Interview with Premal Shah, of Kiva.org, about social entrepreneurship

Premal Shah is president of Kiva.org and was named a young global leader by the World Economic Forum in 2009.

What is a social entrepreneur?

Any great entrepreneur, really, if you watch them, they’re patient individuals who bring energy, business rigor, smarts, resourcefulness to a problem. And they change the landscape of the way things work.

A social entrepreneur looks at societal issues and tries to apply those same things. They’re not necessarily in government, not necessarily in business; they’re a third sector of everyday people who can come in and be changemakers.

What is Kiva?

Kiva was built on the premise of social entre­pre­neur­ship — to address the issue of global financial exclusion. These people, mainly women, have no access to banking, so they get small loans. Eighty percent of the loans go to women. . . . We slowly, slowly want to encourage more gender equity. Just by creating funding opportunities for women we’re sending a subtle market signal. Our mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate global poverty. Most people who have the resources to help are really busy doing other things. . . . You can become a micro-lender yourself.

Is the work of individuals who contribute to Kiva’s work part of a larger social movement?

I do think that Kiva is part of a larger movement. I really believe that everyone is a social entrepreneur, even those being helped on the Web site. They become role models in their own communities. Web sites like Kiva help build consciousness. It’s not just hot-shot MBAs. It’s people like my mom, and my mom’s friends.

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