Scaling mission-driven enterprises in underserved communities

Kiva’s Social Enterprises approach invests directly in mission driven enterprises to help them scale their impact. We provide working capital for social enterprises to enhance productivity, remove bottlenecks to growth, accelerate expansion, and seek out larger, institutional follow-on funding.

The Social Enterprises approach was previously known as Kiva’s Direct-to-Social Enterprise program.

Social enterprises are part
of the engine of homegrown economic development in emerging markets known as small and growing businesses (SGBs).

Among high impact SGBs, social enterprises not only provide employment and economic stimulus, but also offer innovative solutions to pressing problems, from access to clean energy and water to sustainable livelihoods.

Yet the World Bank estimates that half of formal small businesses lack access to credit with an unmet financing need of $5.2 trillion annually. SGBs find themselves too large for microfinance and too small for local banks. Social enterprises in particular are stymied by this “missing middle.” As a result, they are not able to realize their potential to transform their communities and break the cycle of poverty.

Kiva Labs’ Social Enterprises approach is uniquely positioned to operate in this gap and provide crowdfunded, risk-tolerant capital. One of only a handful of lenders offering working capital loans less than $200K, Kiva provides these vital economic actors the opportunity to grow, demonstrate both impact and creditworthiness, and eventually attract private investments.

Learn more about Kiva’s
Social Enterprise Lending

Kiva Social Enterprise Borrowers

EcoEnergy provides affordable solar technology directly to off-grid communities in Pakistan, where 40% of the population – 70 million individuals – lacks access to an electricity grid.

Its innovative business model provides solar energy solutions on rent or mobile money pay-as-you-go plans with terms up to 24 months.

EcoEnergy was founded by Shazia Khan, a Pakistani-American environmental lawyer who specializes in energy access and was thinking about ways in which the country could generate more power to meet increasing demand while struggling with “load-shedding” — a term used to describe temporary power cuts that aim to save energy when demand exceeds supply — and complete lack of electricity in rural areas. Shazia realized that Pakistan needed a clean energy alternative, but it had to be affordable.

This led Shazia to team up with Jeremy Higgs, EcoEnergy’s cofounder to conduct market research across 44,000 households in Pakistan. Eventually, they decided to focus exclusively on solar home systems, but needed the finances to purchase them since EcoEnergy’s financing options would mean that customers would not pay them back in full until at least about 18 months after their purchase, while suppliers were unwilling to wait for that long. To purchase these solar home systems, Shazia and Jeremy needed to find an affordable source of capital which led her to Kiva Labs: Social Enterprises.

“Without the Kiva loan, I wouldn’t have been able to prove my business model. I’m not sure we’d still be standing, and it wasn’t because of our business model, but because I didn’t have access to the working capital. The Kiva loan was critical to prove that our customers are credit worthy, and helped me establish a financially sustainable and scalable model to bring people affordable solar energy, proving that if we finance it, they would pay us back.”


Sanergy is a social enterprise that builds low cost, high quality sanitation facilities branded as ‘Fresh Life’ that are franchised out into the community members who run them as viable businesses.

In Kenya, 8 million residents living in urban slums lack access to safe and affordable sanitation. Slum residents rely on unsanitary options such as “flying toilets” and pit latrines that release untreated human waste into the environment.

In sum, 4 million tons of untreated fecal sludge from Kenya’s slums are discharged into waterways and fields every year posing serious risk to public health and the environment.

Sanergy collects the waste on a regular basis and converts it into by-products such as organic fertilizer. To date, Sanergy has built a network of 580 entrepreneurs running over 1,200 Fresh Life Toilets serving over 50,000 people daily. They have safely collected and removed over 13,000 metric tons of waste from the community.

“The Kiva Labs loan was the first loan we had taken; it was particularly critical at that time because we were transitioning to a leasing model that required much greater working capital. We were able to broaden our network through Kiva’s amazing network, and Kiva’s loan created credibility for us to get additional loans – to be able to say we have taken on a loan and successfully paid on time. Having that track record was really helpful.”