“Your mission Jim, should you chose to accept it…..” drones the familiar voice. We all know what happens next. Well my mission was to share my thoughts and experiences of Fellows training week. So here goes….
 
The Kiva workspace is extraordinary. Located in downtown San Francisco it is a large loft type space with an industrial feel. Any resemblance to the bland, hierarchical, corporate culture I've been used to in the oil industry was entirely coincidental.
 
Incredibly casual - think jeans, T-shirts, flip flops. With a beer keg and tap in the middle of the office and honesty jar for payment. Pet dogs occasionally wonder around and are just part of the scene.
 
The training 'room' is in the middle of open plan. Training sessions rage on while staff work nearby or wonder around the periphery. Very distracting at first but it really does help connect you with the Kiva organization.
 
Meeting my fellow volunteers was a little daunting. Incredibly young and razor smart. I remember looking around forlornly as the group assembled hoping to see another grey haired individual!
 
The group splits mainly into 3 types.
 
1. Those just finished high flying education. Using Kiva as a gap before starting career or to test working for a Not-For-Profit.
2. Those already working and successful but not emotionally connected to the organization they work for and using Kiva as a potential career pivot into Not-For-Profit.
3. Me.
 
It took a while to feel comfortable around the group. However once there it was so refreshing to work with people who are enthusiastic, optimistic, passionate and outspoken.
 
Training was intensive starting daily at 8am and running through to 7 each evening. Basically a crash course in microfinance and how to deal with the many unusual and challenging situations we will find ourselves in.
 
A detailed one-on-one with my PA followed where I learned Kiva require someone to resolve issues with partner MFIs and hope my relationship building skills (gulp) and process improvement knowledge (double gulp) will get things back on track. Also to maximize available credit, explore new loan types and make sure all three operations are running as efficiently as possible. Oh! Not to forget completing 30 borrower verifications.
 
Further training followed on video/photography, IT systems and blogging about our experiences.
 
The final challenge was to survive the end of week graduation party and karaoke session. Belting out a song live on stage and not alarming the audience with my terrible voice? Now that really was Mission Impossible!

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