a man stands in a fieldMore than 1.7 billion people worldwide are unbanked and cannot access the financial products and services they need. Kiva, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, helps underserved communities thrive by expanding their access to financial tools and services. Kiva reshapes access to financial services by providing an online, crowdsourced, peer-to-peer lending network for underserved individuals around the world — empowering people to change the trajectory of their lives and their communities.

Kiva’s microloans allow farmers to invest in equipment, families to pay for emergency care, students to pursue higher education, and entrepreneurs to start the businesses of their dreams and create jobs. In breaking down the barrier to accessing financial services, Kiva creates a ripple effect across the globe.

In the 15 years since its launch, Kiva has enabled 1.9 million lenders to provide more than $1.45 billion USD in loans to 3.6 million individuals and micro-entrepreneurs — 84 percent of whom are female — in 77 countries. Cisco’s support has been critical to Kiva’s growth over the last 13 years, providing $1.2 million USD in catalytic grant funding and more than $700,000 USD in Cisco technology donations to help start new initiatives.

These include Kiva Labs, a program focused on innovations in financial products, like new refugee products, education, and water/sanitation loans; supporting local women/minority-led small businesses in the United States; and Kiva Protocol, an initiative to provide unbanked people a formal identity and secure control over their credit information. Kiva also runs its global operations on Cisco technology.

“Kiva’s innovative business model and use of technology has enabled them to impact millions of people around the world. That impact is felt not only by the small business owners, students, and families they support, but also drives economic growth in the communities where they live and work. Cisco is proud to partner with Kiva to increase equitable access to financial services and opportunities for underserved individuals and businesses, toward an inclusive future for all,” said Charu Adesnik, deputy director of the Cisco Foundation, and manager of the economic empowerment investment portfolio for Cisco and the Cisco Foundation.

In honor of Kiva’s 15th anniversary, we are taking a look at the impact our partnership has made to help power a financially inclusive future.

Kiva’s use of Cisco technology

Kiva uses Cisco switches, routers, IP phones, and access points as the foundation to its IT infrastructure. This year, Cisco provided more than $210,000 USD of our Meraki product and license donations for Kiva’s new San Francisco office. This network equipment will help Kiva have a more stable and secure internet connection and manage its network and device security in the cloud, among other things. Better technology supports Kiva in achieving its ambitious goals of serving 200 million underserved and underbanked people (with a focus on women) by 2025.

Cisco supporting the development of Kiva Labs

Nancy surrounded by her family members
Nancy (second from right) with her family

Cisco was an early supporter of Kiva Labs. This program allows Kiva to develop innovations and launch new programs to validate and scale new financial solutions. As part of the Kiva Labs program, Kiva’s Social Enterprises provides working capital for social enterprises to enhance productivity, remove bottlenecks to growth, accelerate expansion, and seek larger, institutional follow-on funding. To date with Cisco’s catalytic funding, Kiva Labs has funded 548 social enterprises in 45 countries. Our support has enabled Kiva to provide working capital and scale nontraditional financial lending partners like Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), an organization that embodies a multi-faceted approach to empowering women.

Kiva Protocol

Cisco was an early supporter of Kiva Protocol as well. Kiva Protocol is a secure, open-source technology platform started two years ago that enables identity verification and authentication for Know Your Customer-compliant account access and ongoing customer due diligence. Cisco’s seed funding allowed Kiva to launch Kiva Protocol in Sierra Leone, supporting beneficiaries like Nancy. In partnership with the government of Sierra Leone, Kiva is on the ground building the country’s first blockchain-based national identity and credit system. Nancy is a single mother and agriculturalist. She could not take out a loan because she doesn’t have personal identification, making it more difficult to access banking. With Kiva’s help, Nancy now has access to credit history, her national identification number, and a fingerprint ID.

Launching operations in the United States

Charisse handing out french toast bites to a customer
Charisse serving a customer her famous French Toast Bites

Cisco’s support helped Kiva launch their operations in the U.S., providing zero percent interest loans to entrepreneurs and small businesses that have been unable to get a loan from conventional lenders. This support is needed more than ever. Since the pandemic began, 79 percent of small business owners suspended or reduced their operations at some point, of which only 13 percent have fully resumed operations. Furthermore, 43 percent of small business owners said their gross revenue has decreased by 51 percent or more due to the pandemic.

Entrepreneurs like Charisse, from Clifton, Pennsylvania, are pivoting to remain open amidst the global pandemic. Since opening in 2018, Charisse has steadily built her business, Lokal Artisan Foods, by selling her locally famous French Toast Bites at community events and festivals. When these events were cancelled, Charisse needed to find a more permanent home. She was able to team up with another business and share brick-and-mortar restaurant space, but they needed to adapt to the storefront model and make changes to meet safety guidelines. In less than a week, 149 lenders backed Charisse’s loan of $7,000 USD. With initial repayments deferred for six months, Lokal Artisan Foods will have time to adapt to a new operational model.

Across the country, Kiva has seen a spike in small business loan applications that is 5x larger than normal since than pandemic began. April 2020 had a 517 percent increase in submitted applications and a 329 percent increase in activated loans compared to April 2019. Since March 15, Kiva has worked diligently to fund 400+ borrowers like Charisse, with $3 million USD in loan volume. Of these loans, the profile of small businesses supported include:

  • 64 percent of women-owned businesses
  • 60 percent of businesses led by people of color; 25 percent of which are Black-owned businesses
  • 27 percent increase in average loan size (from $6,000 to $7,600 USD)

Employee engagement

Kiva has been a popular nonprofit for Cisco employees to support over the years. The Cisco lending team has 117 members who have funded over $110,000 USD in loans. In 2018, Cisco employee Faith Lin started “Bridge the Poverty Gap,” a giving campaign that allowed Cisco employees an opportunity to participate in an online empathy exercise with Kiva, and make loans to Kiva borrowers. The Bridge the Poverty Gap fund has 854 supporters who have contributed over $84,000 USD in employee donations and Cisco Foundation matching funds. Faith shared, “Kiva was a perfect partner for this initiative. $1.45 billion USD in loans funded to 3.6 million borrowers – their impact speaks for itself. What takes this partnership to the next level is the personal connection; there’s a face and story behind each loan. By building empathy we’re inspired to act, and that collective action creates powerful impact.”

How can you get involved?

In celebration of their 15th anniversary, Kiva has made it their mission to fund 15,000 small businesses in October 2020 – and you can be a part of it too. Lend $25 on us – click here to claim your credit and select an entrepreneur to fund.


Stacey Faucett

Manager, Sustainability Communications Governance and Compliance

Chief Sustainability Office