Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kiva - Loans to the Third World

Some of you may find this website, Kiva of interest. It's a mico-lending site that works with microenterprise/microfinance groups through out the world to provide loans. Effectively it allows those who are relatively well of to contribute to loans for individuals or groups though out the world who are less well off/in poverty, but still trying to make a living.

In some ways I think this may be an improvement on traditional charities working in the micro-enterprise area. Seeing as the money is provided as a loan, it is expected the individual or group pay it back over a specified time period, effectively holding them accountable and encouraging them to make productive use of the money. Also the micro-finance groups that interact with the clients generally provide training to help support those they've made a loan to.

Finally because you choose which groups/individuals/projects to lend money to you can decease the chance that the money is used in a manner you wouldn't approve of (ie clearing rain forest for crops). The loans are generally contributed to by a number of people, so if the loan is defaulted you've not lost a large amount.

The site appears to work well, I contributed to a couple of loans in May and they've started pay that back now. Once they've paid my loans back I'll re-loan the money to someone else, though I could withdraw it if I needed to. In the mean time I've made a couple more loans.

If people are interested drop a comment here, it could be fun to create a exChch/Heresy group, as the site supports the usual range of web 2.0 social features such as teams, journals, profile pages and all that jazz.

From the website:

We Let You Loan to the Working Poor

Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

How it works:

How Kiva Works
Choose an Entrepreneur, Lend, Get Repaid
The below diagram shows briefly how money gets from you to an entrepreneur, and back.

1) Lenders like you browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need, and choose someone to lend to. When they lend, using PayPal or their credit cards, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of our microfinance partners worldwide.

2) Kiva's microfinance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur. Often, our partners also provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur's chances of success.

3) Over time, the entrepreneur repays their loan. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and emailed to lenders who wish to receive them.

4) When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Science and Communication

Also if you wonder why the media always screws up science even in articles that are apparently written by people who under stand it have a look at these two links:

When I submitted the article, just shy of the 800 words I was asked to write, the editor said that the published piece had to be shortened a little. A few weeks later I checked the publication and found my article reduced to 360 words. I wasn't happy, of course, but every journalist has dealt with this. However, when I began to read the piece I didn't recognize it as anything I had written. I became worried so I did a sentence by sentence comparison. To my complete horror, out of 360 words there was only one sentence in the published piece and 3 or 4 fragments of sentences I had actually written; and the article was published with my name on it!

A tale from the trenches of science journalism


One rotten apple

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Science is a sublimely human activity and a central part of the best of Western culture…and of every culture on earth that aspires to be something more than a collection of dirt-grubbing subsistence breeders, propagating for the sake of propagating. It's what gives us the potential to reach beyond making do, that gives us the leisure and freedom to flower in the arts and explore the diversity of human experience. Even institutionalized religion itself is an incidental byproduct of the first clever dicks who thought to reroute the flow of a river to irrigate fields and led to centralization, urbanization, hierarchies of leadership, accounting, writing, and the whole avalanche of change that followed. It's important.

Unscientific America and those awful atheists - Pharyngula

Excellent statement, it's well worth reading that article!