What does a Kiva Fellow do? A day in my Fellow’s workplan

21 December 2010 at 08:12 3 comments

Rachel Gittinger KF13 Costa Rica

Each Kiva Fellow is given a placement and workplan based on their experience and the needs of the Field Partner.  These can focus on social performance, verifications, processes, evaluations and training.   I’m a trainer.  As Fundacion Mujer is still in pilot status, they have not yet mastered the ins and outs of Kiva, such as maneuvering the website, posting loan profiles, and reporting repayment information.  A large portion of my workplan is focused on training the office to sustainably complete Kiva tasks without the help of a Fellow.   If by the end of January I have worked myself out of a job, then I will be satisfied with my fellowship.

Training, as many of you know, is a task that appears deceptively simple, as a short training session requires substantial behind the scenes planning and follow up.  When I sat down to plan a profile posting training, my game plan was fairly simple:

  1. Type up step by step guidelines and review them as a group
  2. Sit individually with each credit officer and guide them through the process.
  3. Open Kiva’s website, select “new loan”, click, click, click, upload, and wah-lah, a new profile is posted to Kiva.org!   Quick, efficient, and painless.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take into account technical difficulties, and cultural norms, and non-Kiva computer habits.  In reality, the process went as follows:

Step 1: Prepare to post the loan.  Gather all documents necessary, and convene the group of credit officers for the training at 8:45am.  Having spent extensive time in Latin America, I was expecting to start at 9:30.  We began at 10:30, and spend the first 15 minutes wrestling with the projector.

Step 2:  Open the Kiva partners’ website.  This involved a surprisingly emotional discussion of the merits of Internet Explorer vs. Firefox.  Finally, we settled on the  Kiva-preferred Firefox.  After misspelling the website, and trying to type it into a google searchbar and waiting while the internet crashed and re-started twice, we arrived at the correct site.  It was bookmarked immediately to ensure that the fiasco would never have to be repeated.

Step 3:  Enter client data.  This went relatively well, until reaching the description.  Many credit officers have limited writing experience, and the first descriptions I received came in two forms:  extreme run on sentences that took a hike through the tangent forest, or one short paragraph containing very little information.   We spent some time talking about how to avoid these errors.   Finally, we had a short grammar, spelling, and punctuation review.  Regardless of how many times I tell them to “write the story like they tell it to me”, writing a quality description is by far the most difficult aspect of the process for my loan officers.

Step 4:  Upload a loan repayment schedule.  At many MFIs, Fundacion Mujer included, this requires modifying an internal document to upload to Kiva’s site.  After an Excel review that included how to delete non-essential information, how to modify dates to the English format of M/D/Y, and what is a CSV file, we were ready to go.

Step 5: Review.  We reviewed the loan before submitting it. The loan will also be checked by the Review and Translation team (volunteers that donate their time to edit and fine-tune profiles before they go live on the site).   More importantly, I reviewed my step by step guidelines which were reduced to scribbles due to our differing perceptions of clear step by step instructions

As anyone will tell you, practice makes perfect.    Here at Fundación Mujer, we are practicing.  Currently, I am sitting individually with credit officers, and we are working through the process together until it becomes second nature.   I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Kiva Review and Translation team and beg their patience until our practice becomes perfect.

For now, I’d like to congratulate Yaclin, Fundacion Mujer credit officer, for being the first Kiva-certified staff member!  This award, complete upon successfully uploading 3 loans and one journal update, comes with a Kiva-care basket to be envied by all!!

Rachel Gittinger is enjoying her time as a Fellow in Costa Rica.  If you want to read one of the spectacular profiles written by a recently trained Fundacion Mujer loan officer, click here to loan.  If you have a burning desire for your own super special workplan, apply to the Fellows Program.

Entry filed under: KF12 (Kiva Fellows 12th Class).

Road tripping the lone star state Florence’s dream


  • 1. Richard  |  19 January 2011 at 11:28

    I can see the term, as well as the accurate descriptor, ‘sharecropper’ evokes visions of Simon Legree, abuse, and exploitation. I just know human nature; you can’t give a man what he doesn’t want. Conversely, you can empower the people around you with respect and a charitable attitude, and get some positive result.

    I’ll look into the Fellow application. I have always been a good writer. All of my KIVA loans are in the Philippines. I want to continue to focus on food production, small retailers, and if possible, furthering educational opportunities.

    Thanks for the response.

  • 2. Richard  |  22 December 2010 at 10:47

    What do you know about abandoned or disused coffee plantations? I’ve heard many lie fallow throughout Central America. The plantation-grown beans were OK for regular coffee, but the finest beans came from shade grown coffee trees. Any plans to help coffee farmers emerge into the fair trade markets?

    I could see a viable course of action between expat landowners and native growers. It’s share-cropping but with benign rules and administration. Any others interested in developing a viable business model?

    • 3. Rachel G  |  3 January 2011 at 06:39

      Honestly, I would have to research this to give you an accurate answer. Currently, I’m not sure about how many fields lie fallow. A few years back coffee prices dropped, leading farmers to search out other cash crops.

      As for sharecropping, I know that where I lived in Nicaragua, the system was the typical disaster for locals. They made around $2/day while the landowner brought in enormous profits. I know that there are some fair trade programs, mostly on a small scale. For example, Starbucks has slowly been increasing the amount of fair trade coffee that they purchase, and many small cooperatives sell coffee through fair trade stores in the USA. I agree that fair trade coffee (and chocolate) are wonderful opportunities for central American farmers, but only when administered in a transparent and truly socially responsible manner. I would be interested to hear of any programs that you are aware of!

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