Thinking and Acting Globally
SOLES' Microfinance Team ranks in Kiva's Top 5
For philanthropists of more modest means, providing financial assistance to budding entrepreneurs in developing nations used to be a virtual impossibility. Now, thanks to microfinance lenders like Kiva and the growing worldwide infrastructure that supports them, lender groups like the Kiva microfinance team at SOLES are pooling their resources to support new business ventures and alleviate poverty around the world.
“Microfinance is a great way to partner with people in emerging nations to effect change by mobilizing resources in a very creative way,” explains SOLES microfinance team leader Nathaniel Dunigan. “Someone can become a member of our lender team by investing anywhere from $25 on up to several thousand dollars.”
Lender team funds are pooled and a recipient is selected from the loan applicant stories and photos that have been uploaded to the Kiva website by the organization’s local field partners. Typically these partners are religious and social welfare organizations that already have a solid communications network in place. Kiva then disburses the aggregate funds through a bank or other local institution, which charges the borrower a reasonable rate of interest to cover costs. As the loan is repaid, the funds are transferred back to the original lender’s Kiva account.
Dean Paula Cordeiro, who is Dunigan’s graduate advisor, shares his vision of social entrepreneurship and human development as tools for social change. “It can feel empowering,” she says, “to be partnering with someone in business rather than simply giving them a handout. Plus as the funds are returned to the lender, they can be used again to finance new entrepreneurial endeavors.”
Video: How Kiva Works
By the end of November 2010 after just one month of operation, the SOLES microfinance team had 79 members and had already made more than 50 microloans to entrepreneurs and students abroad, making SOLES the number one new Kiva team in the colleges/universities category for that month. Since then, the SOLES team has remained in Kiva’s Top 5 fastest growing university teams while the number of loans made by the team has quadrupled.
Dean Cordeiro taught the first ever SOLES course on social entrepreneurship in spring of 2011 with Dunigan serving as her research/teaching assistant. “This is a very new field and SOLES is on the cutting edge,” Dunigan points out. “There aren’t many classes of this kind currently offered at other US universities and few existing texts on which to draw. Certainly historical discussions are available under other labels, and while extremely relevant today, are especially important in consideration of tomorrow.”
“As an institution of higher learning,” Cordeiro adds, “we can feel proud to be a part of this new worldwide effort, not only as active partners/lenders, but as participants in shaping the future of microfinance and philanthropy around the world.”