Friday, June 26, 2009

Did I Like The Philanthropist? Not So Much.

I wanted to like NBC's new show, The Philanthropist, but I didn't.

What I did like is that The Philanthropist's website has a resource page with links to organizations like the Nigerian Red Cross, CARE, and the International Crisis Group. That's about all I liked.

The show's premise is that a wealthy businessman, Teddy Rist, has a transformational experience during a business trip to Nigeria and helps save a young boy during a flood. (We later learn that his own young son is dead). Although his company has a foundation, giving money doesn't feel like enough now for Teddy, and he returns to Nigeria to single-handedly deliver vaccine to a village near where the boy he rescued lived.

The problem is, Rist is a jerk. He clearly goes on this one-man mission to assuage the pain of his son's death, which is somewhat realistic since we are often drawn to causes in an attempt to heal broken parts of ourselves. Thing is, he fails to return his ex-wife's emails or phone calls when she asks him to help move everything out of their dead son's room, and then gets angry at her when she does it without him. In my book, being a jerk to your ex-wife who is trying to get over the loss of your child doesn't get balanced out by delivering vaccine to a remote village in Nigeria.

Oh, and then there are all of the women he sleeps with. While working with a Nigerian drug dealer to get the vaccine released from the airport, a group of beautiful women are brought to Rist's hotel room. "They are all orphans," the dealer says. And then there is the Nigerian woman doctor who he delivers the vaccine to who asks, "How will I'll ever repay you?" Oh, he found a way. Not to mention the woman bartender he gives a $1,000 check to listen to him tell his story (the voiceover for the show).

I'm not saying Rist has to be perfect, but appealing would have been nice. The characters of Simon Baker on The Mentalist and Michael Weston on Burn Notice have more integrity than Rist.

Finally, why does The Philanthropist have to be a white man? Why couldn't it have been a woman, like the Miranda Bailey character on Grey's Anatomy, a tough, smart, problem-solver with a soft heart?

Hey, if the show takes off and inspires people to become involved in international development and philanthropy, great, if not, I hope next time a character will be created who, although not perfect, has as much wealth of character as wealth in his or her wallet.

Here's what some other bloggers are saying about The Philanthropist:
Cross-posted from

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

How You Can Participate in United We Serve This Summer

As I mentioned in my Monday post, First Lady Michelle Obama and United We Serve, June 22nd was the first day of United We Serve, the Obama Administration's nationwide summer of service initiative that will run until September 11th, which will be a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

While I was at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service this week, I went to a session about United We Serve with Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director, White House Office of Public Engagement, and Carlos Monje, Senior Policy Advisor, White House Domestic Policy Counsel.

Wicks and Monje outlined the 3 goals of United We Serve:
  • To bolster civic engagement nationwide.
  • To better our communities in 4 priority issue areas: energy/environment, education, health care, and community renewal.
  • To develop creative, sustainable partnerships with nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, issue groups, labor unions, educational institutions, business corporations, foundations, and all levels of government.
They also talked about ways individuals and organizations can get involved with United We Serve:
  1. Register your projects(s) on You don't need to be an organization to do this. Any individuals/group/family can register their project. They have toolkits available, and will be building more, to help you create your project.
  2. Find a volunteer opportunity on using the search engine powered by All For Good.
  3. Share your story about your summer service project.
  4. Email your email lists, listservs and social networks directing people to register and search for projects on
  5. Link to on your blog or website (Digital badges are available here)

  6. Think creatively about how to collaborate with other organizations, businesses, foundations, etc.
  7. Contact the Corporation for National and Community Service about how to get engaged by emailing
I'm probably going to be spending my summer of service setting up a blog for a grassroots program in my neighborhood, called Reading Partners, that I volunteer with during the school year. What are you going to do?

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Social Innovation: Harnessing What Works to Address Critical National Challenges

I've been hearing a lot about the Social Innovation Fund lately, an element of the Serve America Act. A May 6th White House blog post by Jesse Lee, What is the Social Innovation Fund? says that the Fund will, "identify the most promising, results-oriented non-profit programs and expand their reach throughout the country."

To learn more about the Fund, I attended a panel called Social Innovation: Harnessing What Works to Address Critical National Challenges at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service.

The discussion focused less on what the Fund will do, and more on best practices it should adopt, and challenges it will face once it is up and running.

Michele Jolin, Senior Advisor for Social Innovation for the Domestic Policy Council at The White House was the panel moderator. If you would like to watch the video from the session, click on this link for the Social Innovation Forum. You will have to fill out a form, as if you were registering for a live webcast, to access the video.

Cheryl Dorsey, the President of Echoing Green, a nonprofit that provides seed funding and support to social entrepreneurs, talked about how providing capital for social innovation can:
  • Provide incentive for individual and collective engagement around social problems.
  • Engage people who are closest to the problem.
  • Create a competitive marketplace that showcases a variety of ideas.
  • Give voice to new and alternative actors.
Some factors she feels can support social innovations' success are:
  • Engaging the crowd and using the wisdom of the crowds to facilitate innovations coming through the pipeline.
  • Trusting in the importance of new ideas.
  • Accepting and championing failure and the learning that comes from failure.
  • Using open source innovation platforms (she mentioned something about Kellogg, that I didn't quite catch--maybe the Kellogg Innovation Network?).
  • Developing social innovation leaders.
Sarah Di Troia, Partner at New Profit, a nonprofit venture philanthropy company that provides multi-year financial and strategic support to social entrepreneurs, talked about the importance of funding not only program innovation, but also organizational innovation. She emphasized that when great programs are housed in bad organizations they die.

She encouraged focusing on what facilitates the building of strong organizations that can house successful programs, and "raising up patterns" of what is working operationally for organizations, and disseminating that information.

Steve Goldsmith, Vice Chair for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Daniel Paul Professor of Government at Harvard's University's Kennedy School of Government, and the Director of the Innovations in American Government Program, addressed some of the challenges that the Social Innovation Fund will face:
  • Political economy: In politics, people get funding through manipulating relationships and protecting their turf.
  • Barriers to entry: The government prescribes a lot of requirements (i.e. teaching credentials, MSW's)
  • Curse of professionalism: A bunch of smart people get in a room and decide that they have a solution to a problem when the answer actually lies somewhere between that room and the people affected by the problem.
He would like to see the Fund support new models that disrupt the system, focus on results, and challenge other aspects of how government works. He also noted the need for an innovative way to capture ideas from the bottom up, and cited Apps for Democracy as an example.

Check out what the bloggers listed below have to say about the Social Innovation Fund, and tell the White House what you think about the idea on the Corporation for National and Community Service website.Full disclosure: I host Echoing Green's Be Bold podcast and have done social media consulting with them.

Cross-posted from
Top photo: Michele Jolin and Steve Goldsmith. Second photo: Cheryl Dorsey, Sarah Di Triola, and Ian Hardman (President of Management Leadership for Tomorrow).

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Monday, June 22, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama and United We Serve

"It's been said that our true calling in life is where our heart's greatest gladness meets the world's deepest need."
--First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service.

It was pretty darn exciting to be a member of the press for the opening plenary of the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service where First Lady Michelle Obama gave the keynote address today.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to attend and cover the September 11th Presidential Forum on Service during the Service Nation conference in New York City. During the conference, Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Ted Kennedy, represented by his niece, Caroline Kennedy, announced that they were introducing the Serve America Act of 2008.

Nine months later, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act has been signed, and last week President Obama announced the launch of United We Serve--a call for all Americans to serve in their communities starting today, June 22, until September 11th, which will be a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Americans are encouraged to go to to find a service opportunity.
"This, more than anything, is the key point I want to make today," said the First Lady," that this new Obama Administration doesn't view service as separate from our national priorities, or just something in addition to our national priorities--we have an administration that sees it as the key to achieving our national priorities.

We believe that the only way to build that new foundation for our economy is to establish a new role for service in this country."
The First Lady talked about how so often there is, "a sense that service is helpful, but not essential--that it's something folks should do occasionally, particularly around the holidays; something you do to fulfill a requirement, or fulfill yourself. . . . Service is just a little something extra - the icing on the cake, but not part of the cake itself."

The Obama administration wants to make service and volunteering the icing, and the cake for everyone.
"The story of progress in this nation has always been the story of people who chose - in times of trial and struggle - to serve it. . . . Our history is one long testament to the fundamental truth that real change doesn't come from the top down from Washington, it comes from the bottom up - from citizens organizing and mobilizing and serving the nation that they love."
The First Lady also announced that the Entertainment Industry Foundation will be working with ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC to create a "week-long television event in support of national service" the week of October 19, 2009. During that week, the networks will include service-related themes in some of their programming.

I'll be going back to the National Conference on Volunteering and Service tomorrow, and will share more notes from the workshops on Tuesday and/or Wednesday.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Empowering Refugees: Interview with Kjerstin Erickson of FORGE

Kjerstin Erickson is one of those "shiny" people who lights up a room. After meeting her at the Global Engagement Summer last spring, I knew I wanted to grab her for an interview before she became too famous.

Erickson founded FORGE (Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment) in 2003 when she was a 20 year-old junior studying public policy at Stanford University.

FORGE serves 60,000 refugees in three different refugee camps in Southern Africa, and is an official operating partner of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Now 26, Erickson is still FORGE's Executive Director. She has been named a Haas Public Service Fellow at Stanford, a Top 10 College Woman by Glamour Magazine, and a Person You Should Know by CNN.

FORGE uses a collaborative, rather than top-down model, to serve refugees' needs, and much has been written in the blogosphere and media about Erickson's "radical transparency" around the organization's financial challenges.

Saturday, June 20th is World Refugee Day, and this year's theme is "Real People, Real Needs." If you're inspired after listening to the interview on the Big Vision Podcast, or reading the edited transcript below, take a browse through FORGE's gallery of projects created by refugee social entrepreneurs.


Kjerstin Erickson: FORGE is an international nonprofit organization that works with refugee communities in Africa. What we do is essentially support social entrepreneurship within refugee communities. We work with about 60,000 refugees from across the continent. We bring communities together to identify their top problems, needs, and priorities, and solve them internally.

The projects can range from preschools, to libraries and computer training centers, to women empowerment programs. It runs the gamut based on what the needs of the community are, and what they're most passionate about solving at that time.

You use a process that on your website was described as the, "collaborative project planning process."


Can you talk about how that works, and what the pros and cons of that process are?

The "collaborative project planning process" is a mouthful. We like to refer to it as a "people-powered" development process. It's really designed to make sure that all solutions are both emerging from the local community and tailored to the community's needs, and are developing the leadership skills of the most promising and emerging leaders at the same time. This process emerged based on working for four years in a more traditional development organization sense, in which we were bringing in international volunteers. We would look at a community and say, "This community needs a library, " or "You don't have enough kids in preschool." Then we would design the projects and implement them top down.

We had a lot of great results there, but we realized that something was missing and that the individuals that were involved on our side were getting so much learning experience and leadership experience by creating these projects, but we weren't designed to create those learning experiences from Americans. We wanted to ultimately empower the refugees as much as we could. We radically transformed the way that we did our business, and designed a process through which the refugees themselves would get all of that experience.

At the same time, we would be creating projects that were more locally tailored and more specific and impactful, and allowed a community and a set of individuals to be able to repeat that process, and learn all of the important skills of how to create community change.

What have been the challenges of using that process? I mean, obviously people haven't been using that other process for so long if it is completely ineffectual.


Obviously, what's good about it is that you're empowering people. You're hopefully meeting the needs that they have determined. They're walking away with skills. Hopefully the project continues. What's the dark side? What's the challenge of using that process?

Well, it's scary because you have no control. You walk into a community, and you have no idea what they're going to say, and what they're going to need. Sometimes from our perspective we might think, "That's not what you need," or "That's not a good idea," or "That's never going to work," or the community might elect some leaders that we don't think are the best leaders.

You really have to trust the process and go with it, and that takes a lot of restraint. It takes a lot of training on behalf of the project managers that oversee the process.

Ultimately, it takes a willingness to allow some failures to occur, but allow those failures to be educational for a community. I think that is something that we all learn growing up. We have the opportunity to fail. We have the opportunity to make mistakes, and learn from those and recover. It's the same thing in a development context.

What's one of your favorite FORGE success stories?

The model that FORGE takes is really a long-term impact framework. We are focused on preparing individuals to eventually return to their home countries and to help rebuild, and that's human capacity building. It's one of the hardest things to measure, and it's probably one of the hardest things to do. It does take a long-term framework, in terms of being able to view results. Fortunately, we've been around for about six years now. We can look at some of the people that we most immediately, and most originally started to work with. One of those individuals is Paul Ohisa, and he's a refugee from Sudan.

He was actually on a business trip, on his bike, to Uganda. He was coming back to his village, and he found that his village was in flames. It had been bombed. He just had to drop everything, turn around, and run.

He had no idea where his family went. He ran into Congo. He was there for about a month, and then war in Congo was breaking out. He ended up running for about 1,500 miles all the way to Zambia, arriving with nothing but the clothes on his back, about 90 pounds, and showing up at a refugee camp where he knew nobody.

He was able to get some work digging pit latrines to put himself through one semester of his remaining high school education, and then he ran out of money.

He was the first person that we sponsored to our High School Education Program, and he was able to complete his education. He was the head boy of his school, and then he was one of our first employees leading the largest library in a refugee camp in the world, the Meheba Friendly Library.

He showed so much leadership and promise that we ended up sponsoring him to a university through our FORGE education fund. His dream was to go back to Sudan, and to contribute and help rebuild. He did his degree in NGO Management, and will be graduating this coming June.

And he's come up with his plan, his social entrepreneurship plan, to bring attention to the refugee plight and also to contribute to rebuilding in Sudan.

His idea is that he wants to recreate, in reverse, the walk that he made from Sudan all the way through Congo and into Zambia. Along the way he will stop in at villages, tell his story, talk about African unity, and talk about the way that wars are so destructive, but in a way that refugees can be powerful forces for change. Eventually, he will get back to his small little village in southern Sudan, present himself as the first university graduate from the entire village, and start to implement some of the skills he gained.

We have told him that unfortunately we don't have the funds to support such a walk, but he is so committed to it that he is already doing his fundraising and trying to find radio stations that will follow him.

It's an empowering and inspirational story about how ultimately an organization doesn't have to create all the changes themselves. They can create the change makers.

They can facilitate that change or create the structures to help that along.


What's the path that brought you to this work? You started very young. It's not something that everyone wakes up to do. "Oh, I think I'm going to go work in refugee camps." What brought you here?

It wasn't something I woke up thinking I was going to do either. Mainly it was luck. I was in high school, I was 17 and my first trip to Africa was to Kenya with my family, just on a picture safari. That's when I think my worldview was originally rocked. I knew I was going to Stanford, and I was on top of the world. And at that time I really believed that if you worked hard enough at something you could achieve it.

It wasn't until I got to Kenya and saw how many kids were just dying to go to school and would do anything that I realized that that's not true all over the world.

There are people who will work as hard as they possibly can, but because of structures, and because of systems that I had access to that they often do not, it just seemed to shake my vision of what's right in the world.

I committed to learning more, and I went to Stanford and started studying Swahili and African studies. The first opportunity that I had to go back was to work in a refugee camp in Botswana.

Completely random. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but when I arrived on the ground, it became pretty clear quickly that this is what I wanted to dedicate myself to. And from there the rest is a blur, but it ended up in an organization a few years down the line.

Can you talk a little bit about the development of the organization? Why did you decide to create your own organization rather than working for another organization? What are the benefits of that, and the challenges of that?

I'm actually not the typical, at least in the way that we talk about it now, picture of a social entrepreneur because I actually didn't set out to create an organization at first. I was inspired by the possibilities that I saw in the refugee camp environment, and the possibilities for using refugees as agents of peace and change, and training them to be that, but I didn't think that I would be doing that on any kind of organizational level.

I just really wanted to learn more after my first trip, and ended up talking to a lot of other individuals about the situation in camps and how it could be changed and transformed, and ended up inspiring a lot of other individuals to get involved. We just started doing what we could on a university basis, and one day looked around and realized that this was a full-fledged organization.

I was not spending any time on schoolwork anymore. We had people that were depending on us on the ground, and it was time to drop out of school and run the organization full time. I was just finishing my junior year.

Haven't you changed the model some, because it was a fundraising model through students fundraising, and now it's a little bit different? How has that changed?

The first four years, because I was a student at the time, there's no good way to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars when you are 20 years old and have no experience or results besides to get a lot of people to raise money individually. So, that's what we did. We would bring students. We would train them for about seven months in the States, and then they would go to the ground during the summertime for two to three months and implement projects that they had been planning.

And that worked great, but as I mentioned earlier when talking about the importance of locally derived projects, we were not empowering people to the level that we could, the refugee community itself.

Four years in, that's when we decided to change the model to essentially eliminate our dependable revenue stream, but to do it for the sake of creating maximum impact by turning over the responsibilities of the American volunteers to the refugee community itself.

Losing some, a lot of fundraising in the process, but gaining more than we could ever have imagined in impact and long term change.

So, now people can go on the site and support projects. Is that how it works?

In order to try to replace some of that revenue, we built a state of the art Web 2.0, Web 2.5 website that allows individuals in the western world to connect directly with our projects on the ground. The biggest problem with international development is that people don't know where their money is going. They don't know if it is going to be used the right way, or if it just going to be going into some big organization's coffers.

We wanted to use the power of the Internet to try to connect people to the causes that they were serving, and to bring maximum transparency to the international development world.

Now we have thousands of donors from across the United States, across Europe, and all over the world who are able to select projects and refugee social entrepreneurs that they are the most passionate about and give directly to them through our website.

Last year you got lots of media attention because you blogged on Social Edge about some of the organization's financial struggles. And then just last week, I believe, you wrote about things you suck at, like multi-tasking and managing people who need a lot of structure. Talk about why you have chosen to be so transparent, and how that has helped, or not helped the organization.

Starting an organization at 20, the top job that I held before becoming the Founder and Executive Director was cleaning tanning beds in a tanning salon in Santa Rosa. I had a lot to learn. I knew nothing about people management. I was learning how to effectively manage an organization of 160 employees across five different offices on multiple continents in different time zones with different currencies, and it's a big challenge.

I think that the only way that I got by was to be open and honest with myself about mistakes that I, or the organization, had made along the way and lessons that we had learned; and through that process, cleanse yourself of the guilt of holding it all in.

And to also ensure that the lessons that are learned stay learned and are passed down, that we can be very clear about the things that we have done wrong so that we don't do those things again.

We found that it became an organizational culture in many ways. When we train staff members in project management we focus mostly on things that can go wrong, things that we've done wrong, lessons that we've learned, and it works very well for us because we find that too often in international development you hear about the rosy stuff.

But what anyone who has actually been on the ground knows is that it is hard. Things go wrong all the time.

We found that the only way to really be constantly improving and growing is to be open and clear. I am sure that there are people that look at a post on "Things I Suck At" and say, "I'll never donate to an organization whose Executive Director sucks at multi-tasking," or whatever it might be.

But then there are others that get that too, and can see those things in themselves. I think that is ultimately, I guess, our target audience.

What advice do you have for students either who are in college like you were (all the poor young people who have graduated in this crazy world right now), and they have an idea for how they want to create a career, organization or project with social impact? What advice do you have for them?

Don't compromise would be the first one. There was a moment when I was first starting out that I thought, "Perhaps the best way to do this will be to go to grad school, get a hundred degrees, wait until I am 35 and can be respected, and then jump in." Yet, there was something in me that knew I had found something special by finding something that I cared about, and a point of intervention that I thought could really work. I think that that is one of the things that, especially my generation, is seeing more and more around them.

We are in a time where unprecedented change is possible. Having the opportunity to be involved in that in any way is very, very special. I'd say if you ever get that spark to say, "Wait a second. I can do something here. I see something different." Don't wait. Just go for it.

You'll learn more along the way than you would ever learn in ten PhD's. You will probably effect more change as well.

How can people who are listening to this show, or read the transcript on the blog, get involved with FORGE? How can they help?

That's the best question! Our website is at As I mentioned, it is wonderful for connecting people to the exact types of work that they are interested in, and to allow them to support the particular refugee social entrepreneur that they find a connection to.

And is there anything else that you wanted to talk about FORGE's work, or philanthropy, or international development that you didn't get to cover?

Well, I think one of the biggest things that crosses people's minds when they hear "Africa," particularly Africa and refugees, is, "Oh my God. It has been going on my whole life. There are always wars over there. It is never going to end. Why are we going to just throw more money into this sinkhole when the continent is just in disarray?" I get that. I think that I had a lot of those reactions early on, like, is this ever going to be solved, or are these problems intractable? But after spending the years on the ground that I have, I'm absolutely convinced that the problems that Africa faces are 100% overcomable with investment; investment in root causes rather than symptoms.

The first time I went to Africa I was 17. I love shoes and I had 30 pairs of shoes at home. I was shocked when I saw that kids weren't wearing shoes, and that they were walking to school. It was appalling.

My first reaction was, "Well, they need shoes. I am going to send it to them." I was able to collect 2,000 shoes, and everyone told me I was such a good person. I sent them over.

It wasn't until a few years later when I learned more about development and how important it is to carefully consider interventions that I realized that that was probably doing more harm than good.

Who knows what happens when kids who haven't worn shoes are suddenly wearing them. Then their feet get tender again, and what happens when they grow out of them? Are they going to have to spend more of their money on shoes?

There are all kinds of issues there and what root problem was actually being solved? That is the question that I think the international community needs to look at more, because if we invested the same amount in root causes, like human capacity, education, and economic systems, that we do in the symptoms of no shoes, no shirt, needing balls to play with, or whatever it might be, I think the issues that Africa faces can be solved within our lifetimes.

Cross-posted from BlogHer.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Little Shot of Inspiration: 2009 Echoing Green Fellow video

Want a little shot of inspiration during your lunch or coffee break? Take 3 minutes to watch this video of the 2009 Echoing Green Fellows:

These 17 social entrepreneurs were selected from 1,000 applicants. Each Fellow will receive up to $90,000 over two years, plus comprehensive technical assistance, consulting support, and other organizational benefits.

Full disclosure: I have done social media consulting for Echoing Green and host their podcast, the Be Bold Podcast.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

More Do-Good Gifts for Dad

Father's Day is next week (June 21). Do you know what you're getting your dad?

Below are a few gift ideas to add to my Do-Good Gifts for Dad list from last year:

1. In her post, Feel Good Father's Day Gifts, Bargain Babe suggests using GoodSearch to find and purchase your gift. According to the GoodSearch site, up to 30% of your purchase goes to the cause of your choice.


3. In her post, Green Deals and Giveaways, Miss suggests getting your dad a pair of TOMS Shoes. For each pair you buy, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child who can't afford them.

4. The IE Mommy has a list 5 gift ideas in her post, Make a Difference on Father's Day. One of them is to support dads in the military by making a donation in your father's honor to the USO, Operation Home Front, or

5. In the post, Get Fit for Father's Day, That's Fit points to the American Council on Exercise's article about giving your Dad the gift of exercising together by going for a hike, working out at the gym, or playing golf--without the golf cart!

6. On Twitter, @maggieleithead (Maggie Leithead) writes that she gave her dad a CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) donation last year. You can also Adopt an Acre in your Dad's name through Nature Conservancy.

7. Also on Twitter, @jcwiley (Jesse Wiley) suggests checking out the green clothing buying guide on Treehugger, purchasing a Taste of the Nation ticket to help end childhood hunger, and giving a loan to an entrepreneur through in your Dad's name (gift certificates are available too).

What are some other do-good gifts for Dad?

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Cross-posted from
Photo of my Dad and I going for a walk last weekend taken by my camera's timer (:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Made My First Kiva Loan to an American Entrepreneur Today

Today I used to loan $25.00 to Elizabeth, a beauty salon owner in Queens, New York who needs $6,000 to purchase new chairs, hair dryers, and other items for her salon. This is the fourth loan I've made to an entrepreneur using Kiva, but the first one to an entrepreneur in the United States.

Kiva facilitates regular people, like you and me, making micro-loans to entrepreneurs who aren't able to get a loan from the bank. In the past, Kiva only worked with entrepreneurs outside of the U.S., but today they extended their services to American entrepreneurs.

Check out Good Morning America's story today about Kiva, and their interview with its President, Premal Shah. Shah explains how to be considered for a loan, and how to be a lender.

So far, Kiva has a 98% repayment rate. Once the entrepreneur you've helped pays back your loan, you can either get your money back, or reinvest it in another entrepreneur.

I'm excited about this new service first, because I'm sure more American entrepreneurs than ever could use help getting their businesses started, and second, because it makes the program less one-sided--Americans helping people in the developing world--to people helping people, wherever they live. Someone in Kenya could loan to an entrepreneur in the States, and vice versa.

I'm also hopeful that Kiva will find some microfinance partners who work specifically with American Indian, Alaskan Native and Hawaiian Native entrepreneurs like I proposed in my March post, A for Native American Entrepreneurs? works with microfinance institutions to help identify entrepreneurs, and to distribute loans to them. They are working with ACCION USA and the Opportunity Fund for the new U.S. program. If you know of any microfinance institutions that serve Native Americans in particular, let me know.

You can read more about the launch of Kiva's U.S. program on these blogs:
Cross-posted from

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