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Navigating the future: Guiding principles for impactful growth at Kiva

August 29, 2023

Since 2005, Kiva’s vision has always been unwaveringly clear: "A financially inclusive world where all people hold the power to improve their lives." With the support of our extraordinary community of lenders, we have touched the lives of over 5 million borrowers and continue to reach an additional 500,000 each year.

Yet, the staggering figure of 1.4 billion people worldwide who remain financially underserved keeps us grounded. During my recent visits and in-depth conversations with our microfinance partners and borrowers, it was unmistakable how much of a transformative impact we've had. However, it was equally evident that there's a dire need for more resources. Every lending partner I engaged with stated unequivocally that the single most effective way Kiva could support them is through increased capital, so they can facilitate more loans to more entrepreneurs.

Therefore, when we ponder, “What comes next for Kiva?”, it isn't just a strategic inquiry but a moral imperative that defines our commitment towards realizing our vision to ensure all people have financial access – a promise we intend to keep.

Navigating the future with intention

When considering "What comes next for Kiva?", we aren’t simply looking for short-term gains or quick metrics. Instead, we seek to adhere to a set of guiding principles that will shape our path forward.

Principle 1: Grow to serve, serve to grow

Our foundational belief is that growth and service are intrinsically connected, and this connection should form a virtuous cycle that fuels our mission. As we enhance our services and deepen our relationships with partners and beneficiaries, we will naturally extend our impact. And as our impact broadens, we are empowered to serve more people in need. We strive to keep this service-growth symbiosis central to our ethos at Kiva.

Principle 2: Define growth in terms of mission alignment

For Kiva, growth isn't about chasing financial gains but about increasing our impact, specifically focusing on the question—“how many lives have we transformed?”. Importantly, we aim to direct our growth where the impact is most needed. Kiva’s research over the past few years indicates that women, displaced people, small-holder farmers, and climate-affected populations require our most concentrated efforts and this focused approach will serve as a guide to our future investments. 

Kiva has already proven the kind of impact we can create when our growth is targeted, particularly through our refugee initiatives. Since 2016, lenders on Kiva have lent over $32 million to more than 34,000 refugees in over a dozen countries, effectively changing the conversation about refugee lending. Where traditional lenders excluded refugees due to concerns about their financial viability, we believed that refugees could pay back loans reliably. The repayment rate for refugee loans through Kiva is 97%, just slightly higher than the rate for our full borrower audience. 

In short, we are committed to mission-focused growth; it's not just about the numbers but where and how those numbers make a difference for the populations they are serving.

Principle 3: Prioritize individual impact

While we seek to transform communities at scale, the true measure of our success lies in the individual lives changed. In order to measure this in 2022, we partnered with 60 Decibels, an independent impact measurement firm, to formulate a new impact assessment strategy. This has helped us focus on the tangible outcomes our loans create for individuals and communities. Going forward, we are committed to investing more resources in robust impact assessment methodologies, ensuring that our efforts translate into genuine, lasting change.

Principle 4: Ensure organizational sustainability

Creating impactful programs is only part of the equation; for enduring success, these initiatives must be both replicable and sustainable. As we launch new initiatives, my intention is to balance this growth by ensuring that our existing programs continue to thrive. Achieving this dual objective requires a thoughtful, long-term approach to growth, considering both the viability of new efforts and their impact on current operations.

We also plan to build a robust, scalable organization capable of tackling increasingly complex challenges over time. This means making strategic investments in our infrastructure, people, and research capabilities.

Principle 5: Maintain culture and values

After 8 months with this organization, I can say Kiva's culture is indeed special. Our culture reaches well beyond our staff, connecting to a broad community of lenders, volunteers, and partners. Keeping this culture strong isn't just a nice bonus — it's vital to our mission. That's why we're committed to clear communication and transparency. I've personally spent a lot of time talking to people in our community to better understand how we can keep our culture strong and focused on our values. This blog is one of the many outcomes of those conversations. And it's not just me; all across Kiva, we're committed to protecting and nourishing our impact-first culture and will be dedicating time and resources toward keeping our community united and informed as we move forward.

In closing

Kiva’s strength lies in its people - the connections we make with lending partners working in communities we could not reach alone, the lenders crowdfunding loans, the borrowers who trust us to provide the critical capital they need, the employees who continue to innovate for the greater good, the volunteers translating real stories for all to access, and so many more. When Kiva grows, we bring more people into this worldwide network which results in more opened doors to financial inclusion. We choose to grow because the scale of the problems we aim to solve demands it. Our potential for positive impact is enormous, and we consider it our moral imperative to realize this potential responsibly.

As we embark on this next chapter, know that we carry forward the same values, the same commitment, and the same tireless dedication to our mission that has been Kiva's hallmark since its inception.

Thank you for being a part of this extraordinary journey. Together, we will grow responsibly and continue to change lives, one loan at a time.

With gratitude and hope,


Vishal Ghotge