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In response to my post of two weeks ago, Kiva yesterday overhauled the page on kiva.org that explains how Kiva works. Matt Flannery, Kiva's CEO and co-founder, tweeted:

Spent afternoon with Jeremy, Gerard and Premal making the site more transparent: http://www.kiva.org/about/how

To see what it looked like before yesterday, visit the GiveWell blog's striking apposition of two images. The first is the old "How Kiva Works" page. The second is from a 2007 Kiva brochure that explains to microcredit lenders how Kiva works, with a different diagram. (Holden Karnofsky of GiveWell got that image from Tim Ogden of Philanthropy Action, who got it from me, who got it from Jeff Raderstrong of Gumball University.)

As I commented on Tim's post, what I found interesting about the second image is that it shows that Kiva has been capable for at least half its history of explaining how it works, clearly and accessibly. That Kiva showed a different picture on its web site therefore reflected a choice, not just an accident caused by scrambling to keep up with its growth.

Check out the new page. It's quite a transformation. I'm impressed with its precision and transparency. I do wonder whether Kiva can shorten it. The second image mentioned above seems to tell the same story more simply. Easy for me to say. And the site, like nearly all microcredit sites, remains less than clear about the diversity of microcredit's uses and impacts. Not all Kiva borrowers are entrepreneurs, for example, nor empowered by microcredit, nor lifted out of poverty.

But the bottom line here is that Kiva has made a quick and long stride toward keeping Matt Flannery's promise of more transparency. I think Flannery's response to my criticism blended grace, humility, and quiet confidence. The world would be a much better place if all charities, all organizations for that matter, were as open and responsive to criticism as Kiva has been. I trust the Kiva folks will keep refining. I will visit them today.

 

CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.

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