Years ago I learned about Kiva.org while I worked as the Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility for Assiniboine Credit Union. Before long, I had joined the Team Canada lending team and not long after that, I was invited to be a co-captain for the team. Over the past few years I’ve watched as this team has become an amazing force for good, attracting fellow Canadians to join and encouraging team members to participate in loan-a-thons and other such activities. Over the past 5 years, Team Canada has become one of the most successful teams on the Kiva site. It has lent more than any other “national team” and is ranked eight of the 37,400 lending teams in total amount lent.
The following, is an interview with Alan T Perry, one of the inspiring co-captains of Team Canada. His leadership on the team has been an instrumental part of Team Canada’s success. Outside of his work on Kiva, Alan is the Executive Archdeacon of the Diocese of Edmonton. He is a true example of a local leader.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview Alan. You’ve been a member of Kiva.org since October 2010, do you happen to remember how you found out about the site? What made you decide to join?
Actually, I joined in March 2009. I joined Team Canada in October 2010. I heard about Kiva from several people and checked it out a few times, then I was leading a group discussion about international assistance and thought about Kiva as a way to get involved. Naturally, I couldn’t suggest it to others without being involved myself, so I joined and made my first few loans.
Not long after joining you stepped forward to captain Team Canada when the original captain was no longer active on the site. What is it about Kiva that made you decide you wanted to lead the team? Why do you Kiva?
It was obvious to a few of us that the team needed leadership and we approached Kiva about the possibility of replacing the original captain with a group of captains. I think this is essential for any sizeable team. It was mainly a matter of nature abhorring a vacuum, as the original captain had dropped out and could not be contacted. Every team needs leadership and I was happy to be part of the group to do that, but just as happy that there was a group of fine people who agreed to share the team leadership.
As to why I Kiva, it remains for me the best way to make a difference in the world. There are, of course, many excellent organizations that do good work in relief and development, but microfinance is a way to take development to the next level. It’s not either-or, but both-and. This is an important niche in improving the economic health of people and communities. Dambisa Moyo points to microfinance as an important part of developing Africa in her book Dead Aid – Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa.
Speaking of Africa and microfinance, you have been to Africa through a diocese’s partnership with the Diocese of Buye in northern Burundi. There you come into contact with some microfinance groups in action. Can you tell me more about that?
The microfinance groups in Burundi that I have encountered are self-run and organized by the Mother’s Union, which is an important women’s group within the Anglican Church. They do tons of different things of great value for personal and social development, including organizing these microfinance groups. The groups are self-funding, with each member putting money into a central pot, with loans being made whenever there is enough in the pot to lend. The women support each other in a variety of ways beyond loans, so the groups build community, and help the members in their own personal development as well as economic development. They’re really good DIY development projects.
I’ll be back in Burundi in two weeks. Looking forward to it!
Leaders tend to lead. By that I mean people who step in to leadership positions tend to regularly demonstrate leadership in other areas of their life. In what ways do you demonstrate local leadership in your life?
Local leadership is a significant part of my job as Executive Archdeacon of the Diocese of Edmonton. I think my most natural way to demonstrate leadership is in setting a tone, and to take advantage of opportunities to encourage, and to make quiet suggestions where appropriate. I’m not a charismatic leader, more of a leader from within.
Interesting. Tell me, what does “leadership from within” mean to you?
Leadership from within, to me, is contrasted to leadership from above or from ahead. It’s much more about teamwork than the sort of leadership we see in charismatic individuals who attract followers. A leader from within doesn’t particularly have followers, but instead simply adds something to the mix as groups work on a common project. It’s more about trying to make helpful interventions to assist with course corrections rather than using stirring oratory to set out a grand vision.
Your work exposes you to both local and global issues. To your mind, what are the world’s most pressing challenges? What have you done in your own life to address these? That is to say – how have you tried to be part of the solution?
I think the two biggest problems we face are economic inequality and climate change. Climate change can only truly be addressed by collective action, though at the individual level it’s necessary to do what we can by using less energy, driving a fuel-efficient car and driving as infrequently as possible, and so on. I walk to work most of the time and drive a small car with good fuel consumption. We use LED lighting to keep our electricity use down – especially in a province where most electricity is generated by burning coal.
Economic inequality also demands collective action. On this front, I have been working to educate myself so that I can become a credible advocate for solutions to this problem. Participating in Kiva is a way of putting my money where my mouth is.
Thinking about “local leadership” can you name a person or an organization that inspires you through their demonstration of leadership? What do they do and how have they impacted you?
There are many people who lead through quiet leadership and who inspire by personal example. Just now, I am particularly impressed by Don Iveson, the Mayor of Edmonton, who is leading a campaign to end poverty in Edmonton. He has asked my bishop to co-chair a task force to that end, and they are doing great work.
Thank you Alan for taking the time to participate in this interview and for all of the work you do to make your community and the world a better place.
As Alan noted, he is returning to Burundi. He’ll be blogging while he’s there at http://edmontonbuye.blogspot.ca. Follow him on Twitter to keep up with his trip as he’ll be tweeting links to his posts as they are posted. His account is @AlanTPerry
Watch the video below to learn more about Kiva.org. If you’re inspired to make a difference, consider becoming a Kiva Lender!