Often these ideas are talked about as if they are either in conflict, or governed by separate rules. One ruled by the market. The other by sentiment.
Although there is sometimes merit in this separation, and although , for sure, in many instances this stuff gets complicated, just now and then something pops up in your porridge pot which kind of makes instant sense as well as offering a place for head and heart to hang out together.
The Kiva project is one of these projects. Billed as "the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website", it allows the likes of you and me to lend directly to known, or what they call 'unique' entrepreneurs in the developing world. In other words when you offer the money [say $25 dollars]- you know what project it is going to and to whom.
Real Individuals - real project.
Even though I was never a fan of the sponsor a child idea, I like this idea. I like the notion that what I am offering is something I can afford - while the person who gets the support just might make it - i.e. find a way to make a living, feed and educate their family, etc.
Kiva on Facebook
They also seem to be quite a smart outfit. Their web site offers lots of links to main stream news stories about their activities thereby, at a stroke, sorting out your first concern, "are these guys for real".
They have also recently extended into Facebook, as of an hour ago had over 12,000 fans , plus one new one - me. You might like to check them out here.
If you go there have a look at the You Tube embed to a USA Frontline documentary. Or if you like, click here.
Mohammad Yunis - Nobel Prize Winner.
Micro financing is nothing new of course. Mohammad Yunus of Grameen Bank has been a strong advocate of this for a few years now. The story of this man is of course well known - of how, in the face of a famine in Bangladesh, he abandoned the teaching of economics as irrelevant, went down into the slums of the poor, listened to the problems and then started lending small amounts of money, mostly to women. His vehicle, the Grameen Bank. has now lent over 7 billion dollars - and even more impressive the repayment ratio was 98%.
The embed below is from Skoll World Forum 2007. This years forum looked at the growing importance of incorporating cultural literacy, into social change planning. The 2008 proceedings are online here. In the meantime, here is Mohammad Yunis.