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Co-Founder of Micro-Lending Website To Speak Tonight

In her 20s, Jessica Flannery started up the world's first peer-to-peer micro-lending website: kiva.org. The website allows anyone with the internet and a credit or debit card to lend small amounts of money--starting at $25--to small entrepreneurs in the developing world. At any given time, Americans can go to the site and see the faces of individuals who need small loans--such as a goatherder in Tajikistan, or a single mom in Ghana selling used clothing. KSMU's Jennifer Moore spoke to Flannery, who will be speaking Tuesday night as part of MSU's Public Affairs Conference.

This week is the annual Public Affairs Conference at Missouri State University. Tuesday night, the keynote speaker, Jessica Flannery, will address the public at 7:30 in the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.

In her interview with KSMU, she said she learned about micro-finance after college. She said micro-finance is basically financial services for those people living on a few dollars a day.

She was fascinated by the concept, so she quit her job and moved to East Africa to learn more. She met with micro-lenders, who had changed lives, and shared their stories with her friends and family members.

The next step, she said, was to set up a medium through which Americans could give small loans to those entrepreneurs who needed them.

The first year, Kiva.org facilitated $500,000 dollars in small loans. Today, it manages about one million dollars per week in small loans.

Flannery says Kiva.org works with micro-lending organizations on the ground, and that her non-profit organization inspects and audits the financial institutions regularly.

Flannery is 31. She says the joy and fulfillment she has found in reaching out to others on the other side of the world has been an honor.

Ms. Flannery will be speaking tonight at 7:30 in the Juanita K. Hammons Hall as part of MSU’s Public Affairs Conference.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.