The nonprofit organization Kiva came on the scene about seven years ago, long before Kickstarter or cloudfunding or peer-to-peer lending were household ideas. One of the first companies to really leverage the power of the internet to connect those who have with those who need, Kiva allows anyone to lend money to aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries in a relatively risk-free way.
Based in San Francisco, Kiva works with a huge network of microfinance institutions around the world—which they call “field partners”—to facilitate the financial transactions and distribution of loans, which, from the giver’s vantage point, happen seamlessly via PayPal. Field partners can be anything from businesses to schools to non-profits. The field partners are “on the ground” advocates for those in need in places like Africa and Ecuador and the Ukraine. They seek out potential entrepreneurs in third world countries and rural enclaves in order to sync them up with more privileged Kiva donors looking to help out. Part of the job of field partners is to seek out loan recipients who will be good bets: those with savings, solid ideas already in action, proven character.
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