Community Minute

Detroit Is First Kiva City

Kiva, the micro-lending nonprofit, has launched its Kiva City program in Detroit.

skyline of detroit michigan with blue sky

Photo: Bernt Rostad (Flickr)

Kiva Detroit raised over $11,000 for local businesses in the first three hours the lending opportunities were online.

Kiva, the micro-lending nonprofit, has launched its Kiva City program in Detroit.

Just a month after launching, all five of the initial Detroit loans have been fully funded. Indeed, just three hours after the web launch Kiva Detroit had raised over $11,000, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

One project receiving funding includes a for-profit newspaper, Thrive Detroit Street Newspaper, which will be sold by residents of Detroit who are homeless. The goal is for both the newspaper vendors and the business owner will profit. And of course, in addition to being profitable, the business owner hopes the paper will raise awareness about homelessness.

Another small business receiving funding is a personal assistant and concierge services start-up. The business owner charges for her services by the hour, and will use her loan of $4,300 to buy office supplies such as a personal computer and pay for legal documents. $2,150 of her loan was raised from individuals, which was then matched by the Knight Foundation.

Rather than lending money in small amounts to individuals, the Kiva City program lends money to small businesses, in partnership with Detroit community groups and nonprofits. ACCION USA is also a lending partner in the Kiva Detroit program.

A local group, Michigan Corps, lead the creation of the micro-lending coalition. Michigan Corps is also charged with leading a working group that will recruit small businesses and lenders in Detroit.

Detroit’s economic struggles have been well-documented, engendering speculation as to how to support a shrinking city, as a recent NPR Planet Money story put it.  Of course, there have also been writers who have resisted the characterization of Detroit as a city devoid of groceries, and start-ups, such as a January 2011 blog post on the popular Urbanophile blog titled “Yes, There are grocery stores in Detroit.”

Some news sites have been reporting that the KivaCity roll-out will include Pittsburgh, another post-industrial city trying to find its footing. Are there any other cities that deserve consideration? It seems like New Orleans, Oakland, and Newark might all fall under the criteria — struggling economies with a strong civic network dedicated to revitalization.

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