In 2008 I received a gift certificate to the microlending site Kiva as a Christmas gift. I had $50 to loan to one of thousands of small businesses located all over the world. After researching my options–I knew I wanted to give to a woman who worked as an artisan–I loaned money to Balqees Nadime, a mother of two living in Pakistan who runs an embroidery company. About a year letter, I got an email from Balqees, thanking me for my contribution, and reporting that she had indeed repaid the loan, which she used to buy embroidery materials and supplies that bolstered her business.* The money magically appeared once again in my Kiva account. This simple exchange from one side of the planet to another absolutely floored me.
My little transaction was one of $241 million in loans which the microfinance site has enabled since 2005. And as Kiva celebrates its fifth anniversary, they’ve created an astounding visualization showing those global interactions.
Those tiny moving points crisscrossing the earth represent the loans granted by more than 620,000 lenders to 615,000 borrowers. Loans are color-coded by type, depending on the type of business (agriculture, health), and eventually explode into all-out fireworks of giving, with money flooding back to its origins.
Most fascinating is watching the geographic expansion of Kiva’s influence. The first seven loans go to Africa, where the program was established in 2005. Most loans come from the east and west coasts of the U.S. until the project is featured on Frontline, and growth becomes exponential. Also look for a change in the flow of funds in 2009, when Kiva began facilitating loans to U.S. borrowers. Another fascinating data set shows how most loans migrate from north to south.
What will be exceptionally interesting is seeing how this visualization evolves over the next five years. If the trends continue, the locations will become more and more remote, and the interconnections between lender and borrower will grow more dense and complex as money is repaid from one loan and reinvested in a different corner of the planet. In fact, as I was checking my Kiva history today, I realized I had a balance in my account. I took $25 and lended it to a food co-op… in Paraguay.
*Whether or not your money actually goes to an individual person that you designate is a source of controversy, and some questions have been raised about whether the loans are for long-term projects that indeed “change lives.” But the flow of money is not in question.–Ed.
[H/T Flowing Data]