Archives for category: Design

Have you heard of Kiva? If you haven’t, you are seriously missing something! Particularly if you are interested in social entrepreneurship. Kiva is not just a very successful example of peer-to-peer lending but a story of global social change. Till date, Kiva has disbursed more than a hundred million dollars in capital to about three hundred thousand entrepreneurs in roughly 200 countries around the world. Despite the on and off controversies that Kiva has fallen into, it has managed to not just continue to grow but the capital being channeled through Kiva has continued to increase every week.

So what makes Kiva so successful? Is it because people are more prone to lending than donating or it because its people helping people (vs than people helping organizations)? Is it the easy and intuitive online experience that Kiva provides or the credible nature of Kiva and its field partners? Is it about the stories that Kiva is able to put together which really inspire the haves to support the have-nots? Well, these are not just questions I am interested in but Kiva is slowly becoming a case study around the world. Be it  SSIR or NextBillion, everyone’s talking about Kiva.

On Kiva, anyone and everyone who is interested in helping entrepreneurs can participate in micro-lending and support small businesses in the developing world. You can lend as an individual or as a group. You can track how your money is helping the entrepreneur that it reached and receive regular updates about his progress from the field. Not just Kiva has maintained a very low default rate, it has been able to scale drastically.

As a supporter of young student changemakers and entrepreneurs, what can we learn from Acara? That working capital can change the lives of people. That a lot of people are entrepreneurial by nature and given the chance of rise up the economic ladder, people work hard and earn smartly. That people who can, want to help those who are under-privileged, specially when it’s just about lending.

What I love the most about Kiva is its tag line – “Loans that change lives”. Simple, articulate and straight-forward. You can read ieteresting facts about Kiva here. It was indeed an idea whose tome had come.

The other day I read this email from one of Acara teams where a US team member asked his Indian counterpart to ask the following question to the community members during their village visit, “What will you do if I gave you 50 bugs?”. I think that this is a very interesting question and outlines the fundamental philosophy behind bottom-up approaches to solving community problems. That the solution to a community’s problem should come from the community and should not be dictated from the top.

Design Thinking is key aspect of IDEO (and I keep talking about them) , a global firm which uses this approach to solve complex problems. One of the projects of IDEO was with this company called VisionSpring. IDEO was supposed to build a system for eye-testing for rural children. They tried getting a doctor to test the eyesights of a bunch of rural children but the children completely retaliated and it didn’t work out. Then IDEO tried to get the parents of the children to test their kids’ eyesights. Nope. Doesn’t work. And finally, when they saw that children loved acting as doctors and testing each other, they got the solution.

It’s not just a matter of open-mindedness and creativity but also lateral thinking. Being open to ideas and observations is indeed an important aspect of Design Thinking. What a lot of big corporations also suffer from is the problem of forcing products and services on the consumers and not really working with them to build good products. SELCO, for instance, is a great example of a company (or rather, a social enterprise) which got its products (which are very successful) by multiple cycles of moving back and forth between the lab and the customer.

As you start building your product ideas, be sure that it works for the consumer market you are targeting and try to get the solution from them in the first place.