KIVA - Micro Loans
Today I was able to meet with a teacher who was just awarded a grant by our district's Education Association. The grant is for micro loans to be used via the non-profit organization KIVA. If haven't heard of KIVA before, take a look at their organization at kiva.org. KIVA is designed to put lenders, in connection with borrowers. This is the cool part, anyone can be a lender. You register for an account, add money to your account, and then decide who's project you would like to fund.
KIVA in the classroom
The teacher I met with today, was looking for some assistance in his endeavor to empower his students through the use of the KIVA loan program. I went into the meeting understanding what KIVA was about and that he had received some money to be used by his students to provide opportunities for real people around the world who were trying to improve their lives. I didn't know what his vision for how he was going to do this.
I had spent some time looking at the KIVA site for potential borrowers and read over some of their projects and stories. Each one was a compelling narrative as to why they were deserving. A few thoughts rushed through my mind as I read these stories, how can I get more people involved in this? How can anyone decide who is most deserving?
When meeting with the teacher today, those two questions popped up as we were planning the lesson around the students using their grant money to fund KIVA projects. We first proposed having a small group in each class make the decision as to where the money should go. Then we began to realize the potential impact of the decision to change lives shouldn't be limited to a few students, but should be opened up for all students in the class.
How do you decide who is deserving of funding for their life changing project? And how do you get the largest group of people possible to experience the opportunity to make a life changing decision?
The first question is difficult, which led to the second question. We know there are thousands of potential projects and people on KIVA looking for assistance, so how do you decide which to fund? Should this be left up to a small group for each class? We decided that this was too important a decision to allow just a few students to have this power. This led to the discussion of the teacher narrowing down the projects to a more manageable size for each class. Some may like this, others may say this gives the teacher a lot of power in the process. We decided that each class would get to choose from about 20 projects and with 5 classes this would still be about 100 potential projects. Yes this isn't a perfect solution, but to leave it completely open would have made it unmanageable for students in our time frame.
Next, how do we narrow the projects down from 20 to a number that can be openly and vigorously discussed as a class? How can you engage all students in this project? This is where we came up with two options for moving from 20 down to about 5 topics.
Option 1- put students into groups and allow them to select the project they would like to fund. This would mean that all students in the group would need to agree on the decision.
Option 2- allow all students to read about each project and get into groups based on which project they would individually like to fund. This would allow groups to be formed around a topic they support. The drawback is potential for too large of a group forming around 1 of the topics, so you could have students select their first and second choice and then putting them into groups if group size became an issue.
Now that we have groups, how do we decide? We still haven't discussed the decision making process. With groups created and topics selected, we have the topics narrowed down, but still don't have a winner.
Students have by this point made a decision on which one they think is worthy, but we are still looking at possibly 5 projects to fund. So how do we decide which is MOST deserving of funding? Students must create a sales pitch. In their groups they will need to create some type of presentation that helps them demonstrate the potential benefits of funding their project. The difficult aspect of this is the fact that all are worthy projects. It is a matter of the groups creating a more dynamic and persuasive presentation to sway the voters to their point of view.
Students need to be well informed about their project and be creative in how they present. They will need to create compelling arguments, eye catching visual aids, and present with some flare. The students are all selling worth while projects, but they have to show their classmates why their project has merits beyond the others.
On thing we discussed as part of the presentations, discussion and voting was that this isn't about winners and losers. The voting should not be done based on who is in a particular group, or your desire to win. The selected project will be a little closer to their goal, but those not selected are still worthy projects that didn't get selected. The people and causes in those not funded should never be looked at in a negative light or described in such a way. All have merit, students are simply voting on which they believe are MOST deserving because they are all worth assisting.
The potential takeaways!
This lesson has the potential to be life changing, not only for those who receive funding, but for the students who make the connection between their classroom activity and real world people, places and events. Students are participating in real world activities and hopefully see the difficulties in making these types of decisions. It would be my hope that some would be compelled to want to find other ways to help fund their project even if it wasn't voted on by their peers.
I am excited about this opportunity to work with these students on this project. I can't wait to update the post to share the projects that were funded. I also want to see if there are others in my department who want to work together to make this happen for others. Lastly, I hope you take something away from this and could find a way to make global connections like this for your students.
Keep working to create experiences for your students that they will never forget. They will forever be grateful for your passion to make a difference in their lives.