Innovation That Matters

Donation-microloan hybrid helps rural Chinese

Nonprofit & Social Cause

Microlending organisation Kiva has been praised for helping small businesses in developing countries get off the ground by connecting them to individual lenders. Unfortunately, its innovative platform doesn’t serve Chinese entrepreneurs, due to restrictions in China’s monetary policy. Which is why Casey Wilson and Courtney McColgan established non-profit organisation Wokai, aiming to do for China what Kiva has been doing for other parts of the world. Since peer-to-peer lending isn’t an option, Wokai developed a hybrid model that combines traditional donations with the benefits of microloans. Dedicated to raising capital from around the world for entrepreneurs in rural China, Wokai works with field partners to select candidates for loans. Using a system that’s similar to Kiva, people can browse a list of potential borrowers on Wokai’s website, donate their chosen amount, and then track the recipient’s progress through Wokai. Since they can’t be paid back to the donor, loans are recycled: when a recipient pays back a loan to Wokai, the donor can select another farmer or entrepreneur to support. So far, Wokai has raised USD 42,766 for loans to 159 recipients. Many donors have business or family ties to China. Restrictions spur creativity, and (social) entrepreneurs are no exception. So if you’re looking for a new opportunity, an obstacle isn’t a bad place to start. (Related: Microcharity uses tangibility to target young donors.)



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