Absent the nightmarish destruction of the Internet (which, according to Legal Affairs is a concern to take seriously), globalization is as much a condition — a force at work — in our 21st century world of markets, networks, organizations, friends and family as gravity. Such forces drive the good, the bad and all in between depending on ourshared purposes and shared values — as seen in the wikipedia entry on globalization. It describes manipulation by mass media, controlling governments and multi-national corporations as well as growing possibilities for mutual understanding and friendship.
As with so much in our battle of value against values, globalization seems inclined toward the negative when it comes to matters of capital and profits, inclined toward the positive when it comes to matters of family, friendship, shared understanding and shared fates.
All of which makes Kiva — a peer-to-peer microfinance organization launched by Matthew and Jessica Flannery — worth noting. The Flannerys have blended a concern for value with a concern for values by integrating the economic as well as the personal possibilities in globalization. Through Kiva, you — yes, you — can be a global capitalist. You can lend money to entrepreneurs living continents away and, through the wonders of the Net, stay in contact as they use your loan to make life better for themselves, their families and their communities.
And you can do this for as little as $25.
The Flannerys have brought microfinance to your home computer. Microfinance is a worldwide industry built on an ancient notion: commercial lending to business. Only, as the name suggests, the loans are tiny. Experts estimate that as many as 30 million ‘microentrepreneurs’ have launched and grown businesses with the help of tiny loans. In world of 6 billion people — the vast majority of whom are poor — 30 million, while impressive, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Moreover, microfinance is profitable. Given the huge size of the market as well as the attractive economics, it is no surprise that the number and size of microfinance loan funds is growing rapidly — and that giants like Citibank are now in the field.
Neither Citibank nor large non-profit players, however, are likely to give you the chance to be a global capitalist. So, go sign up at Kiva. And the next time the International Monetary Fund or World Bank comes to town, get a seat inside the room instead of throwing rocks in the streets.
Globalizaiton is a force. How do you want to shape it?