Earlier this year, Kiva’s Global Engagement Manager, Jessica Hansen, gave a TEDx Talk to a packed house about the power of “we” and connection via technology.
We love this concept so much we asked Jessica to share more about the intersection of human empathy, technology and global change:
Q: What do you think keeps a person from believing in their abilities and strengths?
I think it can be a variety of things, but generally it likely originates from fear. I love the quote by Marianne Williamson that says “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
It took me a long time to come into my own power – to feel it, embrace it, and learn how to use it to accomplish the things that I believe in. I speak up now. I act. I use my intellect, my time, and my energy to affect change. I think there are a lot of people who use power to accomplish things that benefit only themselves and that might harm or exploit people, animals, or the environment, so it’s more important now than ever, that people who believe in the things I believe in, come together and exercise their power for good.
We all have the power to be incredible forces for good in the world if we would only realize it, learn how to wield it intelligently and compassionately and really give ourselves permission to exercise it.
Q: Do you believe technology has evolved over the last decade in connecting people and promoting activism? If so, how?
Absolutely. We live in a time now, when technology enables big things to happen every day, and it can connect people in both positive and negative ways. I was remarking about how as big as U.S. politics can change with something as small as a tweet these days, how - amazingly - a lost little boy in India can track down his family 20 years later with Google Maps, and a man with acute leukemia can find a perfect bone marrow match on Tumblr.
When I was young, the most straightforward paths to having the power to be heard and change things in the world mostly required money, political office, or some sort of highly influential status. Now, new platforms – from social media to social good – are available to help people gather online and mobilize to do good in the world.
Of course, technology can also provide a meeting space for people who are rallying around ideas of hate, bigotry or violence. I see Kiva and other social good platforms as a counter to those. We connect to create good in the world and we do so with millions of kind and incredible people. Technology can be such an incredible tool for good, if people are willing to use it as such.
Q: What is the “power of lending”?
That’s a really interesting question! For borrowers, I think it can mean the ‘power’ of complete strangers all around the world believing in you so much that they will part with their own hard earned money because they want to see you succeed – there’s so much support, compassion, dignity, and trust wrapped up in the power of someone trusting you and empowering you with a loan.
For lenders, I think the ‘power’ comes from our connection to everyone involved – our connection to the person we’re lending as little as $25 to, our connection to other lenders, and and our connection to our best selves – the self who takes action and improves lives.
Q: How has Kiva impacted your life and why do you believe in it’s mission?
When I was first introduced to Kiva, I didn’t think it would last 6 months. Little did I know that in over 10 years, Kiva would be going strong with an incredibly high repayment rate (97%), that it would’ve facilitated over $1 billion in loans to people with no financial access, and especially that I would work here myself!
That has taught me to believe in things that might initially seem impossible, to believe in people and ideas that challenge what we’ve assumed to be true, and to have as much faith in people as Kiva borrowers and lenders have in one another, because it’s working!
I believe in Kiva’s mission because I think human connection is at the core of the human experience – how connected we are to one another, to ourselves and to the world we live in. I love that we can use that connection to tap into the best of humanity and make it extremely easy to do incredible good in the world with it.
Dreams are universal, but opportunity is not. People all over the world hope for better lives for themselves, for their children – lives with access to education, clean drinking water and safety. What Kiva does is it allows us to help create opportunity for one another, where it didn’t exist before. That’s magical.