Kiva Fellows Program

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When I was applying for the Kiva Fellows Program, it wasn’t particularly easy getting detailed information about the whole application and interview process. For the sake of anyone interested in being a Kiva Fellow in the future, I hope Google’s SEO will bring you to this page.

If you’re reading this, I assume that you already know about the Fellowship and what it entails. For further details, please refer to the KFP site. Three Fellowship classes are shipped out a year, consisting of 25-30 Fellows each. The exact dates are updated regularly on this page

Also, if you’re trying to figure out if you have the right profile Kiva is looking for, this extract from Kiva’s website pretty much sums it up:

Kiva encourages applicants with substantial cross-cultural immersion experience and backgrounds in business, finance, international development, community engagement, outreach, and consulting to apply. As the program expands, there are many diverse kinds of Kiva Fellows. Not only does the fellowship vary in where the fellows serve, but also in the nature of their work. That said, Kiva has accepted applicants with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences: MBAs, film-makers, professionals transitioning careers, lawyers, public policy researchers, consultants, financial planners, firefighters, engineers and former US soldiers are among the program alumni. Ages range from the minimum of 21 through 60+ years old.

Entire process, in a nutshell:

  • Round 1 – Get your supporting documents ready and submit an online application. Take this very seriously, as the rigor of the process is comparable to a full-time job application. You want to have a solid resume, personal statements and strong references. Make sure you are clear about the job requirements, and what you will be getting yourself into. This may include things like showering with bucket, communication through only charades and hanging up a mosquito net. After this point, folks in Kiva HQ will be screening through applications and selecting second-round candidates
  • Round 2 – If you make it through round one, the second round will be an interview with Kiva Fellow alumni. Having been through the program, ex-Kiva Fellows will recognize what it takes to be out alone in the field. Be prepared to talk about why you want to become a Kiva Fellow, and how your experiences thus far makes you a solid candidate for the program. Include examples of spontaneous problem-solving, initiative-taking and most importantly cross-cultural experiences (essential skillset for every Kiva Fellow).
  • Round 3 – If you make it through round two, the third round will be an interview with the Kiva staff. I believe the key thing to articulate here will be any international experiences, and occasions where you showed leadership initiatives. Be prepared to fully explain your perspective of what the role of a Kiva Fellow is, as they would want to know that you are fully cognizant of the responsibilities out in the field. Questions may also be more behavioral in nature. Such a question could look like this – “If you conduct a Borrower Verification and find out that he/she is using the loans to pay off medical bills for a sick family member instead of the original intention, what would you do?” Also, I highly encourage you to remain open to whatever they throw your way – for example, “Are you willing to serve as a Kiva Fellow in (insert country that makes you nervous)?” Honestly though, I think a Kiva Fellow should be open to anything at all because out in the field, every day is a surprise. 

Once you make it through all 3 rounds, it is placement time! While Kiva takes into account your preferences, note that they also have to send Fellows into regions which need urgent attention. Like I said, it’s all a big surprise and you have to keep an open mind. Personally, I expected to get placed in a Latin-America country, but ended up getting sent to Tajikistan. Great. I don’t speak Tajik/Russian, and know little about Central Asia; but hey, I can’t even pronouce TAK-jee-ki-STAHN correctly – it has to be an amazing experience.

It is also important to note that the Fellowship is an unpaid stint, which means you have to figure out your own way to raise the funds required for the duration of the program. Depending on where your starting location is, flights in and out of San Francisco (training) + field location, visas, immunization etc. could add up – so do your research before-hand and have an idea of where you will be getting the required funds.

Here’s the FAQ of the Kiva Fellows Program. If you’re applying, all the best! Also, feel free to contact me (KF26, Tajikistan) if you have any questions. It is always helpful to talk to someone!

+ shoutout to Robert Luchsinger (KF 22/23) for being a great help through the process!

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