Transparency, transparency – also for borrowers?

By Anna Antoni, KF11, Indonesia

Kiva is still a new channel for information and action for those willing to look over the borders of their national and economic environment. We can’t predict the influence Kiva will have on microfinance and poverty…

In the long process of providing the information needed for receiving a loan through Kiva, transparency is of high priority but usually we talk about transparency for the lender. What about the borrower? Do they all know they are on the internet with a lot of personal information?

I realized that some of the borrowers I met didn’t know about their stories being posted on a public space like the internet to fund their loan. I was angry but without proper tools it is simply out of the reach of Kiva. The question how many of the borrowers around the world don’t know that they are “public borrowers” went through my head for a while.

Luckily Kiva is putting great effort into a tool to reach the goal of transparency for both, lenders AND borrowers.

The client waiver

The client waiver makes sure that the borrowers give their consent before their information is published on the internet and their loan is funded through lenders around the world, although they finally receive the money from a local microfinance institution. When I first heard that Kiva fellows should make sure that field partners use the client waiver to inform borrowers, I thought “no problem”! Well, I didn’t see the whole picture yet…Talking about this comprehensible document with the responsible persons at my field partner, I realized the complexity of this issue.

Perpetuating paternalism?*

The fear of the Kiva field partner where I serve was if borrowers know that their loan comes from abroad, they will think it is charity. They will not feel obliged to pay back their loan and it will cause long term problems even if the loss is not covered by the field partner. There is a damage industrialized countries have made through aid that goes far beyond support in crises, taking away something from a spirit of “I can do this- I can handle the challenges in my life!” which is so important in microfinance…but back to transparency.

It was no big deal to find a good solution with the field partner to handle this issue, so that borrowers really know what happens with all the information field officers ask them. It seems like Kiva provided a good tool to raise transparency for borrowers.

The whole process showed again how big the influence of Kiva can be. For most developing countries it is a shift of paradigm not to receive funds that either don’t have to be repaid or be repaid under heavy conditions. Putting a lot of effort into raising the transparency for borrowers and thus showing respect to all people participating in the mission of Kiva is more than important. Besides fulfilling the value of microfinance to help people to help themselves, it is the basis for a new approach to development.

*I borrowed “perpetuating paternalism” from Kiva fellow Alexis Guild, who recently wrote the related post “Loan vs. Donation: The Importance of Semantics”

About the author

Anna Antoni