Borders, borrowers and the art of connection

Through Kiva, lenders are able to reach out to the far corners of the planet and in a very tangible way affect a change. With teleportation technology or a truly global financial system still being a way off, it’s not like your $25 instantaneously appears in your chosen borrower’s hand. There are MFIs who act as facilitators, this fact has given birth to a multitude of discussions concerning distinctions and degrees of P2P, these however will not be the subject of this blog entry. For my purposes it is sufficient that a connection is made – and one is, whichever way you chose to slice it.

Congratulations, you clicked “continue reading” now you get to find out what Nilaus is on about.

So Kiva, as mentioned before, is active on a global scale. With regards to actual presence though, we are decidedly thin on the ground. This is possible because Kiva is not merely multi- or inter- national, it is one of the very few organizations in existence with a truly post geographical activity – in terms of a lender reaching out, it just is not that important whether an entrepreneur is in Miami, Ulaanbaatar or Kigali.

The borrower, is on the other hand supremely significant. So how to feel meaningfully connected with a person from an entirely different culture? It can be hard enough with someone a few streets down. To make matters even more challenging, all you have to go on is a portrait and a few paragraphs about the entrepreneur and his or her business.

As a Kiva Fellow I am privileged with an amazing opportunity to experience a very different place, and believe me: Freetown is radically different from Copenhagen. But hang on! maybe we are not so different after all. Most Copenhageners I know, would recognize the excitement caused when your favorite football team manages to score a goal against the arch rivals. In both places politics, religion and art are avidly discussed and who anywhere in the world could not sympathize with the most common hope expressed by Sierra Leonian micro entrepreneurs in their Kiva interviews: that of being able to provide for their children.

Getting back to lenders getting a better impression of the person at the other end of that mouse click. If I am anywhere near right about any of this, you can safely flesh out the entrepreneur in your mind’s eye with the people that surround you. Chances are that the similarities far outnumber the differences.

I’ll stop here before I start quoting the lyrics to “Imagine” and earn the legal guys at Kiva HQ a IPR infringement headache.

Nilaus Hansen is a Kiva Fellow serving in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He divides his time there between the local MFIs ARD and LAPO SL He is well on his way to becoming a Cassava leaf connoisseur.

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