Monday, October 12, 2009

A Case of the Mondays

What's really lurking in the depths of Loch Ness? The answer may surprise you.

This past week I was at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, along with 12,000 of my closest friends. I had no idea it was going to be so big, but I must admit I enjoyed the conference and many of the speakers that were brought in, even if I did feel a bit overwhelmed at times due to the sheer volume of people. I'm not used to crowds that size, and I will freely admit I don't always do well in large crowds.

One of the speakers there founded a website called Kiva. Turns out Kiva (I have no idea where the name came from) is focused on bringing together those with extra money and those in need of micro finance loans. If you haven't heard of micro finance, it's a fascinating concept. Basically, it is focused on those whose financial needs are measured in the tens or hundreds rather than the thousands like many financial services in this country. Often the amount requested for a loan in Central America or much of Asia is $50 or $100. This small amount can allow a woman to start her own business and support herself, rather than depending on charity of others.

It's that whole thing about the difference in giving someone a fish and teaching them how to fish (I forget who said it: Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day, teach him to fish, and he'll sit in a boat and drink beer all day, or something like that. Kiva is a direct link between those in need of these small amounts and those with small (or large) amounts of money available.

I tried it out, and I'll let you know how it goes. I loaned $25 to help a woman in Cambodia build her house. She will pay it back over the next year, and then I'll be able to lend out that $25 to someone else! She needed $500, and 20 people from around the world, from Belgium to Norway to the US, lent $25 to help this woman's dream come true. It's amazing to think I could be a part of that with a few clicks of the mouse. Check it out, see what you think!

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