August 14

Viewpoint: What Happened to the Microfinance Organization Kiva?

One morning in August 2021, as she had nearly every morning for about a decade, Janice Smith opened her computer and went to, the website of the San Francisco–based nonprofit that helps everyday people make microloans to borrowers around the world. Smith, who lives in Elk River, Minnesota, scrolled through profiles of bakers in Mexico, tailors in Uganda, farmers in Albania. She loved the idea that, one $25 loan at a time, she could fund entrepreneurial ventures and help poor people help themselves.

But on this particular morning, Smith noticed something different about Kiva’s website. It was suddenly harder to find key information, such as the estimated interest rate a borrower might be charged—information that had been easily accessible just the day before and felt essential in deciding who to lend to. She showed the page to her husband, Bill, who had also become a devoted Kiva lender. Puzzled, they reached out to other longtime lenders they knew. Together, the Kiva users combed through blog posts, press releases, and tax filings, but they couldn’t find a clear explanation of why the site looked so different. Instead, they learned about even bigger shifts—shifts that shocked them.

Photo courtesy of World Bank Photo Collection.

Source: MIT Technology Review (link opens in a new window)

financial inclusion, lending, microfinance, nonprofits