The JOYWO Partnership
Kiva Zip was originally intended to grow through word of mouth, one trustee at a time. However, after a few years of testing, the Kenya team realized that Kiva Zip was not growing as fast as they had hoped it would, and started to think about other ways of expanding our reach to underserved borrowers in Kenya.
As part of that effort, in August 2014 we launched a new partnership with Joyful Women’s Organization (JOYWO) an established organization already helping women form table banking groups where members can borrow from one another’s savings. In addition to already having a network of over 12,000 table banking groups and 186,000 members in 43 counties in Kenya, we felt that JOYWO was a great organization for Kiva Zip to work with because they provide support in the facilitation of these table banking groups. In other words, there’s a ton of potential for Kiva Zip to reach a huge network of borrowers through our partnership!
A table banking meeting is conducted in a simple manner. Here, the women used an empty small gathering place on the ground floor of a housing project.
JOYWO’s group members seemed like good recipients for Kiva Zip loans because they already had their own savings, met frequently and were business-focused. More importantly, as a group, these women know and support each other, providing the social capital and support that’s core to Kiva Zip. Through JOYWO’s existing table banking groups, women were able to borrow from one another to make small investments in their businesses and livelihood projects, but with the help of Kiva Zip they’re able access more credit and allow more group members to borrow simultaneously.
So far, my own observations as a Kiva Fellow have supported this prediction. The women I’ve met are very grateful for the Kiva Zip loan they have received, and most of the groups have been paying back with a flawless repayment rate.
When I visited Kisumu, the chairladies were very eager to receive a boost to their capital from a Kiva Zip loan. Over 60 of them set aside half of their day to attend the Kiva Zip training.
One of the best examples came from one of my field visits. One of the JOYWO’s groups in Nairobi had an unfortunate incident where 3 of its members lost their garment stores in a fire that engulfed part of a market. Usually a fire would mean that an individual borrower would go bankrupt with the loss of their business, and their loan would go on default. However, because these 3 borrowers were part of the JOYWO group, the other members stepped up and gave them a loan to bring them back on their feet using the group savings! The Kiva Zip loan continued to be paid back on time. I was incredibly impressed with the solidarity and tenacity of these women!
Of course, with any new partnership, there are opportunities for learning and improvement, and that’s where my role as a fellow comes into play. In the past 2 months, I have:
• Observed table banking meetings and trainings
• Surveyed JOYWO officials, chairladies and members
• Made field visits to understand the very diverse demographics of Kenya
• Conducted interviews to understand how JOYWO operates as an organization
Based on my observations, Kiva Zip is implementing a more streamlined operations and communication channels with JOYWO to reduce issue resolution time. We’ve also created a method to analyze repayment rates at a more detailed provincial level which helps to empower the team to improve repayment rates on more targeted geographic areas.
In the second half of my fellowship, I’m designing an experiment to figure out the best way to manage these group loans on the Kiva Zip platform and working to create more in-depth guidelines on assessing suitability of future major partnerships, based on our experience with JOYWO, as well as the expertise of Kiva’s portfolio managers.
JOYWO’s officials in Kisumu welcomed me with open arms and the widest smiles.
We’re learning a lot as we go, but are excited about the potential that partnerships like JOYWO can have on the future growth of the Kiva Zip program in Kenya and the potential to impact so many lives through loans
For more information about JOYWO loans, check out this FAQ.