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« Wokai's QUEST to find our users | Main | Wokai - Blogging for a Cause »

May 23, 2009

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Austin Aho

Hi Casey,

First off, I just wanted to mention that I've been following you and Courtney from this blog and I'm a big fan of what your doing through Wokai! Keep it up. =)

In response to your question, I would really like to see some information on what exactly our money is doing. Your suggestion of making a pie chart with resource allocation would be great! With consumers/lenders constantly becoming more aware of inefficiencies, it is no longer feasible to assume that our donations are well spent. (whatever that means) The phrases 'being put to good use' and '100% blah-blah-blah' have little meaning anymore and transparency is becoming the new 'must' in responsible philanthropy.

Another idea might be to allow lenders to interact with their borrowers. This could blow open the door to donations of other resources like time, connections, expertise or encouragement! If people are willing to take the time and emotional energy to read the entrepreneurs story and understand their situation, could we also facilitate relationships that would tie communities and encourage repayment?

Love is a powerful thing. If borrowers can directly feel the love that lenders are sending (along with their cash), they may even be more productive.

Just some thoughts...

Austin Aho
Social Servant
International School
Beijing Union University

Austin Aho

One more thing I forgot to mention:
It could be helpful if the entrepreneurs had a list of issues concerning their business. Name the top 3 weaknesses of each entrepreneur. Do they need education? Creative distribution channels? Interns? What is their biggest worry? (i.e. what keeps them up at night)
When lenders can better understand the issues and problems facing entrepreneurs, they can feel more involved and possibly provide solutions.

Sam L

"What are contributors more interested in??" That is the *key* question!

Drawing from communication, fundraising and marketing, I think the answer is it varies from segments to segments.

Take an example of segment “China Visitors”, especially the sub-segment of those who've been to rural China, they might very well be interested in the stories.

In contrast, for the segment "Families with adopted Chinese Children," especially the sub-segment whose children are still young, the parents might be most interested in how they can help to educate their children in the process.

Once we sort out the interests of various segments, it'd be much easier to figure out the means to meet their interests/needs.

Zac Hinton

A few thoughts off the top of my head relating to this blog post and the previous one.

1) Why do people contribute?

As well as understanding the WHO (the different social groups that make up current and future users) you also need to understand the WHY. This will enable you to provide users with the information and interaction to keep them involved.

How do you find out? Ask! I think you've already started this process with your QUEST. How about a simple survey to ask the current users the main reason they are contributing.

It could be:
- a connection and interest with China, particularly rural China
- an interest in microfinance as an instrument for social change
- an interest in microfinance as a business / career / investment opportunity
- an interest in NGOs and small startups
- a sense of charity / morality (a portion of yearly $X charitable donations)
- a personal connection to the existing team / user base / MFIs
- because friends / peers are also involved
- an interest in all kinds of social networking

There will be other reasons, and most likely it will be a combination (but which is the strongest?)

2) A few thoughts on social media ideas to keep people connected (following from your suggestions).

- Personal thank yous from entrepreneurs (via email / text / video message maybe) could be great. "To the Wokai users who have contributed to my loan, Thank You! I will be buying a pig next week."

- Bite-size messages here would be key, and also drip-fed to users. No need to do one for every entrepreneur immediately - it can be a gradual process (both saves time up-front and avoids overloading users). An update once a month is probably enough to keep people connected and come back again later to contribute more.

- For example, a Youtube channel with mini clips, updated periodically with a personal message from a different entrepreneur. These could be communicated to the specific users who have contributed to that entrepreneur via email, text message or tweet, with a link to the youtube vid. People can comment on Youtube videos and they are available to the whole web, not only within the wokai site - gets the message out further.

- Pictures are great too, but again no need for too many at once. People don't look at albums so much these days - they look at individual tagged photos on Facebook (and increasingly mini-sites like twitpic). Again, people like to comment on these, and see when others have commented after them - you can make use of existing infrastructure of FB / Twitpic.

- Getting text updates from entrepreneurs could also work really well. Getting these in front of users through either Facebook status updates or Twitter updates could be great. Entrepreneurs don't necessarily need their own Twitter/FB accounts but could be sent to Wokai and channelled through a wokai account.

--
Just my personal brainstorm - hope some of these thoughts and ideas help a bit!

Oliver Engelen

I found some very interesting ideas here, both in the interview and in the comments. Thank you!

One question about Twitter: SMS-based twittering isn't possible in a whole lot of countries - does is work in China?

Keep up the good work!

Oliver

Drew Meyers

You're absolutely right that cracking the nut of connecting contributors to entrepreneurs is what's most likely to make lenders come back again and again to Wokai. Sure, people may lend once or twice and that's great, but finding and nuturing repeat lenders (much more valuable than one timers) is no easy task. Many lenders such as myself need to see that real lives are being impacted by the money lend, and we want to feel a personal connection with the entrepreneurs we are lending to. Photos and short entrepreneur stories were how Kiva accomplished this. However, Matt is right that following the status quo probably won't be enough given there's certainly no shortage of places to donate/lend money to -- standing out from the rest is crucial.

I haven't seen anyone in the microfinance space taking advantage of video, which means you could set the trend here by being a first mover...knock it outta the ballpark!

Zac Zheng

That's a great question. Here are my thoughts.

To give you a start on finding out our motivations to contribute, my main reasons are:

- "an interest in microfinance as an instrument for social change"

Being an aspiring entrepreneur I believe in the power of entrepreneurial spirit. Working hard to provide value for others and reaping the financial rewards. As I'm sure with others, I believe microfinance provides much needed funds to deserving poor entrepreneurs who will use it not only to improve their family's living standard, but also indirectly that of their community's.

- "a connection and interest with China, particularly rural China"

Being an overseas Chinese I feel a strong connection with China. I want to do something - however small - to help the poor and aspirational in China, as well as around the world.

Thank you Zac Hinton for listing the potential reasons. Great name by the way!

As for my thoughts on your original question of connecting contributors with entrepreneurs. Out of the ideas you listed, I only really like the last: "Financial models, graphs and stats". With this information, as well as others provided, I would can make a better judgement on their likelihood of success, and the potential societal benefits.

Going back to basics, I believe there are two main things you can improve.

1. The website usability for enabling contributors to contribute. Currently, I find it cumbersome. As an example, on the homepage you show the 3 steps on contributing to all users, taking up much screen real estate. As a member I already know how to contribute, so I would rather see the space used more effectively for showing me entrepreneurs. Also, I always click to view all borrowers, whereas I only click on view all contributors out of curiosity. The all borrowers should be made more prominent, perhaps center stage.

2. The 'My Story' of each entrepreneur is written in similar style of English, which itself can be improved with better grammar and being concise. Perhaps you can also provide a Chinese version written by the entrepreneur themselves?

The above things would further motivate me to contribute.

I typed a lot more than I planned to!

I have a lot of respect for you and your team Casey. Keep up the good work.

Zac Zheng
London

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