In rural Zimbabwe, Lindiwe walks a worn, dirt path to her store. It’s a path she has walked all her life, growing up in her small town. She knows every twist and turn, the feel of the soft dirt under her feet. The path eventually takes her to the center of her village, a small collection of stores and homes where the town congregates to shop and sell their goods. She looks across the plaza at her store, still amazed that it’s actually hers, a dream she thought was impossible, until it wasn’t.
Like many others around the world, Lindiwe wanted to create something new, start a business, fulfill a dream, but she didn’t have access to the money to make it happen. Generally speaking, if you need funds for a new idea or business, you have to go to a bank and get a loan. But, to get that loan, you need some capital to put up for it — and, living in rural Zimbabwe, Lindiwe didn’t have that.
Thanks to a microlending nonprofit called Kiva, Lindiwe received a loan for her business from other private citizens in countries worldwide.
To get a loan, a borrower like Lindiwe writes her story and posts it on the Kiva website. She’ll share some basic information about herself and where she is from, but the most important part of the story is who she is, what she’ll use the loan for, and what she’s trying to accomplish. Then, people who want to fund her project can lend all or a portion of the money she’s requested — even in increments as small as $25. Over time, as Lindiwe builds her business and makes a profit, she repays those loans to her lenders. And the loan repayment rate at Kiva is an astounding 97 percent.
That’s not the only amazing number coming out of Kiva. Kiva has a network of over 1.6 million lenders and 2.4 million borrowers connected on its platform. The Kiva platform has funded projects totaling nearly 1 billion dollars — bringing hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty by giving them the chance to make their dreams come true. The real magic of Kiva is the connections. The mere fact that people who would ordinarily never meet face to face can connect, learn about each other, and build something together, is exactly what makes Kiva so special.
But making that connection is somewhat of a challenge. With people located in over 80 countries worldwide, there are language barriers that require effort to cross. How can someone who speaks a different language share their story with the rest of the world?
That’s where the Kiva Volunteer Review and Translation program comes in. Through this program, volunteers worldwide review and translate the biography submissions from borrowers into English, where they can be read and understood by many people around the world. Ordinarily, Kiva would do this with an internal team, but with a staff of only 100 people, Kiva knew that its small size would be a blocker for borrowers in getting their story out in the world. Running a volunteer program is a great way for Kiva to not only get borrower stories out quickly, but also maintain a lean internal team and reduce organizational costs. And, for Review and Translation volunteers, it is a great way for them to give back on a global scale, helping people in places around the world share their story and get funded. Kiva is creating a world where people connect over things they are passionate about, help others fulfill their dreams, and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
This passion for connection and communication is something that is ingrained into the company culture of Kiva. And that makes sense: the products a company produces are often a reflection of who they are as a company, too. As Kevin O’Brien, Kiva CTO put it,
We’ve been able to execute on that mission of connecting people across the world, but it’s also something we’ve been able to do here, connect within the organization, of creating that trust.
Part of how Kiva creates trust and connection is through a very collaborative culture, where sharing and transparency are part of every project, communication, and plan. With people on the internal Kiva team located in remote places around the world, Kiva needs to be a company that communicates well and shares information widely.
To do that, Kiva uses Confluence for creating, sharing, and collaborating with their teams online. Because Confluence is open and accessible to anyone in a company with an internet connection, it is much easier to share information than traditional software, where documents are stored on hard drives and must be emailed around or uploaded to a server. At Kiva, every project starts in Confluence, where people can contribute ideas, give feedback, and come up with a plan together. That transparency helps everyone be involved and work together toward a common goal.
Kiva has a value of transparency. Confluence definitely helps us to provide that. I think we’ve certainly moved towards a document first, open to everyone kind of model. – Kevin O’Brien
That openness has created some pretty cool programs at Kiva, including the Volunteer Review and Translation Program. When the team at Kiva started noticing they were getting a lot of borrower submissions, they struggled with the amount of data coming in and resorted to using many tools to try to handle it, even making a rushed, custom system that handled some of the problems but created others. When it came time to make a better solution for the volunteers, the team mapped out project specifications using Confluence and JIRA to handle all the complexity of a huge overhaul. With the new system, the program has over 400 active volunteers, translating a record number of borrower submissions a month!
Kiva uses Confluence to store and share vital information about other programs and initiatives as well. For its field partners around the world, who come alongside borrowers and help them prepare to receive and use their loan, Confluence is the place to record their field notes, refer to policies, and share any other relevant information to their specific program.
I remember vast Google Docs before and Word documents of 40, 50 pages on certain countries. Now you can have a nice section in Confluence, where it’s all about Peru and you can click through to the various things instead of having to scroll through 40 pages. That’s pretty great. – Kevin O’Brien, CTO
Kiva is doing something very unique in the world: connecting people to build something new together. And that value of connection and sharing is something that runs deep in the Kiva company culture, and is reflected in their use of a tool like Confluence.
You don’t have to work at an international microfinance nonprofit to do good in the world: you can work in finance, technology, or government and still be a part of a collaborative, and open culture where ideas come to life and share our world for the better. At least that’s what we believe. See how your team can use Confluence to communicate, collaborate, and build the world you want to see.