Global Civil Society Lecture Series

Social Entrepreneurship: The Story of Kiva.org

Featuring Matt Flannery, Co-Founder and CEO

The RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service in partnership with the Global Leadership Center welcomed social entrepreneur Matt Flannery, Co-Founder and CEO of Kiva.org, to the UT campus on Monday, November 24, 2008. Matt shared the story of Kiva.org and how his team was able to transform $25 loans into $50 million in funding for entrepreneurs in the developing world.

Small Loans with a Big Impact

Kiva combines social entrepreneurship with social networking, letting individuals loan money online, typically in $25 increments, to an entrepreneur of their choice in the developing world. Each borrower profiled on the web site is hard-working and hopes to create a sustainable livelihood through a small loan.

Matt addressed not only the success of Kiva, but also the problems and concerns that are involved with lending through Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in the developing world. He also spoke of the impact of the financial crisis on Kiva and showed several examples, including a specific borrower whose textile business struggles while her rice business is thriving due to soaring prices.

The lecture demonstrated how well Kiva has developed a transparent system, allowing users to see how money flows through the entire cycle and what effect it has on the people and institutions lending it, borrowing it, and managing it along the way.

As an entrepreneur’s business succeeds, the loan is repaid and the lender is then able to re-loan his or her money, creating a virtuous cycle. According to Matt, approximately 70 percent of individuals are re-loaning their money. Kiva’s 350,000 lenders have funded over 65,000 loans providing $50 million in funding. The current repayment rate is a remarkable 98.7 percent.

Matt Flannery, Co-Founder and CEO

Matt Flannery took an innovative approach to alleviating poverty when he began developing Kiva with his wife Jessica in late 2004. In December 2005, Matt left his job to devote himself to Kiva full-time. As CEO, Matt has led Kiva's growth from a pilot project to an established online service with partnerships across the globe and millions in dollars loaned to low income entrepreneurs. Matt is a Draper Richards Fellow and a featured blogger on the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge web