Kiva the nonprofit lender in developing countries has returned home to provide loans to San Fransciscans. Donations are made in $25 increments to circulate around Kiva’s portfolio of borrowers. During the past 10 years Kiva has lent out more than $750 million.
But on the borrower side, Kiva has kicked in a few social mechanics that enable it to evaluate credit risk without needing a long history like a commercial bank typically would require. Borrowers need to get around one or two dozen members of their social circle to vouch and lend to them before Kiva will open up the process to its entire network. “We’re trying to underwrite loans not on the basis of your credit score, but rather on the strength of character,” said Jonny Price, who runs the program. “We call it social underwriting rather than financial underwriting. We’re trying to re-insert real relationships back into financial relationships.”