Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kiva’s Review and Translation Program Interviews some of Kiva’s All-Star Staff!

By Staci Chirchick, Review and Translation Program Intern

Every month, Kiva’s Review and Translation Program (RTP) produces an informative newsletter for its volunteers. It is full of stories and updates about Kiva’s many programs, volunteers and staff. In recognition of Kiva’s 6th birthday, the newsletter recently featured interviews of some our long-term staff members who talked about their involvement with RTP. We’ve decided to share the interviews with our blog community because we think they provide unique insights into the world of Kiva! We’ll be posting one interview a week for three weeks. We invite you to follow along as we get to know:

Naomi Baer, Senior Director, Global Partner Operations (Part 1)
Michelle Kreger - Regional Director, West Africa, Middle East & North Africa (Part 2)
Sam Mankiewicz - Chief Technical Officer (Part 3)

Here’s Part 1!

Naomi Baer - Senior Director, Global Partner Operations

Naomi Baer

1. How did you first get involved with Kiva, and what different hats have you worn since then?

I joined Kiva in February 2006 as a volunteer, after being inspired during a trip to West Africa to explore microfinance. I've worn a couple of different official hats, creating Kiva's Review and Translation Program along with other early volunteers, running it as a staff member, and then moving into my current role overseeing Kiva's Global Partner Operations group. In reality, every member of Kiva's staff and intern teams wears dozens of hats every day, since Kiva is an organization that likes to encourage broad participation and always has a lot to do since we innovate and grow so rapidly!

2. What one thing at Kiva still makes your heart race?

Every morning, when I walk into the office, I walk past several people who have stunning photos from their trips abroad cycling through on their computer monitor. It's constantly inspiring to work with people who have such an interest in and exposure to so many parts of the world, and who find beautiful photos everywhere they go. The deep connection people have to the work we're doing and their passion to continually improve on what we do is what I love about being here.

3. What has been one of the most challenging things you have had to overcome at Kiva?

The holiday season at Kiva has always been a great challenge. The Review and Translation Program was born in December 2006, right after Kiva was featured on Frontline PBS on October 31, 2006. We quickly needed to ramp up the volume of loan profiles coming in from Field Partners as demand from lenders skyrocketed. With no real system in place, and a group of about 15 enthusiastic volunteers who were completely new to this Kiva thing, we had a lot of fun getting to know each other and working right through Christmas to keep the website full of loans.

Ever since, the holiday season has continued to challenge the organization, as we get so much publicity and interest at this time of year, particularly from new lenders who receive gift certificates. It takes a lot of work to get the website ready. The Kiva staff start preparing to create higher loan volume for the holidays early in the year, building up Field Partners. In the fall, we start working closely with the volunteer teams to get extra help during this busy season. We've had five great holiday seasons now, selling millions of dollars in gift certificates and seeing huge peaks in lending, and each year, it's exciting to face that challenge and see all that we can accomplish.

4. How have the volunteers affected your role at Kiva?

In every way! First of all, what truly drew me in to Kiva after I began getting involved was the contact with volunteers. Kiva editors and translators are some of the most interesting people I've known, with every kind of interest, so many bits of knowledge, and so willing to share. While I don't get to work with volunteers as much today as I did in years past, when I've had a long day of meetings, to get re-inspired, I often take a quick look at the Volunteer Forum [an online space used by volunteers to discuss all things Kiva] because I know there will always be a great thread out there. Besides providing inspiration, Kiva volunteers have shaped their own role in so many ways over the years, and consequently shaped how Kiva does its work. For example, when we started working with volunteers to edit and translate loans, they weren't asked to review the loans for "issues” [for instance, inconsistencies in loan details]. Kiva staff were still sending loans to fundraise on the website manually, and checking each loan before releasing it. Soon, however, the volunteers began sending emails to report problems, and we realized that volunteers were going to be those who knew our loans the best and could help us check them for policy compliance and consistency. So to me, Kiva volunteers are both the spirit and the core of how we work at Kiva, and have changed the shape of most of my days!

If you are interested in volunteering with RTP, check out their page on our website!