As we sink deeper into our credit-laden consumer cesspool, with Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday, I wonder what we could do that is more thankful for the gifts we have gotten and give a compounding gift of giving.
Something always bothers me about this time of year, it never seems to be the spirit of the holidays you find in your friends and families, but what the markets want of us. Most everyone has these feelings, methinks.
This year they holiday spending spree is the last test of our economy, which has been driven by the up to recently largest consumer economy. Odds are, however, that the credit crunch will ripple into waves next quarter with wide impact.
I'll admit to making a long awaited purchase Friday despite the crowds (leveraging a Consumer Reports blog post, price comparison presented as evidence in my mobile wiki for competitor price matching by a seller with a better service reputation, not on credit, but is an aside disclosure). But now with Christmas lists being checked twice, I wonder how my gift can be a means of social production.
Recently I rediscovered Kiva.org, the Social Microfinance Network. They partnered with Microfinance institutions that provide micro loans on the ground to budding entrepreneurs and provide a means of personal involvement with social feedback. My cousin works for a Microfinance Institution in Benin, and despite recently recovering from Malaria, I can say she is involved with one of the most effective methods of sustainable development known as yet. Kiva gives me a way of being personally involved, and on Thanksgiving I made my first loan, $25 max, to a butcher in Kenya who needed a $700 capital equipment loan for a deep freezer to increase inventory and decrease transportation costs. I look forward to hearing her stories about how this improved her life and those around her.
For the coming holiday, I'm considering giving Kiva Gift Certificates for others to make their first micro-loans.
Just for fun, lets compare to traditional gift certificates without mocking their lack of imagination. A good number of them are bought on credit and then given as credit and consumed in relative isolation. With Kiva, I can give a gift to give, but also be repaid. So they could still go and consume their 0% interest spoils anyhow, perhaps at the opportune time in a crashed economy.
Okay, I'm probably lessening how powerful this is, and how you can be if you discover your own power through Kiva. The last paragraph was a bit of a grinchy pun on the economy, but think about it. Anyone can be a social entrepreneur, and entrepreneurs change the world.