Leading aid agency CARE International UK has launched www.lendwithcare.org - an innovative micro-finance website aimed at transforming the way people give.
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Lendwithcare.org enables people in the UK to invest in entrepreneurs in the developing world. Investors can lend from just £15 directly to a chosen individual to help them start or improve a small business. This allows people from poor communities to earn income, send their children to school, feed their families and gain economic independence as their business grows.
Lendwithcare.org is the first UK site of its kind, harnessing CARE's expertise as the world's third biggest international development organisation with over 40 years' experience in the field of micro-finance.
The site was developed by digital media agency Bluefrog, in partnership with CARE.
Bluefrog's managing director, Mark Phillips, said, "We were excited by a couple of similar initiatives in the US, both of which seemed firmly rooted in the US market with no visible plans to move to this side of the Atlantic. CARE, was no stranger to microfinance - they've been involved in it for years and already had a network of micro-finance institutions (MFIs) in many developing countries. It made sense to bring the benefit of CARE's work and our own expertise to the UK market, making peer-to-peer lending an accessible and interactive way for people in the UK to help eradicate poverty."
From the start Bluefrog had a clear view of what they wanted from the public facing site - a clean and straightforward interface to provide life-changing loans. Providing a loan would be free of cost to all and the operation would be run from voluntary donations.
"Removing barriers keeps a good proposition clear and drives ongoing commitment," said Phillips.
"Developing a web-based loan management system between CARE's offices and MFIs was the largest challenge, as a digital model did not exist. Developing the brand early on gave us something to hang all our thoughts on."
Phillips said Lendwithcare.org signals the start of a new pattern of giving, facilitated by the internet. "The web now gives donors greater choice and control over where their money goes," he said.
"The rapidly growing charities are the ones that have built on the accessibility that the web offers - whether it is on- or offline, choice and reporting back by charities on how a donor has made a difference is what is going to count in future."
This way of helping poor people in other countries would not have been possible a few years ago. Phillips said: "While direct finance via micro-credit has been around for decades, the difference with Lendwithcare is the scalability. I don't think you could have enabled a large number of lenders to directly fund entrepreneurs through small loans without the web. The logistics would be too costly to make the provision of a small loan viable. The advent of broadband driving the mass public online and Web 2.0 pushing choice and transparency, have both provided the step changes necessary to make Lendwithcare possible."
Phillips believes that the best thing about Lendwithcare.org is the ongoing cycle of engagement.
"You get your investment back to help other people again and again, or if you choose to you can withdraw your money and keep it. You can't say fairer than that," he said.
To change a life with a loan, visit www.lendwithcare.org.
IT professionals can go the extra mile for CARE in the CARE IT Adventure Challenge supported by Computer Weekly, taking place in Exmoor on 11th June. Complete a marathon distance on foot, bike and canoe alongside teams from the IT industry. Places are going fast! Visit www.carechallenge.org.uk/IT or call 020 7934 9470.
Lendwithcare.org case studies
Josette Tchiakpe, 43, is married and has six children. She has been in the business of selling beverages for the past 15 years and believes a loan would help her meet the growing demands of her customers, and ensure she has access to greater levels of stock. This loan will provide her with 20 cases of beer and 30 cases of bottled water, allowing her to expand her business. The profits from this activity will contribute towards funding Josette's children's school expenses.
Mario is 41 years old and a husband and father of two children. He owns a small tailoring and dressmaking shop in Tuburan, Cebu. He designs and sews most of what he sells. For the past eight years, Mario has managed the business and has even taken on two of his neighbours as full-time employees to help with the tailoring. Whenever there are special occasions or festivities in his local community, Mario's expertise in men's formal attire as well as gowns has made his business very popular. Orders are increasing and Mario plans to invest more in increasing the scale of production. The loan he hopes to receive will be used to purchase an additional sewing machine. He believes that when production increases, the returns to his business will also increase. When this happens, a big portion of his earnings will be saved for his children's college education. As Mario's tailoring business continues to become successful, he plans to open another tailoring/dressmaking shop in the town centre.
Mrs Pauline Papouti is 41, married and has three children. Her husband is a teacher. To contribute to household expenses she buys and sells pagnes - colourful women's garments widely worn in West Africa. She buys and sells mainly in the towns of Lomé, Anié, Sotouboua and Oke. The loan requested will purchase two bales of quality cloth to enhance her product range. With the increased business this will bring Pauline hopes to better contribute to the educational needs of her three children.