Creating Opportunity for All: LinkedIn Speaker Series with Kiva’s Premal Shah and Julie Hanna

November 3, 2014

Last week, I had the chance to attend an inspiring LinkedIn Speaker Series discussion with LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman, the President of Kiva, Premal Shah, and Kiva’s Executive Chair of the Board, Julie Hanna. Premal and Julie shared how their respective backgrounds led to their involvement with Kiva – Premal through his visits to India and seeing the stark poverty there, and Julie through her experience as a survivor of the Black September war in Jordan. In both cases, their experiences drove them to pursue a more just world through making opportunity available to all, scaled with technology and enabled by everyday people.

Kiva embodies those goals through its mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Kiva and their partners allow anyone to lend money to borrowers who don’t have access to traditional bank loans. The loans enable borrowers to create better lives for themselves and their families, and are repaid over time.

kiva speaker series

Our belief is that the role of nonprofits is to start where the markets end, where the markets fail - Premal Shah.

I was struck by how true Premal’s comment was, that nonprofits can have the largest impact where markets have failed or aren’t willing to bear the risk. Those gaps are where human compassion comes into play, and ordinary people will help those whom no one else is willing to help. Premal shared a very timely story of how the current Ebola crisis in West Africa has halted all local Kiva partner activity, meaning loans aren’t getting repaid. This might cause chaos for commercial lenders, but the compassion of individual Kiva lenders means they’re willing to adjust repayment schedules. To address gaps like these, Kiva continues to push on making opportunity available for everyone. Their latest program, Kiva Zip, takes the microfinance model one step further by directly lending to borrowers without the need for a partner organization.

Hearing Premal and Julie speak, I am inspired. We often think that as one individual, we can’t do much, but technology and organizations like Kiva allow me to see the stories of real people across the world, feel a connection, and make a life-changing contribution. Altogether, over one million individual Kiva lenders have made over $600 million in loans. Imagine if every LinkedIn member contributed $25! Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Make a loan. $25 will get you started, and the best part is you’ll get repaid and be able to keep helping people.
  2. Use your LinkedIn profile to share your volunteer causes and interests. Let nonprofits like Kiva know that you’re ready and willing to help!

After the talk, I went home and used my repaid Kiva loans to make a new loan on Kiva Zip, and donated on Watsi, an organization Premal mentioned that allows people to fund healthcare for those in need. For only $75, I helped fund a business in Kenya and a child’s surgery in Tanzania. Whose life can you change? Check out the full video of the discussion below:

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