My research paper: Marc Gold, micro loans and Kiva

Marc Gold stands in a crowd of Tibetan students in 2008 after informing them that they would be receiving 10 donated soccer balls. Photo courtesy of Parade.

Over the weekend I flipped through Parade and found a story about Marc Gold, a shoestring philanthropist.  Gold, 61, has donated and lent out small amounts of money around the world, mostly Asia, for 22 years.

According to Parade, he has donated as little as 50 cents to as much as $500 or more.  In those parts of the world, the impact of these smaller loans is great.  He once gave a widow in Vietnam enough money for her to buy a sewing machine and start a business.  He bought a $1 antibiotic for a woman in India who was suffering from a painful and deadly ear infection.  He also bought the woman a $35 hearing aid.

These acts are small when viewed through an American or “first world” lens.  But these instances of micro loaning, micro lending or micro credit cause large amounts of change in the areas they happen and in these people’s lives.

There are many non-profit organizations, social justice movements, people and websites that work for these aims and for social justice reasons.  Kiva could be considered Gold’s online counterpart.  It is a website where people engage in micro loaning.  Kiva’s site boasts of giving “loans that change lives.”

For my winter term class this year, one class, three hours a day, for three weeks, I’m taking Wealth and Poverty.  It sounds very interesting, and because my interests lie in social justice and human rights work, I decided to take this upper-level seminar course.

Today was the first day of class and the professor explained that we will be reading her book, another book, watching several documentaries and videos and reading other supplementary material.

We will also be writing a 10-page research paper on a topic of our choice, chosen from one of the topics she listed out for us.  We were asked to decide on a topic in class, the very first day of class, without much information.

  • Fair trade: a social movement and market-based approach, helps producers in developing countries have better trading conditions, promotes sustainability, trade items are created and traded on levels of just social and environmental standards (Ex. fair trade clothing, fair trade coffee)
  • Triple-bottom line: the idea that profit is based on three things, people, planet and profit, all three need to be taken into consideration
  • Slow money: local businesses, local community investments, keep money more local
  • Local currency: community members can create their own currency and pay their workers with it, pay stores in their community with it, keeps money more local
  • Micro credit: micro loans, the concept was created years ago as a way to help poor rural women make a profit
  • Socially responsible investing: there are funds that people can donate their investments or retirement savings into that give to socially responsible causes and funds
  • Slow food: an alternative to fast food, originated in Italy 10-15 years ago, a focus on the love of cooking, local food, sharing values associated with sharing food, building community through food
  • Biodynamic farming: more organic farming, sustainable and holistic approach to farming
  • Bio-regionalism: encouraging sustainability and other “green” focuses, ensuring the political boundaries work with ecological boundaries (Ex. watershed region)
  • Food sovereignty: taking more responsibility for/taking more ownership for where your food comes from, local food
  • Green consuming/responsible shopping: being more thoughtful and eco-friendly when shopping and consuming
  • Worker Owned Cooperatives: a democratically-managed business or cooperative
  • Co-Housing: living in your own home but having shared spaces (shared dining room, shared guest rooms) because excess space and rooms in homes that only get used rarely are wasting space and resources
  • Community land trusts: groups of people buy plots of land in order to make more affordable housing
  • Millenium Development Goals: UN created 10 goals, all countries must work toward eliminating poverty
  • Voluntary simplicity: secular, living together in poverty or more simplistically, with only what is truly necessary
  • Jubilee Campaign: in the Bible it was customary to erase a person’s debt or enslavement every 50 years, countries and organizations are now trying to bring this principle back into modern life by getting the World Bank and other such businesses to erase the debt of the most in-debt nations every 50 years, to start them anew, to give them a chance to profit
  • Sabbath economics: Biblical principles, more fair structuring of economics
  • Catholic Worker Communities: live together in voluntary poverty
  • New Monasticism: radical interpretations of Biblical principles

I decided I wanted to learn more about micro credit, micro loaning and micro lending.  I think it’s an interesting and innovative idea.  Additionally, it kept coming up in various parts of my life, so I thought I should probably learn more about this concept that coincidentally keeps coming up.  I’m hoping to add to my knowledge of and awareness of sites and organizations such as Kiva as I conduct my research.

I’ll be updating about the class, what we’re watching and reading and my research.  Make sure to check back!  And if you have any questions, comments or suggestions (sources I could use for my research), please feel free to comment.

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