GOOD Q&A: Jessica Flannery

Jessica Flannery, co-founder and director of business development of Kiva, sees big changes in small loans.

What does a $20 donation do for Kiva?
Any donation helps us cover our basic operational costs-paying salaries, keeping the lights on, etc. In 2007, for every $1 Kiva receives in donations, we raised another $10 online in loans for the poor.

How did you and your husband meet-and how did that lead to Kiva's creation?
Matt and I met when we were seniors in college. He was at Stanford, I was at Bucknell. We were at a conference in Washington DC, and started talking about philosophy (my major, and the focus of the masters' degree he was about to begin). From day one, we could always talk IDEAS. In some ways, Kiva was the solution to a dilemma we had about where we each wanted to go in life. I wanted to do microfinance in Africa; Matt wanted to do a tech start-up in Silicon Valley. For years, we didn't know how this would work out, but of course these two passions combined eventually led to the creation of Kiva.

Do you have an individual micro-finance story of that is particularly close to you?
Any woman who takes a loan, perhaps despite cultural poverty or not being seen as valuable outside the home, is heroic in my eyes. There are countless entrepreneurs who have inspired me with the successes they were achieving in their lives, whether that success allowed them to send their children to school, to provide more nutritious food for the families, purchase medicine or mosquito nets, or something seemingly small but just as significant-being able to put sugar in their tea or to put a lock on the door to their home so they could feel secure. Every story is unique, every story is important.

Kiva is incredibly successful and you seem to be a preternaturally bold, caring person. Do you ever deal with fear? What are your fears and how do you combat them?
In terms of what scares me most out in the world, I feel afraid and deeply saddened when I see people who don't believe that they matter, or that they can cause change in the world. Personally, I would be most afraid if I got to the end of my life (or, even the end of a day) and looked back and felt I hadn't been true to myself.
For Kiva and for myself, I try hard not to let fear ever drive my decision-making. If we've ever made mistakes in the past with Kiva, or come close to it, it has been because of fear, and we've learned not to do this anymore. It sounds cliché, but I find great peace and clarity when I remind myself of the things I can control and the things I cannot, and then surrender the latter.

What makes you feel alive?
Newness. Poetry. Going on adventures. Connecting deeply with other people.

What is your personal definition of good?

Learn more about Kiva here.


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