Thursday, February 28, 2008

Premal Shah's Kiva talk at PARC stresses the importance of Social Transparency

As mentioned previously, Premal Shah of recently spoke at the PARC's special speaker series on "Going Beyond Web2.0". During the talk, Premal gave many great stories of how Kiva got started and the growth of the system. It was a great talk, because it showed that Web2.0 can be used as a way to connect people directly and to help them to get out of poverty. The way does this is through microloans.

The key, according to Premal, is transparency. At the talk, he said, "The reason why people dig Kiva is because of the transparency." This coincides with our "social transparency" principle that went into the design of WikiDashboard---we make the data visible and easier to understand, and you decide on how to use the information. Premal used the same principle here in the design of Kiva. For example, he said that they expose on the website the risk rating of various microloan organizations, and it is up to the users to decide on how much risk they want to take with their loans. The idea here is that a "social investor" in microloans need all of the information and make the decision locally in a distributed way. If enough people votes with their $25 loans, then a higher-risk loan can still get funded. Indeed, "people funded $25 at a time can actually beat Citibank's $100M microfinance total fund."

Incidentally, Katie Payne, who is giving the PARC forum on how to measure social media effects, is just now talking about the importance of "transparency" in building credibility and trust.

In any case, here is the Premal's Kiva talk:

1 comment:

Ed H. Chi said...

We have been receiving some great comments via email about our Web2.0 speaker series. Here is an example:

I so enjoyed yesterday's presentation by Katie Paine on how you cannot divide by zero and how to measure free. This series is bringing so much talent--true forward-thinkers--to PARC's audiences. Thank you.

I've been attending the PARC Forum series since 1999, when I returned to the Bay Area following 15 years in New York. PARC has long been the crown jewel of Silicon Valley research, development, and innovation. The PARC Forum nurtures the exchange of ideas and generates lively Q&A discussions that are open and free to all who wish to attend. George Soros has written, and funded, works about the importance of an open society. The discussions that take place at PARC reflect what's best about the open society of Silicon Valley.

When I reflect on some of the memorable times I've enjoyed just sitting in the audience of the Pake Auditorium, I think about the talks by Brian Arthur, Marvin Cohen, Mark Levine, and the Faultline Studio Artists. It was at PARC that I listened to a scholar from UC Berkeley describe the damage being done to our earth and atmosphere by carbon fuel emissions; she needed to leave immediately after her talk because she no longer owned a car and depended on public transportation to return to Berkeley. It was an effort for her to travel to Palo Alto, but she felt that the effort was worth it, to address the PARC Forum audience.