Mobile

Kiva and Dosomething.org turn microfinance into mobile game for teens

Image Credit: Tara Capsuto for Kiva
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Kiva and Dosomething.org are partnering up to fund 25,000 women entrepreneurs in a bid to help break the cycle of poverty.

The 25,000 Women campaign aims at getting young people engaged in fighting poverty. Participants are aged between 13 and 25 years old. They play a mobile game where each person is presented with scenarios that women face in the developing world. The scenarios are designed to give a sense of what its like to live there. For example, if you are working in a field and get thirsty, do you grab murky water and risk getting sick, or wait for clean water and risk dehydration? The system will respond with what would happen if you actually made that choice. In this case, you’d learn that only 59 percent of drinking water in Kenya is actually safe.

“The use of SMS as a platform to educate young people in the U.S. on working conditions for women in developing countries is innovative,” said Dosomething’s CMO Naomi Hirabayashi to VentureBeat. “We go where young people are and with a 97 percent open rate, text messaging is the best platform to have a meaningful engagement with teens. By using gamification we also make a tricky topic accessible and engaging.”

Hirabayashi said that this age group is usually cash poor but are rich in friends and time, which this campaign takes advantage of. Once they have taken the quiz, teens share it with six friends and then make a $25 loan to a working women on Kiva for free. Kiva lenders provide the money.

“Youth today are digital natives; they are accustomed to sharing experiences with friends and knowing the intimate details of removed celebrities lives — the idea of not being connected is almost foreign to them,” said Kiva’s senior director of development Bennett Grassano in an interview at Kiva’s offices. “This assumed connectedness creates an incredible opportunity for empathy. By working with Dosomething, we want to turn that empathy into action.”

Dosomething.org is a nonprofit that works with more than 2 million 13 year olds to 25 year olds to get them involved in social change. When Kiva began considering how to attract more youth lenders to its platform, it partnered with Dosomething to draw from the organization’s unique expertise. The goal of the 25,000 campaign is to foster widespread awareness of social injustice, as well as get kids actively involved in addressing it from a young age. On a global level, the goal it to support 25,000 women through Kiva’s microlending programs.

Kiva was founded back in 2005 as one of the first startups to do microlending (long before crowdfunding took off). The site features hundreds of loan opportunities for people in the developing world. Projects include buying sewing machines and fabrics to help women in India start a tailoring business, or helping a Georgian farmer buy seeds for his farm. The loans are intended to help people achieve specific goals and get businesses off the ground. Director of communication Jason Riggs said that at Kiva, they are inspired by the idea that people living in poverty don’t need charity, they often just need a little bit of capital to move forward with dignity.

Kiva partners with local lending organizations to identify entrepreneurs that could benefit from a microloan. These loans are posted on the site and range from $100 to thousands of dollars, although the average loan size is $400. Lenders can loan as little as $25 and Riggs said Kiva has a 98.9 percent repayment rate. The organization has worked with over 970,000 lenders and paid out $460.5 million. It has projects in 72 countries around the world.

Recently, Kiva has made a big push to target borrowers that other organizations won’t fund, who come from marginalized groups. Often these people are women. Of the 1.29 billion people around the world live on less than $1.25 per day, 70 percent of those individuals are women. Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food, but they earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than 1 percent of the world’s property. It can be extremely difficult for women to get money to start a business. The Dosomething campaign specifically targets women borrowers in Pakistan, Mongolia, Kenya, the Philippines, and El Salvador.