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Jessica Flannery, the co-founder of Kiva.org shares the story of the inspiration behind the non-profit organization, how it came to be and how it has helped over 800,000 people since 2005 in her microfinance keynote.
Inspired by Muhammad Yunus, an economics professor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Flannery resigned from her job and moved to East Africa where she interviewed small entrepreneurs who received small loans to start their own business. Inspired by their successes, failures and challenges, Flannery decided to devise a system that allowed people to find other struggling entrepreneurs and donate a small portion to their starting business.
Kiva runs on three main sections: borrowers, the entrepreneurs; lenders, which can consist of individuals and other foundations; and microfinance institutions, which assists in providing the capital for the entrepreneurs. Although the money exchanged is often small amounts, it has helped kickstart almost 850,000 businesses. As a non-profit organization, Kiva does not collect any portion of the interest from the microfinance institutions, only the principle amount invested, which is then reinvested into another business.