Today’s guest post is from Seeds, a tech startup with a female founder working to build social good through microlending into every app that exists.
Most of us know what microloans are, right? They’re small loans — say $5 or $25 — given to people in need. These people can use the loans to buy livestock or supplies for their small businesses, and then pay back the loans with their proceeds.
What usually comes to everyone’s mind when they think about microloans is Kiva, the highly successful microlending nonprofit. (Fun fact: Bill Draper, one of Kiva’s investors, and Sam Birney, Kiva’s former Director of Engineering are investors in Seeds!) Kiva is awesome, but there’s actually a lot more to the world of microfinance than just what they do. We wanted to shed some light on this broader landscape today.
1. Microloans are not a type of nonprofit.
Because Kiva is a nonprofit, what seems to be a big misconception has propagated: that microlending is a category of nonprofit. In fact, it’s a type of lending and finance that happens to do a lot of social good. We think the “social good” part is what confuses people. People often don’t realize that social good doesn’t just come from nonprofits — it can also come from financial institutions, businesses and startups (like Seeds!)
When I travel to low-income countries I am most interested in learning about and reporting on maternal and newborn health. As a mother of two daughters it is my biggest passion.
Today on Giving Tuesday I am proud to work with one of my favorite international nonprofit organizations: World Vision USA. I had the distinct opportunity to travel with them to the Philippines a few years ago and saw their programs for women and newborns at a local clinic that had been rebuilt after seeing major structural damage by Typhoon Haiyan. I am always grateful to see up close the amazing work done by organizations I admire.
This year for Giving Tuesday I am happy to say that your charitable donation to World Vision’s lifesaving work with mothers and newborns will be generously matched in product by Thirty-One Gifts. Products like totes (such as the one seen below), blankets, apparel, and thermals will be matched up to $2,000,000 and will be given to help mothers and infants around the world where World Vision works. That’s a lot of giving in one day!
“Helping families lift themselves out of poverty means helping them build income and wealth, but it is a social phenomenon as well,” wrote Steve Werlin, the author of To Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life. “And one of the social change we try to effect involves working on the way members look at themselves.”
It is quite impressive how someone’s mind and attitude can alter and reset the course of one’s life. However, in order to eventually arrive at that mind reset some people require a substantive hand out, constant observation and follow-up; not simply a prescriptive hand up. When looking at the lowest income countries in the world like Haiti a vast array of NGOs work to alleviate some of its inherent problems with programs that address the root of poverty. Some provide work programs, educational programs, health care, or even microloan programs. But some of Haiti’s families are so extremely poor they cannot dream of qualifying for many of these programs because they have virtually nothing. In fact, they live in such cyclical poverty they cannot feed themselves on a daily basis, or even every other day. In Haiti’s deepest far reaches and unfathomable rural areas are families who live in abject poverty far away from roads and towns. They require the most cumulative social programs designed by worldwide NGOs that specialize in the nuances of poverty reduction and eradication.
In Haiti, for example, one of those social programs is called “Chemen lavi miyo (CLM)” in Creole or a Pathway to a Better Life that is run by Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance organization. Even as a microfinance enterprise Fonkoze realized that to reach the poorest Haitian families means to provide overarching programs that teach rural women who qualify for their CLM program financial and entrepreneurial skills as well as life and relationship skills.
The world of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is vast and growing if you live in Nepal. Some experts estimate there is a whopping 50,000 registered NGOs (PDF) in the country, a steep increase since an NGO registration change in 1992. With that change, groups of individuals joined together in droves to create organizations to fight the languishing poverty in Nepal, a country that has been classified by the United Nations as one of the world’s least developed countries since 1971. Experts also attribute the increase of Nepalese NGOs to the country’s small private enterprise sector. Most Nepalis believe the only way they can make money is through civil society where tens of millions of dollars flow through Nepal’s civil sector every year.
While many organizations follow the safe blueprint of how NGOs should operate, there are some that are devising innovative ways in which to help communities at their most basic level, especially after the earthquakes that rocked the landlocked country caused nearly 9,000 fatalities nationwide last year. The earthquakes shocked the country and exposed immense disaster relief vulnerabilities of the government as well as the throngs of NGOs that were not prepared to handle a major natural disaster.