A curriculum in microfinance and financial inclusion is the cornerstone of Kiva U, a collaboration by Citi Microfinance and Kiva, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that provides people with a platform to make loans as small as $25 to entrepreneurs around the world, with the goal of alleviating poverty.
The curriculum is just one part of Kiva U, which connects and mobilizes microfinance clubs at high schools and colleges across the country to further efforts to expand financial inclusion and broaden access for traditionally underserved communities. More than 3,200 specific school-based or youth-based teams have registered since it was launched on Sept. 3, said Jessica Hansen, Kiva’s education development manager.
In addition to the curriculum, Kiva and Citi have created toolkits and a team directory, and will host an upcoming summit in October that includes a competition among students who have created Kiva-inspired videos.
“Kiva U will serve as a launching pad for bringing together students and educators who are interested not only in financial inclusion as an abstract concept, but also in how they can use technology and their own resources to make personal connections with those seeking to improve their lives,” Bob Annibale, global director of Citi Microfinance, said in a statement.
Lessons in the “Exploring Poverty” curriculum begin by helping kindergartners through second graders evaluate needs versus wants. (Although couldn’t sorting out “needs versus wants” be on a college student’s syllabus, too?) The lessons become more sophisticated as they progress. For ninth through 12th graders, there are lessons in “Business Development: Business Planning” and “Taking Action: Social Networking for Change,” and post-secondary content is available as well.
Students learn that “microfinance is defined as ‘micro,’ meaning small, and ‘finance,’ meaning money, so it’s small amounts of money that can be loaned to people to stimulate their own ability to make money,” explained Hansen. Financial inclusion is defined as “the extension of access to affordable and quality financial services to people who would not otherwise have them.” Students can also learn financial literacy, including the nuts and bolts of borrowing, lending, and interest rates, in the curriculum.
The curriculum was developed in conjunction with World Savvy, a San Francisco-based organization focused on preparing the next generation of leaders to learn, work and thrive as responsible global citizens. “We talked through what would be most useful to teachers, especially with the new common core rolling out,” Hansen said. Project-based learning is part of the curriculum, as are lessons that can be used by math, science, economics, and social studies teachers, among others. Over the years, teachers have shared how they incorporate Kiva’s mission into the classroom, and some of these lessons became part of the curriculum, Hansen explained.
Here’s a video of Kiva fellow in Guatemala—formerly a substitute teacher in Minnetonka, Minn.—answering students’ questions about microfinance:
Founded in 2005, Kiva has attracted nearly 1 million lenders who have contributed more than $469 million in loans to small business borrowers in 72 countries. The repayment rate is 99 percent. Contributors who make loans can take them out of Kiva (without interest) when they are repaid, or reinvest them to help entrepreneurs pursue other opportunities.
Kristen Goggin, a middle school math teacher in San Francisco, blogs about how her students helped fund 78 businesses, and the ways she incorporated Kiva into her instructional practice and her students’ lives.
About three years ago, The New York Times covered confusion about where money lent via Kiva goes, explaining that many givers believe they can have conversations with the recipients of their loans. In fact, borrowers generally receive their funding directly from Kiva’s field partners, which ultimately collect and distribute individual lenders’ contributions. Loans are repaid through the field partners, who distribute the money back to the loan providers. Jason Riggs, Kiva’s communications director, says the organization explains the loan-making process on its website.