G97. Jessica Jackley

Teaching People to Fish & Putting Investment Over Charitable Dissonance with Jessica Jackley

Jessica Jackley is the Co-founder of Kiva and a leader in the groundbreaking microloan movement that’s now helping people everywhere lift themselves out of poverty on a constant basis. Kiva alone is responsible for over $1.5 billion in loans facilitated to date – and that number doesn’t even account for all the work done by the many similar organizations it has inspired since its launch. 

Growing up in Pittsburgh as a key member of her family’s church, Jessica always sought to help others wherever and however she could. She volunteered a lot, but none of the charity work she could take part in was scratching the itch she felt to make the world a better place. She found that most charity was focused on giving money, and is often done with an angle on cognitive dissonance so that you don’t even realize that you’re giving something up. 

That didn’t sit right with Jessica, who believes charity should be something we embrace, both in terms of helping, but also by mentally engaging with it. Crashing a lecture that taught her the concept of crowdsourcing combined with her first-hand experiences of helping people while interning in Uganda ultimately led to the founding of Kiva.

Armed with the understanding that all parents want their kids to grow up as kind people, she’s now leading a new project, Alltruists, which develops and sells DTC volunteer kits that empower kids to get involved in their communities. It’s never too early to start giving back.

Jessica has worked for industry leading organizations and companies including SparkLabs, Disney, and ProFounder, and has been recognized around the world with honors including The Economist’s No Boundaries Innovation Award, inclusion in Fast Company’s list of Most Influential Women in Tech, Silicon Valley Forum’s Visionary Award, The Pasteur Institute’s Common Congress Award, and was named a finalist for TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. 

She joins the Gravity podcast today for a discussion of her path in life: how did she become such a powerful force for positive change within the world of charity? We talk about her amazing work, then and now, and what people can learn from her incredible experiences. We also explore the importance of family, how and when to push ourselves to take risks, and much more. 

What Brett asks:

  • [02:15] Tell me about your childhood.
  • [13:00] What was it like having a purpose going into school life?
  • [16:30] Tell me about trying to figure out your urge to give?
  • [22:30] Tell us about what it was like to become part of the business world?
  • [30:00] What was it like, leaving to go to Africa?
  • [34:00] How did Kiva come together?
  • [47:30] Where are you now?

Lessons for intentional living:

  • My discussion with Jessica highlighted the idea that our willingness to accept risk can be learned behavior. Once we do something risky and come out of the other side, we realize that pushing our boundaries is OK. It’s a great reason to step outside of our comfort zones, because we’ll probably grow as a result, and look back, thankful that we did.
  • Jessica brings up an interesting idea that it can often be equally rewarding to focus on helping a small number of people than to spread ourselves thin, and try to help everyone. The philosophy of the movement that Kiva started is really to dedicate enough time and energy to each individual so that they all get the care they deserve. It’s an interesting approach to keep in mind for next time you feel like you should be doing even more than you can manage.