Thursday, May 3, 2012

Students gathered, fundraised, and discussed poverty for Month of Microfinance

“It was an incredible grassroots effort,” Economics Professor Shawn Humphrey says of his experience organizing the  student-lead Month of Microfinance in April. While teaching at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, Humphrey saw a natural fit between students and microfinance clients -- both are on budgets, working hard and hoping for a better future.

The result: A month-long campaign of 45 official Month of Microfinance events ranging from $2 a day challenges to conferences held on over a dozen campuses across the U.S. As we devote more attention to programs for students and making Kiva a teaching tool for microfinance education in high school and college classrooms, we were completely inspired by the passion, engagement and creativity we saw at last month's student-run events. 

Here are some highlights: 

1) Columbia University's microfinance club, Microlumbia, hosted a conference featuring Alex Counts, president and CEO of the Grameen Foundation (pictured below), one of the world's most visible and vocal microfinance innovators.


Conference attendees and members of Microlumbia.  

2) Blogs by microfinance experts on a range of interesting topics, including:

Social vs. financial motives by Chris Dunford, Senior Research Fellow at Freedom from Hunger
The importance of listening to clients by JD Bergeron, Senior Director of Social Performance at Kiva
Millenials and microfinance by Ananya Roy, Professor of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley
An opinion on pricing by Chuck Waterfield, CEO of Microfinance Transparency

3) University of Mary Washington and University of Iowa were among the many campuses that participated in $2 a Day Challenges, giving students the chance to see what their lives would be like if they made the same amount as many microfinance clients. UMW shot a video chronicling the experience, and here's a video of some UI students grocery shopping: 

4) The coordinated cross-campus efforts of students got the attention of entrepreneurship news site MicroDinero, which ran an article about the Month of Microfinance.
5) Movie screenings were held on campuses, showing recent microfinance documentaries Bonsai People and To Catch a Dollar, which track the work and success of microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus. Follow the links to watch the trailers.
6) Students and faculty gathered for a conference at the University of Pennsylvania to discuss how innovation plays a key role in achieving microfinance's fundamental mission.

7) University of San Diego students and members of the community supported local microfinance clients at a artisan marketplace, and  gathered for a Microfinance Summit.

All of these students made a big impact on a slim budget, and we are excited to see the ripple effect of their conversations, passion and interest in helping extend financial services and opportunity!

If you're a student who participated in a Month of Microfinance event, we would love to hear from you at If you'd like to learn more about how to start a campus Kiva club or use Kiva in your classroom email

photos courtesy of Columbia University, San Diego Microfinance Alliance and UMW