Jessica Jackley likes to make a difference. She is best known as a co-founder of Kiva, one of the world’s crowdfunding websites, which has facilitated over $1B in loans across 80 countries since its founding. These days, Jessica serves as Chief Impact Officer at Aspiration, an online bank helping customers align their spending with their social values.
We often talk about the need to have purpose in life, by which we generally mean one’s direct impact in one’s work, one’s social circle, one’s family and the like. But we never know where our impact may lead.
As Muhammad Ali once said, “Giving back is the rent we pay to be here on earth.” There is no better feeling than knowing that we are helpful to others. Just as there is no more corrosive feeling than focusing on ourselves and the inevitable self-pity of feeling we deserve more. Is more ever enough? From our research, we find one of the best ways to get happy is to help someone, no matter how small the gesture. In Jessica Jackley’s case, her simple idea scaled to make a global impact.
Helping People to Help Themselves
Jackley says, “I wasn’t obsessed with the idea that something was only worth doing if it could grow and scale and be a billion-dollar company. I didn’t care. I wanted to have a different kind of relationship and connection with the people that I was meeting in east Africa. So that was the goal — to try this experiment out.” This simple idea is what germinated Kiva, a company that has lent $1.3B to over 1.8 million people, all via micro loans. Helping people to help themselves via small but life changing loans.
Being a North Star
The audacity to be able to look at a simple yet intractable problem, in this case the cycle of crushing poverty in places like Africa, and to say maybe there is a new way to approach the issue, is a rare talent. We don’t all have that moment of inspiration coupled with the drive to manifest it. But not being super stars doesn’t mean we can’t be someone’s north star. It is one of the things about getting older, that despite all the self knowledge we have accumulated, we still get to surprise ourselves with the tremendous capacity we all possess to reach out and make a difference.