Lending in the new economy

My title conveys my dream, or at least my hope. I was chatting with my husband last week about a TED talk I had watched that really inspired me. Jessica Jackley, the co-founder of KIVA, was speaking about love being the motivator behind micro lending and giving. There are tons of women (a cause close to my heart) all around the world who are on the verge of starting a small business to provide for their children’s education (which comes at a cost in most countries), put food on the table and restore dignity as they stand on their own two feet. All they need is some help to get them started. For a small amount, maybe $25, you can  loan someone money to buy a stove, for example,  to cook meals to sell at the open market. KIVA also has a payback rate of 95%. It’s pretty amazing.

Jessica Jackley is also spearheading a new project called Profounder which allows individuals to create a profile so the community can invest into small scale entrepreneurship . I LOVE THIS! The description is great: “….to ensure all entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need through the engagement of robust, supportive communities”. Robust, supportive communities! I am so intrigued by the idea of social networks providing space for small businesses to launch. I have a few friends who also started a non profit, Give Anonymously, where you can….well, give anonymously to people in need. In just over a year this organization has already seen over a million dollars pass through to people in need (I hope I have my facts correct on that number-I’m pretty sure though).

This is my hope in our new economy: We would see more empowerment for people to create wealth and quality of life through the means of  individuals. I think this is a part of the dream of God; empowerment through community and the potential for wealth to bring people into the good life. By the good life I mean having the means to not only live pay check to pay check (or no pay check in a lot of countries) but to enjoy rest and refreshment alongside working hard. There’s a heaviness that comes with poverty and it’s very dehumanizing to be utterly poor. People are forced to make desperate decisions in abject poverty.  I love the fact that ordinary people have used social networks as a platform to bridge some of the gaps between the haves and have nots. And the system is very dignifying because loans are paid back by the individual through means of relationship.

I think about some of the business ideas I have had over the years and how much I would gain from the process of community lending. I wrote a post a while ago about bartering in the new economy and I still would love to see this happen more. Just yesterday a friend asked for help in upholstering her chairs in exchange for child care. YES! I can help with that and she can give back as well. Everyone wins. Another aspect that I really like about community lending is that it takes power away from these huge monopoly-banks and puts it back in the hands of regular people, your neighbors. These corporations have far too much power and control over the wealth of the poor and middle class (which is dwindling at an alarming rate). Community lending is sort of our act of civil disobedience (sort of-I mean, going through a bank is not law or anything). It just feels like a provoking act of defiance to bypass ‘the man’ and go to the village for help.

I would love to hear your thoughts on lending, giving and bartering and how they relate to where our economy is heading. There is risk involved in lending or even giving to people. “What if I don’t have enough for myself if I give?” Yep! What if? I’m one of the most frugal people I know so I have these fears all the time. Yet I think there is something great on the horizon as these social networks are creating opportunities to help and empower more people. I hope more of us get involved to create a momentum that gains strength as we give. Do consider getting on board with any of these lending or giving communities and be a part of something great! Here’s to building hope in a new economy!