Casting for the Duplicate

Many Kiva users may be familiar with the general act of lending through Kiva, but what about the stories that are posted to Kiva’s website? Where’s the action? Where’s the drama? What kind of work goes into providing the content on a Kiva entrepreneur’s profile and who are the players? Well, you’ll have to wait for the drama (there, at least you have suspense). For now, I will give you a quick narrative of a typical event and illustrate the players. The event took place last week.

I had just received an email about a duplicate loan that one of the Kiva Field Partners (aka Microfinance Institution or MFI) I work with in Nicaragua, had posted. In this case neither I nor the Kiva liaison/coordinator that I work with at the MFI knew what had happened. So, a few emails, some phone calls, and a day later we got in touch with the loan officer that uploaded the loan to Kiva, and sought some answers.

As it turned out, the two loans were not duplicates. They were to the same person and showed the same picture, but they were different loan amounts and they were posted on different dates. Still, the issue drew attention and the loan officer had to answer some questions for “casa matriz” or the MFI’s headquarters and “el de Kiva” or the Kiva guy.

After speaking with the loan officer, verification in the MFI’s database supported what he had told us. We had a follow up meeting with “informatica” or IT and learned that there was a bug in the repayment reporting query that was being used to submit repayment information to Kiva, and thus it was possible for some loans to not have been reported as paid off to Kiva when in fact, they were paid off.

Later, we got back in touch with the loan officer, thanked him for following up with us, and asked for a favor: we needed him to grab his camera and drive out to this customer’s house so that we could post a journal update for the website. “Ok, how soon do you need it?” He asked. “Can you get it by tomorrow?”

Ultimately, the issue ended up being fixed. The loan officer did a follow up with the client, informatica fixed the hole in the repayment reporting system, we closed out the old loan on Kiva’s system, and a journal update was posted to the Kiva website.

So who was involved and what roles did they play? My simplified list includes the following players, cast in the following roles:

There’s Kiva itself, whose broad, long term vision is one where an international network of lenders can help the underprivileged by providing them access to finance and ultimately empowering them to rise out of poverty. It feels it needs transparency and a “connection” between borrower and lender to achieve its mission. It knows the world is watching.

There’s the loan officer, whose multi-pronged job I won’t even try to describe. Amidst juggling an already loaded schedule, he had to accommodate this last minute customer home visit for the sake of building some “connection” for Kiva loan funders, wherever in the world they may be. He may or may not understand or care to understand this “connection” but he has a job to do and so he does it.

There’s the MFI that appreciates Kiva’s loyalty (and 0% interest) even in a time when other funding sources in Nicaragua have fizzled away. Ultimately, the MFI has to pay out to cover expenses associated with working with Kiva, but so long as the MFI keeps those expenses to a minimum, there is a strong incentive to continue to foster a relationship with Kiva.

Lastly, there’s the Kiva Fellow, who cares enough about all this madness to do what it takes and do it for free. The fellow spends a lot of time figuring out how to make things happen while trying to understand the pros and cons of Kiva and microfinance.

This is just one story of the many, with just a few of the players and their current roles. While the cast may change the need for finance and opportunity will always be there and thus, so will the loans. Stay tuned to see how it all “develops”.

About the author

Gabriel Castillo

Gabriel worked 11 years as a field technician for AT&T, during which time he was involved with worker's rights and spent 5 years mobilizing and representing workers as Contractual Vice President with CWA in Oakland. After attaining a BS in Computer Science, and feeling the need for a new challenge, Gabriel left his job and backpacked across the US and Latin America for 18 months. During this time he took interest in various sustainable projects that were taking root in Central America, eventually deciding he wanted to take part in and learn more about microfinance, he applied for and was accepted to be a Kiva Fellow in Nicaragua. Gabriel's always had a passion for empowering the less fortunate, now, he's excited to pursue this passion by means of working with the Kiva engineering team and empowering Kiva's website.