A memoir about how the Internet can help in the fight against poverty, from the co-founder of Kiva, “the world’s first personal microlending platform.”
Jackley chronicles how her life was transformed in the fall of 2003 when she heard Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, explain how he was enabling the poor in Bangladesh to free themselves from predatory lenders. Yunus' account of his work turned the notion of poverty “on its head,” and his speech provided the author with an exciting new method for thinking about the alleviation of poverty. She understood that the poor are “not weak, helpless people. These were people who were capable, tenacious and resourceful.” Jackley went on to co-found Kiva, which enables people to lend small amounts of money, as little as $25, to businesses in countries like Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. The author describes how she began to investigate and define a plan that would lead toward her goal. Hooking up with Brian Lehnen and his Village Enterprise Fund, she traveled to East Africa to survey the fund's grantees and their cultures. In the aftermath of that trip, Jackley designed Kiva to work with existing microlenders, lend money online, and maintain contact through regular updates. As reflected in its mission statement, the company promised “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” Less than 10 people got the ball rolling, and their requests for loans were filmed and posted online. An email to friends helped raise funds, and the author’s venture quickly grew. Yunus' 2006 Nobel Prize created further interest, which accelerated growth. But it was not all success. In Uganda, they fought against fraudsters and the diversion of funds, and legal and regulatory obstacles doomed her next business, ProFounder. In addition to her own story, Jackley includes folksy business lessons learned from her borrowers—e.g., why the roosters should eat first.
A charming account of how “to pursue opportunity and possibility where others see none.”