Premal Shah: Kiva Community is a ‘Hopeful Corner’ of the Internet

As we continue to spotlight the diverse and vibrant groups that make up the Kiva community, we sat down with Kiva President Premal Shah to get his thoughts on the ever-expanding Kiva-verse.


Q: How do you view the community of lenders and borrowers on Kiva?


Premal: The Kiva community is a hopeful corner of the internet. In some ways what we witness every day on the website is all of these micro, radical acts of hope in a very cynical world.


There are a lot of people who don’t believe that things can get better -- that the trend lines and the headlines show that things are only going to get worse. What is so wonderful about the Kiva community is that you know you are not alone in believing that we can improve things.


Q: How are borrowers contributing to their own communities around the world?


Premal: It’s always struck me how when you get beyond the basics of what [borrowers] do and you ask them about the why, it’s so often for someone else. Kiva reframes the poor as entrepreneurs, but not just entrepreneurs--really as social entrepreneurs.


I’ll give you an example from One Acre Fund. We were in a one room house and visiting one of the farmers… she is one of the 20,000 farmers who have received financing from Kiva through One Acre.


She’s the local leader who explains the methodology to the other farmers and she’s seen as a trusted source in that community. So you are not just financing her, but you are empowering her so she can spread knowledge of better farming practices to other people.


Q: Do borrowers know they have the backing of this large online community?


Premal: When it becomes real is when they see a picture of a lender. It’s a positive moment, they show it to their families and their kids. They will often keep the picture and for some people it’s the only photo they have.


It’s just like when a student hears from a teacher, “I believe in you,” and they go home and work a little harder. When 400 people chip in for a loan, on the Zip platform for example, and you see that happening, I think that helps you feel like these are all people who believe in you. You might show up a little earlier. You might work harder during the day


That’s when borrowers can feel how many people believe in them.


Q: How can lenders carry the Kiva spirit into their daily lives and their own communities?


Premal: Kiva is about realizing that small actions in the present moment are the best way to get started in creating a life of significance and meaning.


If you can help someone with a few clicks on Kiva--in your life maybe it’s calling your mom, buying fair-trade coffee. Right now there are so many opportunities to advance a cause and not all of it requires you to quit your job. If tech exists to make our lives faster this [Kiva spirit] is to grow a sense of collective belief that our lives matter.

About the author

Talea Miller

Talea is excited to combine her love for powerful storytelling and her digital strategy experience. She comes to Kiva from the Kaiser Family Foundation, where she managed digital strategy for the foundation's consumer-focused PSA campaigns. Prior to that she was a reporter and producer at the PBS NewsHour for five years. At the NewsHour she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the developing world as part of the program's global health unit, covering a wide range of stories including the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, doctor shortages in Tanzania and the mistreatment of the mentally ill in Indonesia. In addition to being a news junkie, Talea enjoys photography, hiking and attempting to paint. She graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. in Journalism and is originally from Maryland. So she also knows a lot about horses.