How is Kiva Zip, a direct lending program based on the internet and mobile money transfers, working without the aid of micro-finance institutions on the ground? It begins with and is upheld by one important group of individuals: local community members we train to be trustees

As we near our two year anniversary and celebrate our climbing repayment rate, now at 92%, we would like to honor our top-performing partners through a series of Trustee Spotlight blogs. While much of the focus goes to borrowers, understandably as they are our target population, we’d like those supporting them to know that out in the field, it is the trustee who ensures the loan process runs smoothly and sustainably. It is the trustee who vets borrowers, mentors them, and handles delinquency. The mutually beneficial relationships between Kiva Zip and trustees are furthering not only Kiva’s mission, but the individual missions of each trustee as well. 

Our first feature trustee is The Youth Banner (TYB), who has supported 37 borrowers in repaying 66 loans over the last 17 months.

Youth Banner Staff (left to right: Clive Angwenyi, BEEP Program Manager; Ruth Ruhara, ATG Project Manager;Kevin Kisali, Financial Linkages Project Manager; Kenneth Karuri, Training Project Manager

Kevin Kisali has been the Kiva Zip liaison since the beginning and is responsible for TYB reaching “Tier 3” status, which is awarded to trustees with at least 30 completed loans and over a 90% repayment rate. In Tier 3, TYB can now endorse 20 new loans per month and unlimited repeat loans. Kisali says this is huge for them, as they have had a long waiting list of clients waiting to get Kiva Zip loans and are now able to serve more. 

Those in line are apart of Youth Banner’s six-month long BEEP program, which “hand-holds” youth through a practical, student-tailored entrepreneurship training. They serve 10-15 classes of 15-45 members, with nearly 1,500 graduates in the last three years. When entrepreneurs enter the program, TYB performs needs assessment evaluations and finds that 90-95% do not keep records of their business transactions. Teaching them this one skill alone has proven to increase their income, sometimes exponentially. 

Business Planning session, Dagoretti Business Clinic 2012

Kisali says that through offering interest-free Zip loans on an individual basis, rather than in groups as many MFIs require, has made BEEP’s presence known and valued by the informal settlement population it aims to serve. As a result, more youth have not only gotten the financial support they need to kickstart their businesses, but the technical training that sustains them. Additionally, the BEEP clubs discuss socio-cultural issues like drug abuse and gender equality to promote social responsibility. Members stay connected to TYB even after graduation for business and personal support. 

Kisali sees being a Kiva Zip trustee as a perfect match between like-minded and similarly structured organizations. 

“Both Kiva and TYB have an end goal, a direction but not a specific road map. We build as we go, make mistakes and learn, getting wiser along the way.”

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Taylor Whitfield Growing up in Silicon Valley, Taylor has engendered the entrepreneurial spirit since starting her own business at the age of eight, thanks to a $50 loan from her dad. Although she ended up breaking even, the experience of marketing her product developed her leadership skills and interest in helping individuals realize their potential. In college, she studied abroad in Ghana, where she also volunteered at an NGO for street girls. There she befriended a widowed woman with two kids and no home. Taylor decided to mobilize family and friends to fundraise $11,500 and build a house for them. While it was an incredible gift, Taylor soon learned it was not a long-term solution and began searching for more empowering ways to contribute. Traveling to places like Colombia, Ethiopia and Turkey left her with a passion for other cultures, yet she saw there was much to be done from home in San Francisco. Working at the Department of Public Health and a local free clinic the past two years, she was frustrated by the disparities in access to healthcare. She is now committed to building a career that addresses the underlying cause—poverty—and believes Kiva is the perfect place to start.
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