Do you recognize the name Jessica Jackley? What about Kiva? Jackley is the young woman who started Kiva in 2005. Kiva, a crowdfunding site, asks not simply for donations, but for micro-loans. To date, Kiva has facilitated $730 million in loans in 83 countries, funding entrepreneurs in agriculture, clothing manufacturing, and transportation, just to name a few areas of endeavor.
In an interview with Christianity Today, Jackley discusses her new book, Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least, her faith and her work.
When asked about “the poor you will always have with you” (Matt. 26:11) and how she interprets that, Jackley replies:
I know now that the story behind it is more than what I imagined as a child. I used to imagine a long line of poor people following me around everywhere, which terrified me. But the idea that there will always be need—in every one of us—makes more sense to me today. There are different kinds of poverty, including spiritual poverty, relational poverty, and emotional poverty. There are needs we all encounter as human beings; we all experience poverty at some point in our lives. Need is universal.
This idea doesn’t haunt me in the same way today. Instead I see it as a sobering reminder that there are always people I can look for to serve and to help. At any moment in time when I have something to offer, there will be someone who has a need to receive. And roles can easily switch—we all have times in our lives when we need to reach out for help as well.
Jackley also speaks to the notion of a handout vs. a “hand up.” She says that the world is moving away from the idea that the only way to help the poor is by donating something. Now, she says, “We know entrepreneurship is part of the solution too.”
She is also asked about what she sees as the next big economic “thing” for the developing world.
There’s a lot of potential in microinsurance and microsavings. I’m also excited about the rising popularity of direct cash transfers—in tandem, of course, with ways to keep people accountable and tools to help them use that money well. There’s an organization called GiveDirectly that’s doing this now. This model is a way to serve others and give them agency on how to change their lives for the better. It’s a very dignified, pure way to empower someone else. If you really trust in someone’s ability to make life better for themselves if they only had access to the right resources and opportunities, hand them cash and say, ‘Use this however you think is best.’
Jackley also reflects on her own faith experience, and how it’s changed over the past few years.
There is a resilience in my faith and who I believe God to be that I didn’t have before. In the past decade one theme has continued to be true for me: I continue, even with my best efforts, to always come up a bit short. God’s always bigger than I think. God’s always more present than I think. Truth is in more places than I would have anticipated.
You have to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly—in all kinds of forms—to be convinced of this. And I am convinced now. As we get older, we experience more things that are difficult and surprising—and God’s still there. That builds faith, if we let it.
Read the entire interview at Christianity Today.
Authors Peter Greer and Phil Smith draw on their personal experiences to provide proven solutions for effectively reducing poverty.