I have been interested in all things “micro” for some time. I am fascinated by the emergence of micro-blogging, micro-celebrity, micro-innovation, micro-interactions, micro-transactions and specifically, micro-finance. I think all of these things will have an impact (or are already impacting) on brands and the way that we do business. Leading the way, in this respect is Kiva, the micro-finance organisation that is changing the lives of people every single day.
Kiva's mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. It combines goodwill/charity with a direct and identifiable impact on a person, family or group. What I like about Kiva is that they are focusing on changing how we FEEL about charitable acts by changing our BEHAVIOUR. Instead of “donating” you “invest” in an entrepreneur who wants to productively use your investment to build/establish a business, grow or expand their current business or resource a need that is preventing successful business operation.
When an entrepreneur (or group) propose a project and request a loan, individuals (like you and me) can help finance that project one investment unit at a time. You effectively create a portfolio of micro-investments $25 at a time. And, of course, as the project matures and is successful, the loan is repaid.
One of the genius elements of the Kiva process is that you are then able to RELOAN the repaid amounts. So as your investment is repaid into a credit on your Kiva account, you can choose to recycle it into other entrepreneurial projects.
My approach has been to match each repayment with an equal or greater “investment”. So far this approach has seen me make 13 loans to people all over the world – from Guatamala to Nigeria to the Philippines (and many places in between). There has been 0% default and 0% delinquency. Two have been totally repaid and another nine are being repaid.
The Kiva business model leverages the trend towards slacktivism – the feel-good act that requires minimal personal effort. The interesting aspect of this is the network effect – that once a series of these micro-interactions are aggregated and channelled, a real-world impact takes place. The real power lies not in the micro-transactions but in the network effect.
Social media is often used for marketing purposes, but the principles, practises and opportunities can extend so much further into your business. Kiva is but one example. It’s time to think about your brand in ways that re-frame the notion of “value” and “giving”. And take a lesson from Kiva – it’s not just the VALUE that is important – it’s the RE-VALUE.