Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Kiva.org

I've given up on opening my 401K statements. The news is just too depressing. Given our current economic state, I've been searching of where to put my investment money. Where will it do the most good, for me and for the companies I choose to invest in. When I look at the Dow 30, I don't have a lot of faith in many of those institutions to reinvent themselves. Some of them have remarkable potential. Most of them have to accept that they have a very tough realization to come to terms with - in the words of Darwin, "Change or die."

The investments that are intriguing to me these days are in entrepreneurs, particularly those in developing nations such as Rwanda. I just placed my first investment in an entrepreneur in Ghana through Kiva.org. I lent $25 to a woman named Agnes Cobbina for a 7-month term. She owns a hair salon and she wanted to borrow $375 to expand her business. With 14 other lenders, I completed Anges's loan goal. What was remarkable is that I clicked on several different entrepreneurs and by the time I got to the "lend to" page, their goal was already completed. In the 10 seconds that it took me to read a bit about them, someone else had stepped in to help! One loan is made every 14 seconds through Kiva.org

Some people might think of this as a charitable donation rather than a loan. Nothing could be further from the truth. 99% of those who receive loans through organizations like Kiva.org pay them back in full. How many U.S. investments can say that these days? And not only am I confident that I will receive my money back; I know that I helped someone help themselves through this loan. I am empowering Agnes, providing her with a dignified way to grow her business and support her family. 

I'm thrilled to be able to participate with Kiva.org. But I want to do more. I'd be willing to take part of my investment money and provide it directly to an entrepreneur in a country like Rwanda for a return. What an amazing thing it would be to combine the idea of Sharebuilder with that of a Kiva.org. Could this be a new paradigm for global investment?  

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