Web 2.0 Concepts Key to Kiva’s Success


Few microfinance-oriented organizations have garnered as much interest or enthusiasm as Kiva.org, the website which connects lenders and borrowers worldwide. Kiva’s success can be attributed to a number of factors, but during a recent talk in Seattle, WA, CEO and Co-Founder Matt Flannery highlighted the site’s use of key Web 2.0 concepts and explained how they help make the site “sticky.”

  1. Information is king

    One of the factors which sets Kiva apart from other online giving sites is its emphasis on real-time information. Kiva is committed to providing its users with as much information as possible, and the site is continuously updated with feedback on borrowers and their progress.

    In this way, Kiva goes far beyond merely connecting lenders and borrowers—it nurtures the establishment and growth of virtual relationships. Many lenders are as invested in their borrowers as they are in an out-of-state family member or friend, and this encourages lenders to log in frequently for updates.

    Repeat visits are also encouraged by the fact that the site is constantly changing. Kiva’s homepage is designed to feature different entrepreneurs and lenders on a regular basis, so there is always something new to see.

  2. Keeping it real

    Things don’t always go according to plan, and while Kiva has an extraordinarily high success rate, there have been instances in which loans have been stolen or lost. When this occurs, Kiva informs its users (known as “Kivans”) right away.

    Kiva’s commitment to transparency is exemplary, but it is also becoming par for the course in this day and age. Web 2.0 has introduced us to the good, the bad and the ugly—increased user participation means that information travels across the internet at lightning speed, and nothing remains hidden for long. Not only do users appreciate transparency, they have also come to expect it—and largely prefer to frequent sites which are committed to telling the truth.

  3. Socialization around a higher cause

    One of the hallmarks of Web 2.0 is community creation. Networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn capitalize on this by allowing users to create and join dedicated groups based upon their likes, dislikes, political or religious views, occupation or hobbies.

    Kiva attracts people who are interested in alleviating poverty, and judging from the activity on Kiva Friends, it is clear that Kivans enjoy interacting with one another. While many conversation threads address poverty and loan-making, Kivans also discuss their hobbies and professions, which aren’t always related to the goals and activities of the site. According to Matt, Kiva Friends is a sort of “social marketplace,” where users come to network around a higher cause.

In his book Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, Dr. Muhammad Yunus writes about the need to “recognize the real human being and his or her multi-faceted desires.” Human beings, he says, are not solely devoted to their own interests—they are inclined to do good, and will welcome the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of others. The success of sites like Kiva can serve as an example of how the savvy utilization of Web 2.0 concepts can both fuel and serve our desire to make a difference.