The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

27 November 2007

Investing in the world’s poor

Kiva was the first… Kiva was started in October 2005, and enabled people to invest directly in micro-entrepreneurs needing a loan to lift themselves out of poverty. You just go to their website, select the person or people you want to invest in, and with your credit card you then lend them some of or all of what they need. Who and how many people you choose to invest in is your decision. Each micro-entrepreneur has been screened and will be supported by a local development agency. You may have a preference for investing in someone from a particular region or country, for the type of business they are planning to set up, or it may be that the story of their life and their hopes appeals to you. Just with a click of your mouse, you’ve made a loan, and set someone along the pathway of creating a better life for themselves and their family. You will hear how their business is doing; and when they are able to, they will repay your loan, which you can either have back or use to invest in another person. The minimum loan is $25.

Kiva shows how the power of the internet can be harnessed to bring people together and to help solve the world’s problems. In its first two years, Kiva has built a $13 million loan portfolio and is helping around 20,000 micro-entrepreneurs. Kiva was the first, and with the direct link between lender and borrower is probably still the best for most people wanting to invest in the world’s poor.

Find out more at:

And now MicroPlace…
Like all good ideas, Kiva was bound to be copied and adapted. Here is a variation on the Kiva idea which enables you to invest your money in helping the world’s poor.

MicroPlace was started by Tracy Pettengill Turner in 2006 and sold to eBay in 2007. It enables you to invest $100 or more in a micro-credit development agency so that they can lend onwards to micro-entrepreneurs in poor countries and communities. You choose the region and the country that you would like to invest in, and then select from a list which agency you would like to invest in, the term of the loan (which is normally from 3 to 5 years) and the return you will get on your investment (which normally ranges from 1.5% to 3% per annum). Unlike with Kiva, you are not investing in any one individual or family, although you will find stories of some of the people your chosen agency has been able to help so you will get a picture of the sort of impact your loan will have.


Or you could sponsor a Village Bank…
Another idea is to sponsor a village bank. This is a programme run by FINCA International. The money you give is a donation rather than an investment, and is in many ways similar to child sponsorship. Although your money will go to start a village bank in a specific village and you will be told the name of that village, the reports you get will show the progress of the work being done and the people being helped in the country as a whole where your donation has been used.

FINCA is seeking funds to create 100,000 village banks in poor countries across the world each needing a sum of $5,000 as start-up finance.

What is microfinance?
Microfinance is the supply of basic financial services including loans, savings and sometimes even insurance to low-income individuals and families usually without collateral in the traditional sense, in countries and for communities where people cannot easily obtain normal bank loans. Micro-credit is now a prime tool for eliminating poverty in poorer countries, and is at work in more than 100 countries, and is now being used in more than 100 countries. It was pioneered by Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist, who founded the Grameen Bank, which led him to winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

How MicroPlace helps lift people out of poverty
Linda Adjei is a 21 year-old Ghanean single mother of a 2-year old Edmond Antwi and they live together in one bedroom of her family’s house in Asokwa. Her house is built of mud and wood and roofed with aluminum sheets. There is electricity and a kitchen; however the toilet and washing facilities are 100 metres from the house. Linda takes care of all the needs of her son. To enable her to work and earn money, she sends her son to a nearby crèche where she has to pay the fees.

Linda needed just $85 to create her own hairdressing business because she needed to find a way of earning more support her family. She heard about a group of women who had been able to get loans from the Sinapi Aba Trust and she realised that she could form her own group and do the same. Linda is the leader of a group of women borrowers who banded together to seek micro-loans who call themselves the “Prince of Peace Trust Bank”.

Before getting her loan, Linda used to work in a rented hairdressing kiosk where the handheld hair dryer she was using belonged to a friend of hers. The friend was charging her a weekly fee for using her hair dryer. With her first loan (of 800,000 cedis), she was able to buy a new hair dryer and hair creams. She subsequently also arranged to buy the hairdressing kiosk from its owner and has successfully made the first installment toward its purchase.

Since she got the loan, Linda’s work has become easier, less stressful and more profitable. She now is able to send some money to her parents, she hopes to work hard to build a better life for herself and her son.

MicroPlace is offering investors a 3% per annum return for a three year loan (minimum amount $100) which will be invested in the Sinapi Aba Trust via the Calvert Foundation.

By purchasing a Calvert Community Investment Note, the full amount is lent out to the micro-credit organisation you select to enable it to scale up its micro-lending. Calvert exercises prudent portfolio management through diversification and a protective layer of loss reserves so as to minimise your risk.

Are you addicted to the intenet?

Are you addicted to alcohol… tobacco… heroin… gambling? Of course you’re not. But what about the internet? Compulsive internet use has now been identified as a mental health issue in some countries, including the US and also South Korea where over 90% of homes now have a broadband connection. Internet gaming, on-line gambling, frequenting chat rooms and fantasy worlds such as Second Life, social networking are giving people a "PC bang" which they find hard to do without.

Research in South Korea indicates that around 30% of young people under 18 are at risk of addiction. To address the problem, the South Korean government has built a national network of 140 counselling centres, set up treatment programmes in 100 hospitals and most recently paid for young people to go to a “boot camp” to try to get them to kick the habit. The camp which is called the Jump Up Internet Rescue School lasts for 12 days and has around 5 participants; there is hard physical exercise plus group activities to encourage young people to form real relationships. It seems to be working.

Take the test; find out if you are internet-addicted
Are you addicted to the internet or rapidly going that way? Find out. Take the Internet Addiction Test which has been developed by the Centre for Internet Addiction Recovery.

This 20-item questionnaire is the first validated and reliable measure of addictive use of the Internet. It measures mild, moderate, and severe levels of Internet Addiction.

These are the first 5 questions:
1. How often do you find that you stay on-line longer than you intended?
2. How often do you neglect household chores to spend more time on-line?
3. How often do you prefer the excitement of the Internet to intimacy with your partner?
4. How often do you form new relationships with fellow on-line users?
5. How often do others in your life complain to you about the amount of time you spend on-line?

Answer these and the remaining 15 questions, and see if you are addicted.

Centre for Internet Addiction Recovery:
The Internet Addiction Test: