Kiva means “unity” in Swahili, but it is also a fascinating new way to help empower people in the developing world. After working in East Africa, two Stanford business students created in 2006, to promote one-on-one relations between lenders in the developed world and new entrepreneurs in the developing world. The site allows people to lend money, interest free, to others starting business. The site not only eliminated high lending fees, but also the usual bureaucracy involved in such transactions.

Kiva works by allowing you to lend as little as $25 through your credit card. This money will be loaned to the project of your choice and after the agreed upon time your loan will be paid back. At this time you can either withdraw your money, or reinvest it. Since internet is not always available, Kiva works with local organizations that help find potential borrowers, and helps direct the loans, or with international organization such as Mercy Corps.

Kiva’s marketing has continued to take advantage of the internet, and partners with giants such as Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Paypal, Starbucks, and YouTube, among others to promote the organization and the work they do. Kiva also sponsors fellows who will commit to spending at least 10 weeks in a host country,while getting to know the culture, and conducting interviews which will then be hosted on the organization’s website.

You can read a blog about the organization, and the projects it helps fund here. Carol Pucci of the Seattle Times also wrote an article about her experience with Kiva in funding a project in Bulgaria.

A similar project is run by, who connects donors to recipients.