In Box

Reach Out and Lend

Don't let the fact that Kiva.org looks like Match.com fool you. It's a serious enterprise that enables person-to-person microlending from folks living in rich countries to entrepreneurs in the developing world. Kiva takes the photos and business plans of microloan applicants who have approached lenders in their home countries, such as Kenya's Rural Agency for Development, then picks up where these chronically underfunded institutions are too often forced to leave off. Kiva users browse people seeking loans and then send, say, $100 to a cattle breeder in Bulgaria or $50 to a jewelry seller in Ghana. Since launching in late 2005, Kiva has facilitated more than $2.3 million in loans, with a repayment rate of 97 percent. Kiva CEO Matt Flannery credits the site's success to its pseudo-matchmaking approach. "Reducing the psychological barrier between lender and recipient has a lot of power in it," he says. So does the notion that anyone with an Internet connection can lend to the poor.

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