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« From the Cultural Revolution to Wokai: My Microfinance Journey | Main | Happy Year of the Ox! Downturn's Impact on Yilong County, Sichuan »

January 22, 2009


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Kieran Ball

Hi George,

Thanks for this honest account of life as a Wokai Fellow. I am currently a Kiva Fellow in Cambodia and wanted to reassure you that your experience is not uncommon.

Although my MFI has a great relationship with its fellows, I know many other MFIs are not quite so receptive to theirs and sometimes go as far as to make them feel unwanted.

However I strongly believe that there is a great deal of value generated by fellows in the field. Firstly, you are improving the connection between the contributors and the borrowers by writing your blogs and borrower updates. This is so important to the Wokai model because without the personal links it becomes just another donation to an unseen cause.

Secondly, just by being there, in the field, you are providing reassurance to Wokai contributors that everything is above board. Wokai may not yet have experienced any fraudulent activity, but Kiva certainly has, and it is vital that it is discovered early on to prevent serious reputational damage. Contributors want to be sure that their money is going exactly where it is supposed to, or again, the Wokai model will not work.

So although you write that "Without being able to be productive, the fellow becomes little more then a reporter", I think that if you look at it in the way that without your presence the Wokai model would not work, or would at least lose much of its transparency, then you are actually a key factor in helping this MFI to get its funding.

Regarding relationships with loan officers and borrowers, I think their attitude towards you will be a result of the attitude of the MFI in general. I have not had many questions as to why I'm here, I think they understand on a basic level that my organisation provides funding and is therefore important for business. Perhaps the role of Wokai fellows just needs to be better explained to the MFIs from the outset?

Sorry for going all serious, I'm just passionate about the importance of having fellows in the field! Thanks for all the great blogs, and your photos are amazing.

All the best,

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