By Ann Hingst, KF12 Tanzania
Every Kiva Fellow attends a weeklong training at Kiva Headquarters in San Francisco. The training we received is top notch. But what happens once a fellow is in the field, and all of a sudden forgets the procedure for reporting loan repayments in Kiva’s system or has trouble navigating the politics of the microfinance institution (MFI) that he or she is visiting? That’s where the portfolio team comes to the rescue.
Each region has a team of professionals that maintain relationships with multiple MFI’s in a region, and also help support Kiva Fellows in the field. Several of these professionals are former Kiva Fellows themselves. Let’s take a look at the roles they play.
Field Support Specialists
Each region has one or more Field Support Specialists (FSS). The FSS assigned to a particular MFI is the first point of contact for a Kiva Fellow with questions. FSS’ are based in the field near the MFI’s that they support. For example, Kevin Chaissan is the FSS that supports the MFI that I’m currently working with, the Youth Self Employment Organization (YOSEFO), in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Kevin was a member of KF10 and KF11. Kevin is based in Nairobi, Kenya, but travels in the region to pay visits to the multiple MFI’s that he now works with.
Regional Development Officers
Regional Development Officers focus on managing relationships with many MFI’s. They, too, are based in the area near the MFI’s that they serve. David Kitusa expertly manages the relationship with YOSEFO and other MFI’s in Anglophone Africa. A native Kenyan, he is also based in Nairobi, and has an impressive amount of experience in microfinance.
Regional Directors oversee partnerships with MFI’s located throughout an entire region, set strategy for the region, and perform due diligence on MFI’s that are potential Kiva partners. Ben Elberger, who joined Kiva in its early days, manages all of Anglophone Africa and South Asia.
The entire portfolio team is integral to a Kiva Fellow’s success in the field, wherever in the world they are located. Last week, YOSEFO received a visit from its FSS, who was able to help me with questions about my various tasks as a fellow. We also partnered with the Regional Development Officer to discuss the relationship between Kiva and the MFI.
Learn more about the fabulous members of Kiva’s Microfinance Partnerships Team that provide invaluable support to Kiva Fellows!
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Ann Hingst is a Kiva Fellow serving in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She’s entertaining the locals with her feeble attempts at speaking Swahili, and trying to stop sweating constantly.