sponsored links
TEDGlobal 2010

Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money -- and love

July 14, 2010

What do you think of people in poverty? Maybe what Jessica Jackley once did: "they" need "our" help, in the form of a few coins in a jar. The co-founder of Kiva.org talks about how her attitude changed -- and how her work with microloans has brought new power to people who live on a few dollars a day.

Jessica Jackley - Microlender
Jessica Jackley is the co-founder of Kiva.org, an online community that helps individuals loan small amounts of money, called microloans, to entrepreneurs throughout the world. Full bio

sponsored links
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
The stories we tell about each other
00:16
matter very much.
00:18
The stories we tell ourselves about our own lives matter.
00:21
And most of all,
00:24
I think the way that we participate in each other's stories
00:26
is of deep importance.
00:28
I was six years old
00:31
when I first heard stories about the poor.
00:33
Now I didn't hear those stories from the poor themselves,
00:35
I heard them from my Sunday school teacher
00:37
and Jesus, kind of via my Sunday school teacher.
00:40
I remember learning that people who were poor
00:43
needed something material --
00:46
food, clothing, shelter -- that they didn't have.
00:48
And I also was taught, coupled with that,
00:50
that it was my job -- this classroom full of five and six year-old children --
00:53
it was our job, apparently, to help.
00:56
This is what Jesus asked of us.
00:58
And then he said, "What you do for the least of these, you do for me."
01:00
Now I was pretty psyched.
01:03
I was very eager to be useful in the world --
01:05
I think we all have that feeling.
01:07
And also, it was kind of interesting that God needed help.
01:09
That was news to me,
01:11
and it felt like it was a very important thing to get to participate in.
01:13
But I also learned very soon thereafter
01:15
that Jesus also said, and I'm paraphrasing,
01:17
the poor would always be with us.
01:19
This frustrated and confused me;
01:21
I felt like I had been just given a homework assignment
01:23
that I had to do, and I was excited to do,
01:25
but no matter what I would do, I would fail.
01:27
So I felt confused, a little bit frustrated and angry,
01:30
like maybe I'd misunderstood something here.
01:33
And I felt overwhelmed.
01:35
And for the first time,
01:37
I began to fear this group of people
01:39
and to feel negative emotion towards a whole group of people.
01:41
I imagined in my head, a kind of long line of individuals
01:44
that were never going away, that would always be with us.
01:47
They were always going to ask me to help them and give them things,
01:49
which I was excited to do,
01:52
but I didn't know how it was going to work.
01:54
And I didn't know what would happen when I ran out of things to give,
01:56
especially if the problem was never going away.
02:01
In the years following,
02:03
the other stories I heard about the poor growing up
02:05
were no more positive.
02:07
For example, I saw pictures and images
02:09
frequently of sadness and suffering.
02:12
I heard about things that were going wrong in the lives of the poor.
02:14
I heard about disease, I heard about war --
02:17
they always seemed to be kind of related.
02:19
And in general,
02:21
I got this sort of idea
02:23
that the poor in the world lived lives
02:25
that were wrought with suffering and sadness,
02:27
devastation, hopelessness.
02:29
And after a while, I developed what I think many of us do,
02:32
is this predictable response,
02:34
where I started to feel bad every time I heard about them.
02:36
I started to feel guilty for my own relative wealth,
02:39
because I wasn't doing more, apparently, to make things better.
02:42
And I even felt a sense of shame because of that.
02:45
And so naturally,
02:48
I started to distance myself.
02:50
I stopped listening to their stories
02:52
quite as closely as I had before.
02:54
And I stopped expecting things to really change.
02:56
Now I still gave -- on the outside it looked like I was still quite involved.
02:59
I gave of my time and my money,
03:02
I gave when solutions were on sale.
03:04
The cost of a cup of coffee can save a child's life, right.
03:06
I mean who can argue with that?
03:08
I gave when I was cornered, when it was difficult to avoid
03:10
and I gave, in general, when the negative emotions built up enough
03:13
that I gave to relieve my own suffering,
03:16
not someone else's.
03:18
The truth be told, I was giving out of that place,
03:20
not out of a genuine place of hope
03:23
and excitement to help and of generosity.
03:26
It became a transaction for me,
03:28
became sort of a trade.
03:30
I was purchasing something --
03:32
I was buying my right to go on with my day
03:34
and not necessarily be bothered by this bad news.
03:37
And I think the way that we go through that sometimes
03:40
can, first of all,
03:43
disembody a group of people, individuals out there in the world.
03:45
And it can also turn into a commodity,
03:48
which is a very scary thing.
03:50
So as I did this, and as I think many of us do this,
03:52
we kind of buy our distance,
03:55
we kind of buy our right to go on with our day.
03:57
I think that exchange can actually get in the way of the very thing that we want most.
03:59
It can get in the way of our desire
04:02
to really be meaningful and useful in another person's life
04:04
and, in short to love.
04:07
Thankfully, a few years ago, things shifted for me
04:10
because I heard this gentleman speak, Dr. Muhammad Yunus.
04:12
I know many in the room probably know exactly who he is,
04:15
but to give the shorthand version
04:18
for any who have not heard him speak,
04:20
Dr. Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago
04:22
for his work pioneering modern microfinance.
04:24
When I heard him speak, it was three years before that.
04:27
But basically, microfinance -- if this is new to you as well --
04:30
think of that as financial services for the poor.
04:33
Think of all the things you get at your bank
04:35
and imagine those products and services
04:37
tailored to the needs of someone living on a few dollars a day.
04:39
Dr. Yunus shared his story,
04:41
explaining what that was,
04:43
and what he had done with his Grameen Bank.
04:45
He also talked about, in particular, microlending,
04:47
which is a tiny loan
04:49
that could help someone start or grow a business.
04:51
Now, when I heard him speak, it was exciting for a number of reasons.
04:53
First and foremost, I learned about this new method of change in the world
04:56
that, for once, showed me, maybe,
04:59
a way to interact with someone
05:01
and to give, to share of a resource in a way that wasn't weird
05:03
and didn't make me feel bad --
05:05
that was exciting.
05:08
But more importantly, he told stories about the poor
05:10
that were different than any stories I had heard before.
05:13
In fact, those individuals he talked about who were poor was sort of a side note.
05:15
He was talking about strong, smart,
05:19
hardworking entrepreneurs who woke up every day
05:21
and were doing things to make their lives and their family's lives better.
05:24
All they needed to do that more quickly and to do it better
05:27
was a little bit of capital.
05:30
It was an amazing sort of insight for me.
05:32
And I, in fact, was so deeply moved by this --
05:34
it's hard to express now how much that affected me --
05:36
but I was so moved that I actually quit my job a few weeks later,
05:39
and I moved to East Africa
05:42
to try to see for myself what this was about.
05:44
For the first time, actually, in a long time
05:46
I wanted to meet those individuals, I wanted to meet these entrepreneurs,
05:48
and see for myself what their lives were actually about.
05:51
So I spent three months in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania
05:54
interviewing entrepreneurs that had received 100 dollars
05:57
to start or grow a business.
05:59
And in fact, through those interactions,
06:01
for the first time, I was starting to get to be friends
06:03
with some of those people in that big amorphous group out there
06:05
that was supposed to be far away.
06:08
I was starting to be friends and get to know their personal stories.
06:11
And over and over again,
06:14
as I interviewed them and spent my days with them,
06:16
I did hear stories of life change
06:18
and amazing little details of change.
06:20
So I would hear from goat herders
06:22
who had used that money that they had received to buy a few more goats.
06:24
Their business trajectory would change.
06:27
They would make a little bit more money;
06:29
their standard of living
06:31
would shift and would get better.
06:33
And they would make really interesting little adjustments in their lives,
06:35
like they would start to send their children to school.
06:38
They might be able to buy mosquito nets.
06:40
Maybe they could afford a lock for the door and feel secure.
06:42
Maybe it was just that they could put sugar in their tea
06:45
and offer that to me when I came as their guest
06:47
and that made them feel proud.
06:49
But there were these beautiful details, even if I talked to 20 goat herders in a row,
06:51
and some days that's what happened --
06:54
these beautiful details of life change
06:56
that were meaningful to them.
06:58
That was another thing that really touched me.
07:00
It was really humbling to see for the first time,
07:02
to really understand
07:04
that even if I could have taken a magic wand and fixed everything,
07:06
I probably would have gotten a lot wrong.
07:09
Because the best way for people to change their lives
07:11
is for them to have control and to do that in a way that they believe is best for them.
07:14
So I saw that and it was very humbling.
07:17
Anyway, another interesting thing happened while I was there.
07:20
I never once was asked for a donation,
07:23
which had kind of been my mode, right.
07:26
There's poverty, you give money to help --
07:28
no one asked me for a donation.
07:30
In fact, no one wanted me to feel bad for them at all.
07:32
If anything, they just wanted to be able to do more of what they were doing already
07:35
and to build on their own capabilities.
07:37
So what I did hear, once in a while,
07:39
was that people wanted a loan --
07:41
I thought that sounded very reasonable and really exciting.
07:43
And by the way, I was a philosophy and poetry major in school,
07:46
so I didn't know the difference between profit and revenue when I went to East Africa.
07:49
I just got this impression that the money would work.
07:52
And my introduction to business
07:55
was in these $100 little infuses of capital.
07:57
And I learned about profit and revenue, about leverage, all sorts of things,
08:00
from farmers, from seamstresses, from goat herders.
08:03
So this idea
08:06
that these new stories of business and hope
08:08
might be shared with my friends and family,
08:11
and through that, maybe we could get some of the money that they needed
08:13
to be able to continue their businesses as loans,
08:17
that's this little idea that turned into Kiva.
08:20
A few months later, I went back to Uganda
08:22
with a digital camera and a basic website
08:24
that my partner, Matthew, and I had kind of built,
08:27
and took pictures of seven of my new friends,
08:29
posted their stories, these stories of entrepreneurship, up on the website,
08:32
spammed friends and family and said, "We think this is legal.
08:36
Haven't heard back yet from SEC on all the details,
08:38
but do you say, do you want to help participate in this,
08:41
provide the money that they need?"
08:43
The money came in basically overnight.
08:45
We sent it over to Uganda.
08:47
And over the next six months, a beautiful thing happened;
08:49
the entrepreneurs received the money,
08:51
they were paid, and their businesses, in fact, grew,
08:53
and they were able to support themselves
08:56
and change the trajectory of their lives.
08:58
In October of '05,
09:01
after those first seven loans were paid,
09:03
Matt and I took the word beta off of the site.
09:05
We said, "Our little experiment has been a success.
09:07
Let's start for real." That was our official launch.
09:09
And then that first year, October '05 through '06,
09:12
Kiva facilitated $500,000 in loans.
09:14
The second year, it was a total of 15 million.
09:17
The third year, the total was up to around 40.
09:20
The fourth year, we were just short of 100.
09:22
And today, less than five years in,
09:24
Kiva's facilitated
09:26
more than 150 million dollars, in little 25-dollar bits,
09:28
from lenders and entrepreneurs --
09:31
more than a million of those, collectively in 200 countries.
09:33
So that's where Kiva is today, just to bring you right up to the present.
09:35
And while those numbers and those statistics
09:38
are really fun to talk about and they're interesting,
09:40
to me, Kiva's really about stories.
09:43
It's about retelling
09:46
the story of the poor,
09:48
and it's about giving ourselves
09:50
an opportunity to engage
09:52
that validates their dignity,
09:54
validates a partnership relationship,
09:56
not a relationship that's based
09:58
on the traditional sort of donor beneficiary
10:00
weirdness that can happen.
10:03
But instead a relationship that can promote respect
10:05
and hope
10:08
and this optimism
10:10
that together we can move forward.
10:12
So what I hope is that,
10:15
not only can the money keep flowing forth through Kiva --
10:17
that's a very positive and meaningful thing --
10:19
but I hope Kiva can blur those lines, like I said,
10:21
between the traditional rich and poor categories
10:23
that we're taught to see in the world,
10:25
this false dichotomy of us and them, have and have not.
10:27
I hope that Kiva can blur those lines.
10:30
Because as that happens,
10:32
I think we can feel free to interact
10:34
in a way that's more open, more just and more creative,
10:36
to engage with each other and to help each other.
10:39
Imagine how you feel
10:42
when you see somebody on street who is begging
10:44
and you're about to approach them.
10:47
Imagine how you feel;
10:49
and then imagine the difference when you might see somebody
10:51
who has a story of entrepreneurship and hard work
10:53
who wants to tell you about their business.
10:56
Maybe they're smiling, and they want to talk to you about what they've done.
10:59
Imagine if you're speaking with somebody
11:02
who's growing things and making them flourish,
11:04
somebody who's using their talents
11:07
to do something productive,
11:10
somebody who's built their own business from scratch,
11:12
someone who is surrounded by abundance,
11:15
not scarcity,
11:17
who's in fact creating abundance,
11:19
somebody with full hands with something to offer,
11:21
not empty hands
11:24
asking for you to give them something.
11:26
Imagine if you could hear a story you didn't expect
11:29
of somebody who wakes up every day
11:31
and works very, very hard to make their life better.
11:33
These stories can really change the way that we think about each other.
11:36
And if we can catalyze
11:39
a supportive community to come around these individuals
11:41
and to participate in their story
11:44
by lending a little bit of money,
11:46
I think that can change the way we believe in each other
11:48
and each other's potential.
11:50
Now for me, Kiva is just the beginning.
11:52
And as I look forward to what is next,
11:54
it's been helpful to reflect on the things I've learned so far.
11:56
The first one is, as I mentioned, entrepreneurship was a new idea to me.
11:59
Kiva borrowers, as I interviewed them and got to know them over the last few years,
12:02
have taught me what entrepreneurship is.
12:05
And I think, at its core, it's deciding that you want your life to be better.
12:07
You see an opportunity
12:10
and you decide what you're going to do to try to seize that.
12:12
In short, it's deciding that tomorrow can better than today
12:14
and going after that.
12:16
Second thing that I've learned is that loans are a very interesting tool for connectivity.
12:18
So they're not a donation.
12:21
Yeah, maybe it doesn't sound that much different.
12:23
But in fact, when you give something to someone
12:25
and they say, "Thanks," and let you know how things go,
12:27
that's one thing.
12:29
When you lend them money, and they slowly pay you back over time,
12:31
you have this excuse to have an ongoing dialogue.
12:34
This continued attention -- this ongoing attention --
12:36
is a really big deal
12:38
to build different kinds of relationships among us.
12:40
And then third, from what I've heard from the entrepreneurs I've gotten to know,
12:43
when all else is equal,
12:46
given the option to have just money to do what you need to do,
12:48
or money plus the support and encouragement
12:51
of a global community,
12:54
people choose the community plus the money.
12:56
That's a much more meaningful combination, a more powerful combination.
12:58
So with that in mind, this particular incident
13:01
has led to the things that I'm working on now.
13:03
I see entrepreneurs everywhere now, now that I'm tuned into this.
13:06
And one thing that I've seen
13:08
is there are a lot of supportive communities that already exist in the world.
13:10
With social networks,
13:12
it's an amazing way, growing the number of people that we all have around us
13:14
in our own supportive communities, rapidly.
13:17
And so, as I have been thinking about this,
13:20
I've been wondering: how can we engage these supportive communities
13:22
to catalyze even more entrepreneurial ideas
13:25
and to catalyze all of us
13:27
to make tomorrow better than today?
13:29
As I've researched what's going on in the United States,
13:32
a few interesting little insights have come up.
13:34
So one is that, of course, as we all might expect,
13:36
many small businesses in the U.S. and all over the world
13:39
still need money to grow and to do more of what they want to do
13:41
or they might need money during a hard month.
13:44
But there's always a need for resources close by.
13:46
Another thing is, it turns out,
13:49
those resources don't usually come from the places you might expect --
13:51
banks, venture capitalists,
13:54
other organizations and support structures --
13:56
they come from friends and family.
13:58
Some statistics say 85 percent or more of funding for small businesses
14:00
comes from friends and family.
14:02
That's around 130 billion dollars a year --
14:04
it's a lot.
14:06
And third, so as people are doing this friends and family fundraising process,
14:08
it's very awkward, people don't know exactly what to ask for,
14:11
how to ask, what to promise in return,
14:13
even though they have the best of intentions
14:15
and want to thank those people that are supporting them.
14:17
So to harness the power of these supportive communities in a new way
14:20
and to allow entrepreneurs to decide for themselves
14:23
exactly what that financial exchange should look like,
14:25
exactly what fits them and the people around them,
14:27
this week actually,
14:30
we're quietly doing a launch of Profounder,
14:32
which is a crowd funding platform for small businesses to raise what they need
14:34
through investments from their friends and family.
14:37
And it's investments, not donations, not loans,
14:39
but investments that have a dynamic return.
14:41
So the mapping of participating in the story,
14:43
it actually flows with the up and down.
14:45
So in short, it's a do-it-yourself tool
14:47
for small businesses to raise these funds.
14:50
And what you can do is go onto the site, create a profile,
14:52
create investment terms in a really easy way.
14:55
We make it really, really simple for me
14:57
as well as anyone else who wants to use the site.
14:59
And we allow entrepreneurs to share a percentage of their revenues.
15:01
They can raise up to a million dollars
15:03
from an unlimited number of unaccredited, unsophisticated investors --
15:05
everyday people, heaven forbid --
15:08
and they can share those returns over time --
15:10
again, whatever terms they set.
15:12
As investors choose to become involved
15:14
based on those terms,
15:16
they can either take their rewards back as cash,
15:18
or they can decide in advance
15:20
to give those returns away to a non-profit.
15:22
So they can be a cash, or a cause, investor.
15:24
It's my hope that this kind of tool can show anybody who has an idea
15:27
a path to go do what they want to do in the world
15:30
and to gather the people around them that they already have,
15:32
the people that know them best
15:34
and that love them and want to support them,
15:36
to gather them to make this happen.
15:38
So that's what I'm working on now.
15:40
And to close, I just want to say, look these are tools.
15:42
Right now, Profounder's right at the very beginning,
15:44
and it's very palpable; it's very clear to me, that it's just a vessel, it's just a tool.
15:46
What we need are for people to care, to actually go use it,
15:49
just like they've cared enough to use Kiva
15:52
to make those connections.
15:54
But the good news is I don't think I need to stand here and convince you to care --
15:56
I'm not even going to try.
15:58
I don't think, even though we often hear,
16:00
you know, hear the ethical and moral reasons,
16:02
the religious reasons,
16:04
"Here's why caring and giving will make you happier."
16:06
I don't think we need to be convinced of that. I think we know;
16:09
in fact, I think we know so much,
16:12
and it's such a reality
16:14
that we care so deeply,
16:16
that in fact, what usually stops us
16:18
is that we're afraid to try and to mess up,
16:20
because we care so very much about helping each other
16:22
and being meaningful in each other's lives.
16:24
So what I think I can do today,
16:27
that best thing I can give you --
16:30
I've given you my story, which is the best I can do.
16:32
And I think I can remind us that we do care.
16:34
I think we all already know that.
16:37
And I think we know that love is resilient enough
16:39
for us to get out there and try.
16:42
Just a sec.
16:45
(Applause)
16:51
Thanks.
16:53
(Applause)
16:55
Thanks.
17:05
(Applause)
17:07
For me, the best way to be inspired to try
17:09
is to stop and to listen
17:12
to someone else's story.
17:14
And I'm grateful that I've gotten to do that here at TED.
17:16
And I'm grateful that whenever I do that,
17:19
guaranteed, I am inspired --
17:22
I am inspired by the person I am listening to.
17:24
And I believe more and more every time I listen
17:27
in that that person's potential to do great things in the world
17:30
and in my own potential to maybe help.
17:33
And that --
17:36
forget the tools, forget the moving around of resources --
17:38
that stuff's easy.
17:40
Believing in each other,
17:42
really being sure when push comes to shove
17:44
that each one of us can do amazing things in the world,
17:46
that is what can make our stories into love stories
17:49
and our collective story
17:52
into one that continually perpetuates hope
17:54
and good things for all of us.
17:56
So that, this belief in each other,
17:58
knowing that without a doubt
18:00
and practicing that every day in whatever you do,
18:02
that's what I believe will change the world and make tomorrow better than today.
18:04
Thank you.
18:07
(Applause)
18:09

sponsored links

Jessica Jackley - Microlender
Jessica Jackley is the co-founder of Kiva.org, an online community that helps individuals loan small amounts of money, called microloans, to entrepreneurs throughout the world.

Why you should listen

Seven years ago, Jessica Jackley heard a speech by Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, an economist from Bangladesh who had developed the idea of microcredit: loans offered to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. She says, "I was so completely blown away by the idea that I quit my job, dropped everything and moved to East Africa to help." In late 2005 she co-founded Kiva.org with Matt Flannery.

Kiva uses a peer-to-peer model in which lenders sort through profiles of potential borrowers -- be they a farmer in Cambodia, a pharmacist in Sierra Leone, or a shopkeeper in Mongolia -- and make loans to those they find most appealing. The minimum loan is $25, and the interest rate is 0%. The repayment rate for loans is more than 98%, Jackley says, and since the group was founded almost 700,000 people have pledged $128 million in loans to more than 325,000 people. Jackley's latest project is ProFounder, a new platform that helps small businesses in the United States access startup funding through community investing.

The original video is available on TED.com
sponsored links

If you need translations, you can install "Google Translate" extension into your Chrome Browser.
Furthermore, you can change playback rate by installing "Video Speed Controller" extension.

Data provided by TED.

This website is owned and operated by Tokyo English Network.
The developer's blog is here.