Kiva’s website features lots of beautiful photos of our borrowers around the world - but have you ever thought about the person behind the lens? There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to keep Kiva running. Many of the professional photos you see on Kiva’s website, social media and email communications are taken by Brandon Smith - the man of many hats!
After studying photojournalism, Brandon interned with Kiva and then joined the staff full-time on the marketing team in 2013. Now he’s a Product Manager in Kiva’s San Francisco office.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to contribute to our mission and grow in a variety of ways,” Brandon says, “That includes a wide spectrum of responsibilities like representing our lending team communities, doing user research, experimentation and data analysis, writing content, designing pages for our site and even doing some coding!”
Brandon and his team improve the lending experience on Kiva.org to make it easier for lenders to find and fund loans they’re passionate about. Most recently, Brandon’s team developed a new way to browse loans that led to a 25% increase in the number of loans made on the site. (Check it out here!)
Brandon points out how valuable it is to have adequate funding to improve the Kiva experience for users. Kiva’s operating costs are covered mainly by optional tips given by lenders.
“I’m especially excited about how we’ve been able to invest our resources to increase the effectiveness of the site. That means getting more borrowers funded.”
Outside the office, Brandon uses his passion for documentary photography to help tell Kiva’s story and connect the lenders with borrowers. “I also feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to use my background in photojournalism to help share stories about many of the inspiring borrowers we get to work with,” he says.
One of his favorite trips was to Zimbabwe, where he met with women who had received loans from Kiva’s Field Partner, Camfed. Camfed is engaged in helping educate girls in rural Africa and helping young women grow their own businesses. Instead of requiring traditional loan interest, Camfed asks the young women reinvest in their community by mentoring the younger girls in school.
Brandon contributed to a story about 3 sisters who started a fish farming business after receiving a Kiva loan through Camfed. The thriving enterprise now has 3,000 tilapia and a side business that teaches other people their trade. “I was particularly taken by their business acumen and clear vision for their own future,” Brandon says. Through working with Kiva and Camfed, the women started their first bank account, gained financial independence and are now leaders in their community.
“I know how much talent, entrepreneurship and ambition there is in all corners of the globe. It’s been really powerful to see how simply having fair access to capital can play such an integral role in improving the lives of individuals and communities.”
The talent and ambition that Brandon sees around the world are reflected in the staff in Kiva offices around the world, too. When asked about his fellow colleagues, Brandon says “At Kiva I’m surrounded by so many bright, driven and humble people.” Brandon’s right - it takes more than 100 passionate people like him behind the scenes to keep Kiva running, and donations help make that possible. Make a donation to Kiva here.