Like the windshield on a motor-taxi in Phnom Penh rush hour, transparency is vital to Kiva’s survival. To give interest-free loans, lenders deserve to know that every cent of their money is being distributed exactly as promised, whilst borrowers have the right not to be misrepresented.
An important aspect of this transparency, and one which Kiva takes very seriously, is the integrity of the data on its website. Allowing inaccurate data is the first step towards encouraging fraud on the site, which would have severe reputational consequences for Kiva.
A key data check is performed between the time the loan is posted by the MFI, and when it goes live on the website ready for funding. At this point every loan is reviewed by one of a team of over three-hundred online volunteers. These language gurus work from all over the world to translate loans posted in foreign languages and edit those posted in English by Kiva’s field partner microfinance institutions.
This is a crucial link in the chain of events, not only because it ensures that Kiva lenders can understand business postings and thus make informed choices, that lenders are represented with dignity and clarity, but also because it is the one time that every single loan is scrutinized. Editors can, and often do, flag issues ranging from missing information in the loan description, double-postings, loan amount discrepancies, inconsistencies or problems with the borrower picture, to potentially controversial loans, such as a loan for a cockfighting business.
The Editing and Translation volunteers range from a high school microfinance club, to returned Peace Corps volunteers who want to continue contributing to the country where they were stationed, to young mothers home with their children who want to reach out to make a difference, to retired English teachers and technical writers. They are located on six continents around the world.
In my last blog I posted a video which followed a loan from London to Cambodia (A Fistful Of Dollars: The Story Of A Kiva Loan). The client that featured in the video was the smiley and exceptionally accommodating Van Makara, whose loan was posted by field partner AMK and selected by Danielle Lieu and my other ex-colleagues in London to be the recipient of their $25.
When the loan was posted to the Kiva website by Sophanith at AMK, it landed in the work-queue of Lorne Warwick, a retired high school english teacher. He immediately got to work checking the loan posting and editing the English to make it easily comprehensible (perhaps he should have edited this introduction too). His edits can be seen below.
Lorne Warwick has edited over six hundred loans in the past four months alone. And while no-one will ever really understand the complex algorithms running within Danielle Lieu’s brain that made her pick Mrs Van Makara for her first Kiva loan, it’s certain that Lorne’s edits did a fantastic job of making the loan posting infinitely more readable (ideal for people who are sifting through Kiva loans in the office when they should really be working).
Lorne, a keen blogger himself, kindly agreed to write about his involvement in Kiva and what goes into the editing process. This is what he wrote:
Entry by Lorne Warwick, Kiva Volunteer Editor
As the editor of the loan to Mrs. Van Makara, the subject of the excellent video, “A Fistful of Dollars: The Story of a Kiva.org Loan,” I have been asked to write briefly about my involvement with Kiva and what goes into the editing process.
A retired high school English teacher, my path to Kiva was largely serendipitous. In my first year of retirement, I purposely avoided making any commitments that would impose specific structure on my day, since structure was something that had defined my professional existence for 30 years. Content to take each day as it came, I busied myself with small home-improvement activities (never quite finding time for that major renovation needed in our basement!), an education research subcontract, and some sporadic writing.
My second year found me with a desire for a little more structure, so I began volunteering at a local food bank sorting and shelving donations. The very immediate results wrought by strictly physical effort were and still are quite gratifying. However, as time went on, I began to want to be of more service to others, never forgetting how fortunate I was to have been able to retire while still in my fifties, healthy and financially secure. The thought of paid work held no appeal. After becoming a lender with Kiva, one day I noticed a button on the site that said “Do More,” and to my delight found that the organization was seeking editors. The rest, as they say, is history, and I have now been editing loan descriptions for the past year, usually assigned two sets (with an average of 12-15 per set) each week by Kristy Harrison, one of Kiva’s volunteer coordinators living in England.
Perhaps the most powerful inducement for me in editing loan descriptions stems from my work as a teacher. I always had a special respect and admiration for those students who came to me, not to complain about their mark or try to wheedle a few extra points out of the old man, but rather were genuinely motivated to try to better their academic results. Essentially, they said, “I want to improve my work, and I want you to help me to reach that goal.”
Expressing such a desire meant I was at their service, and, in partnership, as long as they maintained that attitude and commitment, progress invariably ensued – progress not sudden and spectacular, but instead slow and steady. At the end of term, students would sometimes thank me for my help, but I would tell them that they had done all of the hard work – I had merely provided a framework and structure for their efforts.
This is precisely how I feel about Kiva, its mission, and my small role within the organization. The people seeking loans, already vetted and assessed by local Kiva financial partners, are the ones who bring the commitment, the motivation, and the goals to the deal – we are merely the conduit by which those goals can be achieved. Like the students I worked with for so many years, they have my deep respect and admiration, and I am happy to be of service to them.
Which brings me to the other aspect of Kiva that I find so immensely appealing: its model does much to renew the human spirit. I am convinced that the desire to help others exists in most of us, but this spirit of philanthropy needs regular cultivation. For example, many people have specific charities to which they regularly donate, and are quick to respond to pleas for money when natural and human disasters happen. However, these contributions are often made to large and seemingly faceless organizations tasked with dispersing the funds in a responsible and ethical manner. Our involvement in assisting the lives is thereby quite limited. The Kiva model, however, invites on-going participation in the lives of the borrowers, first as we select the region, the entrepreneurial activity and the borrower, and later as we can track the success of the loan through its repayment. The entire process is a steady reminder that we, as individuals, can indeed have a positive effect on the lives of our fellow human beings.
Kiva is an organization powered by a vision that is ideal for the times in which we live. While the events of the world and the actions of our leaders may frequently invite despair, Kiva is a vital reminder of the good that still exists, indeed thrives, in the heart of humanity. I feel privileged to be a small part of its efforts.
To view two more examples of loan edits, go to the following links
And to see a short video of live editing as it happens, check out the Cecilia Andoh loan live editing video
If you or anyone you know would be interested in becoming part of the Volunteer Editing and Translation Team at Kiva, visit http://www.kiva.org/about/opportunities/ and follow the appropriate links./>