A Leadership Case Study: Jessica Jackley and the KIVA Story

Posted by | August 06, 2009 | Leadership Summit 2009, Notes | No Comments

Jessica Jackley is co-founder of Kiva.org, the world’s first peer-to-peer online micro-lending website. Kiva.org allows internet users to lend as little as $25 to entrepreneurs in the developing world, providing affordable capital to start or expand a small business. In just three years Kiva has helped raise over $61 million and connected thousands of people across 120 countries. A graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Jackley’s work has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. She brings a fresh perspective on the personal nature of giving and how new generation leaders can innovate through technology.

  • Kiva.org started in 2005
  • Kiva has lent and repaid over $84 million dollars in four years.
  • “Humans are fundamentally better than banks.”
  • Kiva is the first person-to-person web based internet lending service.
  • Kiva.org will exceed $100 million dollars in loans by 2010.
  • Over 200,000 people in 183 countries have received loans.

Early Days

  • Mom and dad were her greatest influence, convinced her she could do anything.
  • Her brother was her partner in adventure.
  • One of her heroines was Harriet the Spy… part anthropologist, part explorer.
  • Was in college when she attended her first Leadership Summit.
  • Her and her father would do their own “summits” and decide on a theme for the year.
  • She started to sense her call to combat injustice
  • Learned two things that impacted her view of poverty… 1 – Jesus said the poor would always be with us. It scared her because she was always told people who are poor want something. 2 – Jesus said what we do to the least of these we do for him. The fear was tempered by the idea that she could do something of significance with her life.
  • The passion was vague and wasn’t sure of her specific role.
  • 5 years ago, she learned about microfinance.
  • Microfinance is financial services for the poor.
  • She learned the power of a small loan.
  • She went to East Africa for 3 months to learn from entrepreneurs
  • Many microfinance banks serve those who have no collateral to get a loan and don’t have access to the same resources of the people aruund them.
  • There are thousands of MFI’s that are mission-driven, out there to alleviate poverty by not only giving people money but by empowering and training them.
  • She got obsessed with the stories that came out of success.
  • It’s a privilege to hear the stories.

How Kiva.org Works

  • Lenders are everyday people with the internet and a credit card.
  • They can give small loans to entrepreneurs.
  • Profiles of entrepreneurs are posted by the lending services in the countries.
  • Lenders lend $25 or more over time and 100% of the money goes to the entrepreneur who pays it back (in about 9 months).
  • Average loan needed is about $500.
  • Average lender gives about $100.
  • Payment rate is 98.5%
  • Credit goes to the entrepreneurs and the microfinance enterprises that train them and set them up for success.
  • Every part of the process is viewed differently in different cultures.
  • They see it as money with purpose, with love and encouragement from other people who know their story and who are cheering them on.
  • When they know they are connected to the outside world it changes for them.

Examples of Life-Change

  • There’s parents who can send their daughters to school. Or have enough money for their kids to have uniforms.
  • Many changes in health… better nutrition, access to medicine.
  • Better living conditions… mud hut to a home made of concrete and iron.
  • One family saved enough money for a lock for their door.
  • Women in East Africa were proud to have sugar to put in their tea to be better hostesses to their guests.
  • All are beautiful to see.

Evolution of Kiva.org

  • In March of 2005 she found 7 friends in Ghana, took their pictures and recorded their stories and appealed to friends and family for help.
  • Began with 7 entrepreneurs and $3,000.
  • Launched in Oct 05
  • Do $5 million a month, over $85 million in less than four years.

Leadership Issues

  • Kiva has a flat, decentralized leadership structure.
  • When you start as friends, you see everyone’s contribution as being important and valuable.
  • If you can perpetuate the culture it creates ownership… people see value in what they do.
  • Mutual respect develops when you know where everyone is coming from.
  • A culture of trust and extreme teamwork.
  • There are bosses… over 40 staff and 100’s of volunteers… there is structure and good management, but when you’re trust-based you get a lot more done.
  • A lot of time is focused on creating tools for  a broader community to create amazing things to do even greater good.
  • Their iPhone app was developed by volunteers.
  • If you believe in co-creation you have to give up control… of your brand and who you are.
  • We have a mission we always come back to… the what (to connect people) the how (through lending), the why (for poverty alleviation).
  • Mission sounds simple, but they make decisions against it all the time… it’s their guide.
  • If a company comes with lots of money and no humans behind it, void of connection, they turn the money down… it would take away from their mission.
  • Common purpose is the best way to build ….

On Innovation

  • Innovation and entrepenurship are life-giving ideas.
  • Entrepreneurs create new life and new ideas.
  • if there’s anywhere innovaiton should be present, it should be in the Church.
  • That’s where life and revitalization should be coming from.
  • The chuch should be the safest place to come with the “what if” ideas.

On Giving

  • Sacrificial giving is different than other giving because of the change that happens in the giver… you want the giving to have thought and intention behind it.
  • “Great poets show, they don’t tell.”
  • It’s not effective to TELL people why they should give… SHOW them, give them the opportunity and they will.


  • There’s more to lose the bigger you get.
  • Don’t allow fear to stop you from taking bold chances.
  • Don’t be less nible or dynamic.
  • Try new things, pioneer.

To Young Leaders

  • Just taking the first step is a big deal. You can talk about wanting to do something or having an idea, everything changes when you begin.
  • Don’t be afraid to start small. Biggest way to make a big impact is to start small.
  • Just start. Get going. You’ll learn more in the first few days of trying and experimenting than you will in the year before talking about it.

To More Experienced Leaders…

  • Co-creating and collaboration create the best outcomes.
  • A dream team could be leaders with experience with inexperienced leaders.
  • No preconceived ideas of problems or solutions.
  • Be open to each other.

Final Word to Leaders

  • What will really change the world is a change in mindset.
  • When we believe in the potential of each other, you don’t have to convince people to take actions that will solve problems and make things better.
  • Microfinance gives dignity and respect while creating connections between people, breaking the false dichotomies between rich and poor.

About Tim Schraeder

Tim Schraeder is obsessed with all things social media. Having worked with some of the world’s largest churches and para-church organizations, he served as an evangelist for social media with a knack for connecting people and spreading ideas that matter. He’s been a consultant and coach as well as a sought-after speaker and author who helped write the book on communication and social media for the church. Today, Tim is passionate to help businesses and organizations connect, engage, and build loyal followers across all forms of social media. He is a die-hard Chicagoan who can be found in any neighborhood coffeeshop that has free wifi.

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