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Nonprofits promoting microcredit and microfinance (a distinction made clearer to me when I read the recent New Yorker article “Millions for Millions”) are all over the web, but one group out of San Francisco caught my attention on a Frontline World broadcast this week (“Uganda: A little goes a long way”).

San Francisco-based Kiva.org profiles applicant borrowers on their site. Any interested lenders select projects to support at the level they want to give. Similar online efforts for US and UK markets have been available for the past year at Prosper.com and Zopa.com, respectively. The sites’ business model is the most current form of entrepreneurial philanthropy that has grown tremendously with the internet’s ability to wag the long tail of disbursed small donors (or social creditors?).

The for-profit Globalgiving.com, and its nonprofit analogue, Universalgiving.org, both provide a marketplace for grantees to pitch projects to donors. The emphasis on clear costs for service outputs (successful repayment is a great benchmark) are at the heart of the new efforts. These philanthropic models bring to mind the old “sponsored child” advertisements we used to see on late night TV.

The innovative element to Kiva.org and other social creditors is the ability to recycle money at the bottom of the pyramid, increasing the money supply to small entrepreneurs and stimulating microeconomic development. It’s heartening to see the entrepreneurial spirit take on new forms. None of these efforts on their own will transform the world, but together they represent a new willingness and ability to engage person-to-person in building cost-effective solutions to daily pressing concerns.

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Written by Ben

November 3, 2006 at 8:53 am

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  1. […] firm in microfinance, designed to compete with Kiva, Prosper and Zopa – which THDblog posted about back in November. The story was scooped in March at Auctionbytes which noted that eBay had acquired MicroPlace with […]


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