Friday, September 16, 2011

Outsourcing My Charity Work (

Outsourcing My Charity Work

I came across the website somewhere or other, and was quickly intrigued. It's a microfinance portal. Microfinance is where some farmer in Bangladesh wants to borrow a hundred dollars to buy a cow. He sells cow eggs until he can repay the loan, at which point he's richer by one cow. (Something like that, anyway. I'm not a farmer.) The loans are too small for normal banks to deal with. I knew all about that. Good project. Nothing to do with me. Until I found Kiva.

The Kiva site brings normal people like me in 'contact' with the guy who wants the cash. When you visit the site, you see the real faces of the real people who want your money. You like them, you send them 25 dollars, they get it, they grow their business. A year later, or whenever, you get your money back, and lend it to someone else. Or take it back, if you need it.

Hmm. Interesting. I like the idea of my spare money circling the world making lives better. The guys asking for money don't have my good looks or incandescent talent, but they are good family people who work hard and have a simple dream. I like that.
Leonard is a 41 year-old businessman. He is married and blessed with five children. For the last five years, he has been managing a hardware business to support the family. He has employed three people to help him to manage the business. In the next 5 years, he wants to open another outlet of his business. His dream is to expand his business and to improve his living standards. 
It's my kind of project, because I'm loaded, but hate giving money to beggars or normal charities. Beggars because they just want to buy cheap beer (or once, when I worked in a corner shop in Manchester, turpentine), and charities because a big fraction of the donation goes to marketing and management.

So I was totally sold on the Kiva concept. There was only one problem - choosing who to give my 25 bucks to. My solution was typically elegant (AKA lazy). I made it my students's homework to choose for me. They had to find someone they liked, and pitch their choice to me in a short presentation. I didn't know what to expect from them. Would they take it seriously? It's kinda weird homework.

I didn't want to micromanage them, but I did give them a couple of pointers. In particular, I wanted them to take notice of the Field Partners. The Field Partners are they guys who work in developing country X and go round interviewing the entrepreneurs and checking they have a business plan. Obviously, they are key to the whole process.

Next - The First Presentations

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