I Believe It, Now I Want the Proof

Photo by Rachel Strohm

I always get a little thrill when I see an email coming from the micro-lending site Kiva.org informing me that part of my current loan has been paid back to me. One of my best friends served as a field fellow for the organization in Tanzania and her experience introduced me to some of the behind-the-scenes work that Kiva employees and fellows do every day. I give through Kiva.org because I’ve researched their mission and their business practices and I believe in my heart that they have positive impact in individuals’ and communities’ happiness and prosperity.

But can I prove it? Not really. There are 3 ways I get information about the impact of my loan and of Kiva’s work: A lowly PDF of the organization’s Breakdown of Expenses, the Latest Statistics updated nightly on their website, and the brief qualitative description of the loan recipient. These are all measures of Kiva.org’s social impact. But they don’t really say all that much. For instance, of the 204 word update I got on one of my loan recipients, here is the only informative part: “Not only has Rosa seen improvements in her own quality of life as a result of her microfinance loan, but she has also seen changes within her community. Elevated economic mobility has given the women in her community hope for a better future.” I’m glad that I really believe in this organization, because if I was really looking to know and understand the social impact they (and I, as a loan-giver) are having, I wouldn’t be so convinced to participate.

If Kiva.org has more information about their social impact (I’m sure they must), why don’t they put it on their website? Back in May 2009, the Build.Kiva blog wrote on measuring the social impact of Kiva loans, and the comments post towards other Kiva users wanting to see more metrics, both qualitative and quantitative. Then in March 2010, Kiva reported that they would be taking on a long-term project to get all of their Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) to produce reports with “the CERISE SPI (Social Performance Indicators Audit tool – one of the many tools available to analyze the social performance of an MFI).” A quick look around the Cerise website did not reveal what they consider actual measures of social impact (I get it, proprietary information, that’s fair).

I believe in Kiva, and I am willing to bet that by any relevant and appropriate measures we would see amazing social impact. I just made my latest loan to a recipient in Chile. I have my own ideas of what metrics I’d like to see on my loan. Not only would I learn so much about my loaning that could inform my further involvement with Kiva as a loan-maker, other organizations could learn about measuring social impact in general. So give it up, Kiva. I want another update on your (and my) social impact.

Can anyone comment on how Kiva measures social impact and reports that impact?


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