I have been a fan of Kiva from their early days. They had another recent surge of success when they introduced Group Lending and Partial Loan Repayments, both brilliant moves in my opinion on multiple fronts: driving consistent traffic to their site, engaging their citizen base in a frequent and meaningful way, and leveraging natural networks.
However, I am still anxiously awaiting the day when Kiva moves into the next realm of innovation, when they are using their platform to strategically inspire change in the market. Right now they are focused exclusively on microcredit and simply support the normal activities of their partners and the microcredit borrowers. It could be argued that that is their expertise and value-add, however, I do not see the innovation nor the value of Kiva as a funder of microcredit, which is partly why I agree with people who say that Kiva should not be focused on providing a financial ROI for lenders. Even if Kiva continues on their projected growth their financing of microcredit will be minuscule compared to the capital being raised for microcredit through integration in the financial markets and through microcredit accelerator's such as Unitus.
The innovation of Kiva is that they have created a platform that allows a broad base of average citizens to become miniature philanthropists. Kiva has never had to spend a dollar on marketing, people find Kiva and become inspired: bloggers picked it up early, when people find Kiva they blog about it, they showcase their loans, Kiva even had to create an entire site, KivaFriends, to handle all the interest of their constituents to discuss the issues.
Therefore, as a platform and in the position of inspiring and shaping grassroot philanthropy I think Kiva is extremely well-positioned to strategically shape the local marketplace of their borrowers. One way they could shape the marketplace would be to partner with microfranchise operations. Kiva could be the platform, the broker, that connects microcredit organizations with the best microfranchise solutions, and then together they offer a financing mechanism for the expansion of new business and innovatin in the marketplace.
This would provide value to the microcredit borrower, providing them a new business model, a great potential source of income as opposed to simply increasing their inventory in the same business as their neighbor. It would provide value to the community in which the microcredit borrower lives, bringing a service such as VisionSpring eyeglasses or HealthKeepers pharmaceutical products or a technological product such as Kickstart's waterpump. It could probably be structured so that the MFI gets a cut as a distributor of products. Kiva could provide value to these fantastic innovations by being a catalyst for the best models. It would provide value to the Kiva Lender because they would feel they are being innovative in their lending and philanthropy.
Kiva needs to think beyond scaling up microcredit and more about being a platform for change.