portland office.
So, what’s it like working on the Community Support and Engagement (CS) team at Kiva?
On the surface, the experience of responding to inquiries all day seems to be a bit straightforward. Open a case, read a question, concern, or feedback, and find the most appropriate answer to it. Easy, right?
Well, the job proves to be more challenging than that because Kiva’s community of lenders don’t typically want a transactional interaction — they want to connect! Our lending community is composed of people who are others-focused; folks who are constantly in search of a new way forward that subverts traditional exclusionary systems.
Every day of lending on Kiva has the potential to bring a little bit more financial inclusion and opportunity to those with dreams, which can give way to hope for change in individuals, families, and communities. This mission, and the values it’s built on, have become shared by lenders and Kivans alike. So, impassioned email and phone call exchanges are inevitable.
With this in mind, I understand the same depth of compassion displayed by Kiva’s lenders is also required of me. Not just sometimes, or when I’m feeling up to it, but in every email or voicemail I respond to. This empathic approach has transformed me, and other members of the CS team, into a real-time pulse indicator of the condition of our lending community.
When lenders question policies or feel hurt by a decision made by Kiva, the CS team investigates on their behalf. We hope not to blindly justify or debate, but instead seek to listen, understand, and relay the voice of current lenders to inform future decisions made by Kiva. We return to offer insight and sometimes to share in hurt or frustration alongside lenders. On the flipside, when lenders write to us overjoyed by recent triumphs, we celebrate those victories wholeheartedly as well.
I know what you’re thinking. How can we feel so deeply, and respond sincerely all day, without burning out?
Well, it always requires truth and transparency, but sometimes, all it takes is a good ol’ fashioned “stand up”.
The CS team is tasked with learning every question and answer about Kiva while staying up to date with changes, promotions, and new ideas introduced by Kiva’s lending community. To keep our team’s responses uniform and on the same page about what’s new, the CS team has a daily, 15-30 minute stand-up call. This call helps us stay up to date on marketing promotions, website bugs, and updates from other teams - all of which will nuance how we respond to inquiries that day. It’s also important for us to identify which feedback to hone in on, which we get to share with other teams so they know how their work is impacting the greater Kiva community.
Of course, these stand-ups also serve the purpose of building comradery on CS. We believe that trust and togetherness are essential ingredients to weathering high volume ~storms~. I’m so grateful my teammates care about me as a person, because it has given me the freedom and confidence to do my best work. As a remote team, these short stand-ups make us feel closer together, and that makes a huge difference.
Working on Kiva’s Community Support and Engagement team has meant the world to me. I’m constantly wrestling with the tension of feeling like a competent, all-knowing wizard, and being humbled by questions I don’t know answers to. This tension demands a great deal of patience and grace, both of which flow abundantly between members of our team.
To say I enjoy the work I do, and the people I work with, would be an egregious understatement. Each day I come to the office (well, remote office), I can feel the energy of common purpose filling fellow Kivans, our lending community and borrowers around the world. This helps me remember we are connected by our shared desire to bring innovation, healing, and renewal to every corner of the earth; and I know that the work we do is good. The ebb and flow of emotions I feel is merely a brushstroke on the canvas of shared vision - one that’s carrying us toward a better future. This is where I want to be — at Kiva.