Meet Jessica Jackley

The current series of ‘Foto Friday’ posts are focussing on individuals who are currently working in their own way to try and make a positive difference in the world.

In 2005 Jessica Jackley and Matt Flannery jointly founded Kiva, an internet based person to person microfinance project. Six years later Kiva has issued loans worth more than $240 million to entrepreneurs in the developing world, who have no other access to capital funding, to develop their businesses and lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.

The basic idea behind microfinance is to offer financial services to the world’s poor, that banks generally aren’t interested in offering.

Jessica was inspired by Professor Muhammad Yunis, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on microfinance in 2006, as it gave her a more positive way to respond to the needs of the poor, without feelings of guilt or shame. In this interview with Entrevista she talks about the need to start small in making a difference to the huge problems of the world.

Jessica is a committed Christian and has an interfaith marriage to Islamic scholar and writer Reza Aslan, who works to build bridges between America and the Arab and Muslim world.

I’m a big fan of Kiva – you can view Next Starfish’s profile here. If you’re interested in getting more involved and want to know how I’ve found the experience of being involved with Kiva just drop me a line.

Photo by Michael Dayah, via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Better to teach the poor how to fish rather then give them the fish. My wish that either one or a group of rich people set up schools for the poor to study and learn a skill so that even if one member of the poor achieve a skill the other members will enjoy the fruit of that member’s success. Hence that will help the poor community to improve their lives.

  2. The issue of indebtedness is very important – it was a concern that held me back from lending on Kiva for a while, and to be honest I’m still not 100% OK with it, but I’ve come to accept it’s a necessary part of the mix of solutions the developing world needs, even if it’s not perfect, along with aid (short term) and trade (long term).

    One question is – what would happen without internationally accountable microfinance availability ? Either alternative local, and no doubt more unscrupulous lenders would fill part of the gap, or more likely no such capital would be available, with the effect of less trade, less jobs and less wealth generation.

    The challenge (as it always is) is to ensure the process is as ethical as possible – I wouldn’t want to pretend this is always easy to achieve. One of Next Starfish’s manifesto points is that ‘solution are complicated’.

    The two key issues are i) the pre-lending assessment (basically an assessment of the business proposals viability and resilience), and ii) the policy regarding defaults and bad debts.

    Kiva works to vet it’s in country partners (who do both the assessments and recovery), and while I’m sure they wouldn’t claim they get it right 100% of the time, they do devote significant efforts to avoid exactly the kinds of scenarios depicted in the Guardian article.

    Take a look at a few of these articles – the first one is by Matt Flannery, Kiva’s other co-founder.

  3. Gareth Richards says:

    Like any lending organization there is a dark side. When you lend people money you assume that the economy will grow fast enough for them to repay their debts. This Guardian artice tells the story of what can happen when people can’t repay their debts:

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