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Marketized philanthropy: Kiva’s utopian ideology of entrepreneurial philanthropy


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As the impact of market actors and their doctrines on philanthropy gradually increases, the debate between the proponents and the critics of ‘marketization’ of philanthropy intensifies. Curiously, the debate has largely centred on ‘philanthrocapitalists’ and philanthropic professionals, while less attention has been devoted to the ways in which the newly emergent philanthropic ideologies and practices are ‘marketed’ to and adopted by the broader audience of philanthropic givers. In response, we explore the ideological elements that make lending through Kiva, an emergent microfinance charity, meaningful to its creators and supporters. A combination of interpretive methods is used to outline Kiva’s ideology of entrepreneurial philanthropy. This utopian ideology is found to legitimize ‘marketized’ philanthropic practices by invoking alternative conceptions of poverty, social progress and philanthropy (i.e. representations of philanthropic giving, philanthropic benefactors and beneficiaries and the relations between them).
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DOI: 10.1177/1470593112467265
2013 13: 3 originally published online 16 January 2013Marketing Theory Domen Bajde
Marketized philanthropy: Kiva's utopian ideology of entrepreneurial philanthropy
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Marketized philanthropy:
Kiva’s utopian ideology of
Domen Bajde
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
As the impact of market actors and their doctrines on philanthropy gradually increases, the debate
between the proponents and the critics of ‘marketization’ of philanthropy intensifies. Curiously,
the debate has largely centred on ‘philanthrocapitalists’ and philanthropic professionals, while less
attention has been devoted to the ways in which the newly emergent philanthropic ideologies and
practices are ‘marketed’ to and adopted by the broader audience of philanthropic givers. In
response, we explore the ideological elements that make lending through Kiva, an emergent
microfinance charity, meaningful to its creators and supporters. A combination of interpretive
methods is used to outline Kiva’s ideology of entrepreneurial philanthropy. This utopian ideology is
found to legitimize ‘marketized’ philanthropic practices by invoking alternative conceptions of
poverty, social progress and philanthropy (i.e. representations of philanthropic giving, philan-
thropic benefactors and beneficiaries and the relations between them).
Charity, Kiva, gift giving, marketization of philanthropy, microfinance, microlending, philanthropic
ideology, poverty, sharing, social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy
In recent years, we have witnessed a proliferation of imaginative hybridizations of commerce and
philanthropy. The growing readiness of business organizations and entrepreneurs to actively
participate in philanthropic
endeavour (Bishop and Green, 2008) and the intensified calls for the
adoption of market thinking and methods in the field of philanthropy (Edwards, 2010) have
Corresponding author:
Domen Bajde, Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, Kardeljeva plos
ˇad 17, Ljubljana 1000, Slovenia.
Marketing Theory
13(1) 3–18
ªThe Author(s) 2013
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/1470593112467265
intensified the ongoing debate regarding the ‘marketization of philanthropy’ (Nickel and Eiken-
berry, 2009). On the one hand, hybrids such as ‘venture philanthropy’ (VP) (Moody, 2008),
‘philanthrocapitalism’ (Bishop and Green, 2008) and ‘social entrepreneurship’ (SE) (Dees, 2007)
have inspired hopes of bringing about a ‘philanthropic renaissance’ by breaching the gap between
philanthropy and business (Reis and Clohesy, 2001). On the other hand, incursions of market
thinking into philanthropy have been suggested to endanger the independent, social essence of
philanthropy (Edwards, 2010, Eikenberry, 2009).
Rather than vilifying or uncritically celebrating the growing overlap between the market and
philanthropy, we seek to highlight that the suggested intersections are rife with ideological
frictions, causing both philanthropic professionals and philanthropic givers to continuously
re-examine and realign their conceptions of philanthropy (Nicholls, 2010). While past research has
explored these transformations from the organizational (Moody, 2008) and the entrepreneurial
perspective (Nicholls, 2010), less attention has been paid to the ways in which they are traversed
by philanthropic givers and to the respective role of marketing in these processes. In continuation
of the recent tradition of ideological studies of marketing and consumer behaviour (Holt and
Cameron, 2010; Marion, 2006; Kjeldgaard and Nielsen, 2010; Kozinets, 2008), we address this
deficiency by exploring the ideological dynamics taking place at the lively intersection of philan-
thropy and the market. More specifically, we seek to generate fresh insights into philanthropic
giving and marketing by delving into the ideological aspects of philanthropic giving and fundrais-
ing at Kiva (, a celebrated and controversial exemplar of a ‘marketized’ philanthropic
organization. We aim to critically explore Kiva as a celebrated and contested site of philanthropic
giving and to trace the core ideological elements that enable the organization and its supporters to
make sense of lending through Kiva.
The manuscript begins with a review of the existent studies of ideological frictions surrounding
the marketization of philanthropy, followed by a discussion of dominant and utopian ideologies.
Next, we present our empirical research by outlining the ideological beliefs surrounding philan-
thropic giving in the chosen context. In the concluding section, we illustrate how these beliefs
coalesce into a coherent philanthropic ideology, discuss its implications for the overarching debate
regarding marketized philanthropy, and address the role of marketing and cultural innovation in
proselytizing utopian philanthropic ideologies.
Marketization of philanthropy
The loose heading of ‘marketization of philanthropy’ (Nickel and Eikenberry, 2009) subsumes the
growing popularity of applying the ‘venture investment’ philosophy to philanthropic grant making
(Moody, 2008), entrepreneurial doctrines to running charitable organizations (Nicholls, 2010) and
marketing doctrines to ‘engaging’ philanthropic givers/consumers (Wirgau et al., 2010). At the
core of these trends resides a utilitarian vision of ‘philanthropic renaissance’ (Reis and Clohesy,
2001) to be fulfilled by applying market principles and entrepreneurial doctrines to social
problems. Such ‘visions’ are often aligned with notions of ‘rationalized’ philanthropy aimed at
reforming society to permanently eradicate ‘social ills’ as opposed to (merely) alleviating suffering
(Gross, 2003). In the anglophone west, in particular, philanthropists of the entrepreneurial bend
have been argued to privilege individualistic philanthropy based on calculative utilitarianism and
self-dependence over charitable giving based on social or religious obligation (Weber, 1992).
On the other hand, such aspirations have been countered by the defenders of the ‘anti-utilitarian’
conception of philanthropy, who locate the essence of philanthropy in transcending economic
4Marketing Theory 13(1)
calculation and contractual relations (Liebersohn, 2011). For instance, the incursion of ‘market
thinking’ (e.g. market competition, the imperative for growth and scaling, quantitative account-
ability) into philanthropy has been critiqued by Eikenberry (2009) and Edwards (2010), who warn
against the inability of marketized philanthropy to generate genuine social transformation and
retain the independent democratic essence of philanthropy. Gross (2003) suggests that in its pursuit
of efficiency ‘utilitarian’ philanthropy often becomes overly formalized and impersonal. While
dismissing one-sided arguments that marketization simply erodes solidarity, Berking (1999)
argues that it does tend to encourage self-referential solidarity. When such ‘solidarity of individu-
alism’ prevails, social action is pursued from the perspective of one’s own self-fulfilment, rather
than one’s obligation and service to others (Berking, 1999).
Previous studies of the ideological tensions fomenting at the intersection of market and philan-
thropy havegiven priority to organizationaland entrepreneurial perspectives. In the emerging field of
social entrepreneurship – entrepreneurship premised on social mission/missions – Nicholls (2010)
examined the competition for institutional control and ideological dominance. He described SE as a
fluid, pre-paradigmatic field, strife with attempts of the government, foundations, fellowship orga-
nizations and network organizations to legitimize their partial accounts of SE. Analysis of discourses
used by these key actors revealed conflicting narratives and institutional logics. Nicholls (2010)
found that key SE actors gave priority to narratives of heroic entrepreneurs over narratives of
community and to market-driven institutions over third sector/social activism institutions.
Adopting a more dynamic approach, Moody (2008) explored the evolution of venture
philanthropy (i.e. the application of the venture investment model to philanthropic grant making)
as an emergent organizational field and a professional culture. Similarly to Nicholls, Moody
focused on the role of expert opinion leaders who strategically define, legitimate and advocate VP.
His analysis showed how the ideology of VP had evolved in response to its abrasive clashes with
the dominant non-profit ideology. Initial VP’s critiquing of conventional philanthropy and aggres-
sive utilization of the appeal and legitimacy of business were later superseded by a more concilia-
tory approach that sought to mitigate the resistance of ‘traditionalists’ and acknowledge the
unforeseen difficulties in implementing business principles in the non-profit sector. The realign-
ment of VP involved various strategies of ‘de-radicalization’, such as changing the vocabulary
(e.g. avoiding the use of provoking business terminology) and emphasizing continuity (i.e. portray-
ing VP as an extension of older movements for reform).
Although Nicholls (2010) and Moody (2008) offer valuable insights into the ideological
tensions and dynamics of marketized philanthropy, they do so from a particular vantage point.
They explore discursive manifestations of ideology performed by key institutional actors. Yet, the
suggested ideological dynamics is not restricted to (wealthy) entrepreneurs, fundraising profes-
sionals and public officials. Wirgau et al. (2010) show that market discourses also mediate the
broader public’s engagement with philanthropy. Their analysis of ‘philanthropic consumption’,
encouraged by cause-related marketing (CRM) campaigns echoes Eikenberry’s (2009) concerns.
The authors show how the market discourse can weaken donors’ engagement with social causes
as philanthropic values (e.g. civic engagement and altruism) get eroded by appeals to
self-interest and convenience, thus ‘devaluing idealism and activism and privileging consumerism’
(Wirgau et al., 2010: 621). Unfortunately, their analysis is limited solely to CRM-associated
consumption and fails to provide a deeper probing into the ways in which market ideologies might
impact philanthropic giving.
In sum, a contextualized study of philanthropic ideology can help us move beyond general
discussions of marketization of philanthropy and provide a more nuanced understanding of the
Bajde 5
complex negotiations of market and philanthropic ideologies. First, it can help us move beyond
‘hostile worlds’ interpretations (Zelizer, 2011) that exaggerate the incompatibility of philanthropy
and the market. Second, it is essential to recognize that competing philanthropic ideologies are
negotiated not only by social entrepreneurs, venture philanthropists and philanthropic profes-
sionals, but – just as importantly – also by a diverse assortment of philanthropic givers. Conse-
quently, the manner in which competing ideologies are conveyed to the broader audience, as well
as the ways in which donors negotiate and enact these ideologies in their daily discourse and
practices, invite exploration.
Dominant and utopian ideology
According to the prevalent scholarly perspective, ideologies systemically distort reality and mask
inequitable relations (Marion, 2006; van Dijk, 1998). Conversely, Geertz (1973) claims that
ideologies do not merely mask a pre-existing reality, but rather mediate all aspects of the lived and
socially produced reality. A similar view is also adopted by Ricoeur, who emphasizes the positive
role of ideology in ensuring social integration and the strengthening of social identity (Langdridge,
2006). Ideologies help us make sense of society and structure our social practices. We follow van
Dijk’s assertion that ideologies ‘are not primarily about what is true or false, but about how people
represent their beliefs about themselves and about the social world’ (1998: 130). Along these lines,
ideology is defined as a system of socially shared beliefs, which serve groups and their members to
organize and manage their knowledge and opinions about shared goals and values, social relations
and social identity. In this sense, philanthropic practices are exceedingly ideological, inasmuch as
they regularly inspire a sense of empowerment and identification in philanthropists, who seek to
implement their moral visions of ‘good society’ through more or less institutionalized forms of
philanthropic giving (Friedman and McGarvie, 2003).
To understand social practices one needs to map the ideologies that mediate social action
(Geertz, 1973). Such a map would be in a perpetual flux as dominant beliefs get consistently
challenged by utopian ideologies that contest tradition and ‘common sense’. According to Ricoeur,
dominant and utopian ideologies form a perpetual circle (or spiral) of simultaneous integration
(shared identity and common ‘truths’) and change (critique) (Langdridge, 2006). Every so often
dominant ideologies are bound to be transformed, if not replaced by utopian ideologies. While
ideologies permanently experience internal friction, it is when dominant ideologies are exposed to
more radical challenges that significant cultural innovation can take place (Holt and Cameron,
2010). Such ideological ‘innovation’ unmoors established conceptions and relations, revealing the
work that goes into establishing and performing them. As a result, ideological friction can provide
a viable starting point to explore the more implicit, taken for granted ideological elements that
would otherwise likely escape notice.
The dominant ideologies underpinning western views of philanthropic giving perpetuate the
gap between the gift and the market, privileging either of the two ‘spheres’ over the other
(Godbout, 1998). For instance, neoliberal utilitarians construe gift giving as an outdated vestige of
pre-modern times, a strain on individual’s freedom and an impediment to efficient allocation of
resources better achieved by the market (Liebersohn, 2011). Conversely, their anti-utilitarian coun-
terparts approach the gift as an important sociopolitical complement to the market (Caille, 1982).
Paradoxically, in their extreme variants, both ‘traditions’ perpetuate the gap between philanthropy
and the market by employing anti-economic conceptions of gift giving.
Such binary views end up
fertilizing the ground for innovative utopian ideologies that promise to make way for the ‘cross-
6Marketing Theory 13(1)
fertilization’ between the gift and the market. Applied to the context of marketized philanthropy,
such utopian ideologies would seek to challenge the dominant ways of organizing and managing
opinions, goals, values, relations and identities related to philanthropic giving and market
We approach the ideological dynamics taking place at the intersection of philanthropy and the
market as a valuable site for learning about philanthropic giving and marketing. More specifically,
we seek to investigate how philanthropic giving can be imbued by market ideologies, while at the
same time retaining (if not enhancing) its philanthropic meaning. Particular interest is paid to how
competing market and philanthropic ideologies get recreated and reflected through discourse and
practices performed by charities and philanthropic givers. How do charities and donors partake in
these, often conflicting, ideologies and put them to use in specific contexts? What role can
marketing play in these processes?
Our aim is not to measure the scope of philanthropic marketization or to comprehensively map
this undoubtedly multifarious phenomenon but rather to highlight the role of ideology by providing
a tentative outline of what and how specific ideologies might be at work. As a result, we opt for a
contextualized interpretive study of the ideological dynamics surrounding a particular philan-
thropic organization. We chose Kiva as the site of our exploration for several reasons. First, Kiva is
a quintessential socioentrepreneurial venture both in its origin and mission. Created by Silicon
Valley social entrepreneurs Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley, Kiva was born out of the marriage
of philanthropic microlending and techno-entrepreneurialism. Kiva aims to encourage Internet
users to lend (without interest) small amounts of money (starting from $25) to impoverished
entrepreneurs, whose stories are posted on Kiva’s mission to alleviate poverty rests upon
soliciting loans (as opposed to non-contractual unilateral donations) earmarked for individual
impoverished entrepreneurs. The fieldwork necessary to facilitate the loans (e.g. attract and filter
potential borrowers, transfer funds to borrowers, collect repayments) is conducted by local micro-
finance institutions (MFIs). The MFIs, who can operate on either a for-profit or non-profit basis,
charge borrowers with interests to cover their expenses and (when applicable) earn their profit.
Second, Kiva has persistently been marketed as being distinct from ‘traditional charity’. As
detailed below, Kiva’s distinctiveness has been suggested to derive from its ability to implement
market principles to poverty alleviation and management of philanthropic organizations. Third, the
chosen organization is surrounded by a potent mix of admiration and resistance. While Kiva’s
distinctiveness has received wide acclaim (Bishop and Green, 2008), the organization has also
been criticized for its over-imaginative marketing (Roodman, 2009). Finally, while Kiva can be
seen as parasitically feeding of the trend of marketized philanthropy, it can also be approached
as a brand seeking to extend the ideologies underpinning marketized philanthropy to a broader
audience (i.e. solicitation of gifts from a broad pool of internet users). In other words, Kiva
provides a setting where the debate regarding ‘marketized philanthropy’ is extended beyond
narrow ‘elite’ groups (e.g. social entrepreneurs and philanthrocapitalists) to a broader audience
of philanthropic givers.
We explore the ideological turmoil surrounding Kiva by combining the analysis of user
narratives with the analysis of Kiva’s brand’s genealogy (Holt, 2004). User narratives pertaining
to Kiva were collected on (KF), a web forum set up by the community of avid
Kiva lenders. At the time of our analysis, the KF community comprised more than 6000 members,
Bajde 7
who have posted more than 80,000 posts on KF in the forum’s 4-year history. In light of the
overabundance of data, we have started our study by analyzing KF’s thread devoted to users’ intro-
ductions of themselves and their views of Kiva. The thread consisted of 945 user posts (roughly
230 pages of text), which were archived and analyzed in full. Subsequently, our analysis has
branched out to related KF threads that discuss the distinctive nature of Kiva and its users’ response
to Kiva’s innovative approach to philanthropic giving. When possible, user narrations were
matched with the user profiles published on, in order to gain insights into users’ actual
activity on Kiva.
In addition to surveying user narratives and profiles, we conducted a brand genealogy study
(Holt, 2004) by analyzing a set of Kiva-related texts published by its founders, commentators and
the media throughout Kiva’s 6-year history. In contrast to Holt’s approach, less emphasis has been
put on advertising (less used by Kiva) and more on the opulent media reports of Kiva’s rise to
success and on the founder’s narrations of Kiva’s inception and evolution, conveyed in mass
media, trade journals and via influential conferences (e.g. TED and Skoll World Forum). Com-
bined, these narrations not only report various ‘facts’ on Kiva but also invoke various ideological
elements of Kiva’s challenge to the conventional way of ‘doing charity’.
The user narratives and the remaining texts were analyzed through an iterative process of
grounded interpretation, which involves testing and refining emerging interpretations until they
stand the weight of the data (Muniz and Schau, 2007). We present our findings by outlining a
consistent set of ideological elements traced across the multiple sets of our data. We also consider
the dynamic interactions between the proposed ideological elements (Kozinets, 2008) and the ways
in which these elements form into a unified utopian ideology that challenges the dominant con-
ceptions of charity and poverty alleviation.
As suggested earlier, marketization of philanthropy is not restricted to affluent philanthrocapitalists
and philanthropy professionals. While Kiva can be seen as a parasitical philanthropic brand feeding
of the marketization trend, it can also be approached as a ‘proselytizer brand’ (Holt and Cameron,
2010) seeking to extend marketized philanthropy to a broader audience. In the sections that follow,
we outline the core ideological beliefs encountered in our survey materials. Although our
presentation is divided into three parts, we wish to emphasize that the conceptions tackled in each do
not present self-standing mental representations circulating among Kiva’s creators and supporters,
but rather form an intertwined web of ideological beliefs. We begin with an overview of the more
general beliefs underpinning Kiva’s claims of uniqueness. Later, we move to more specific beliefs
underpinning Kiva’s conception/reconception of philanthropic beneficiaries and benefactors. The
predominately emic account of beliefs offered here is superseded by a Discussion section devoted
to a more etic treatment of the encountered ideology.
Kiva’s alternative to ‘charity’
Lending through Kiva departs from the conventional conception of philanthropic giving as a
transfer of funds devoid of proscribed financial return. Technically speaking, in the case of lending
through Kiva, only the opportunity cost of lending without interests and the incurred risk of default
can be considered as being uncompensated for.
These differences notwithstanding, the organi-
zation and its supporters regularly construe lending through Kiva as philanthropic giving.
Nevertheless, lending through Kiva is rarely perceived as ‘charity as usual’.
8Marketing Theory 13(1)
In her passionate presentation at a TED conference held in 2010, Kiva’s founder Jessica Jackley
recounts her disheartening experience with what she calls ‘traditional charity’:
I learned about this new method of change in the world [micro lending] that for once showed me a way
to interact with someone and to give, to share of a resource in a way that wasn’t weird and didn’t make
me feel bad ... It’s about retelling the story of the poor and it’s about giving ourselves and opportunity
to engage that validates their [the recipients’] dignity, validates a partnership relationship, not a
relationship that’s based on ... [pauses] you know, the traditional donor-beneficiary weirdness that can
happen [laughs], but instead a relationship that is based on respect and hope.
Jackley starts her talk by recalling the pain, frustration and fear, caused by the ‘traditional’ way of
approaching poverty and charity. ‘Traditional charity’ is suggested to focus on the suffering,
helplessness and hopelessness of the poor, thus provoking feelings of despair, guilt and shame.
Conversely, microlending and (by extension) Kiva are presented as an effective, hope-inspiring,
egalitarian opportunity for ordinary individuals to actively and effectively participate in poverty
The proposed critique and departure from ‘traditional charity’ play a similarly crucial role in
Matt Flannery’s (Kiva’s co-founder and Jackley’s partner) narrations:
We often divide our financial world into two categories—charity and business. Most of us in developed
countries grew up thinking about the poor in the developing world as potential targets for charity. We
related to them, both passively and actively, as benefactors. Many of the recipients of such aid
internalized the message. In my experience, recipients resent benefactors even as they consume the aid.
Similar to Jackley, Flannery views conventional charity as an act of domination. Later on, he
explicitly compares it to colonialism inasmuch as both colonialism and traditional charity pro-
pagate the helplessness and benefactor-dependence of the poor. Flannery argues that, in opposition
to ‘charity’, loans ‘turn a charitable relationship into a business relationship’ and hence ‘empower
the poor by making them business partners’. The poor no longer merely ‘consume the aid’, but
rather invest it into their personal and community progress.
The founder’s views of Kiva’s distinction from conventional charity are opulently shared not
only in numerous media reports celebrating Kiva’s innovativeness (e.g. CNN, BBC, Time, The
New York Times, the Wall street Journal and the DailyKos, Slate), but just as importantly by
Kiva’s devoted users:
I am a big fan of anything commonsense and when I heard of Kiva I too felt a big YES. Here is
commonsense at its best. No handout that disappears into the ether. No patronizing charity. My money
helps this person, comes back and goes back out to help the next one. Most importantly, it maintains the
dignity of those who take out the loans. They get to feel a part of the world and contributors to their
communities. They can hold their heads up in society because they are not dependant. One day they
will be the ones loaning out money. We can hope. (Qwiksilver, female, USA)
Like the majority of ‘Kiva Friends’, Qwiksilver perceives lending through Kiva as being superior
to conventional charity. While conventional charity is described as a ‘patronizing handout’,
lending is argued to ‘maintain the dignity’ of recipients as proud ‘contributors to their commu-
nities’. Accordingly, micro-loans are presented as a dignified ‘commonsensical’ answer to pov-
erty. Coinciding with Jackley’s and Flannery’s celebration of the power and moral superiority
of philanthropic microlending, the passage ends with pronounced optimism and hope.
Bajde 9
Kiva’s ‘working poor’
Kiva states its mission as ‘empowering people around the world with a $25 loan’. Its website refers
to the pertinent borrowers as the ‘working poor’. Although a precise definition of ‘the working
poor’ is not provided, the meaning can be extrapolated from various Kiva texts. Flannery’s
published biography of Kiva, for example, describes the (working) poor as a testament to ‘a
universal work ethic’ and the invaluable contribution of entrepreneurship to progress. Jackley
provides an even more nuanced description by appealing to donors’ imagination:
Imagine how you feel when you see someone on the street who is begging, and you are about to
approach them. Imagine how you feel. And then imagine the difference when you see somebody, who
has a story of entrepreneurship and hard work, who wants to tell you about their business [pauses] about
what they’ve done. Imagine if you are speaking to somebody who is growing things and making them
flourish, somebody who is using their talents to do something productive, somebody who has built their
own business from scratch, someone who is surrounded by abundance not scarcity, who is in fact
creating abundance, somebody with full hands, with something to offer not empty hands asking for you
to give them something.
Jackley passionately advances the metaphor of replacing the outstretched, empty hand of the
helpless beggar with the ‘full hands’ of hard-working entrepreneurs, who have ‘something to
offer’. While ‘traditional charity’ is suggested to rely on a negative and degrading portrayal of the
poor, Kiva allegedly promotes ‘a positive view’ of the poor. Accordingly, both Flannery and Jack-
ley present the working poor as worthy individuals endowed with a winning combination of moral
qualities (i.e. hard-working providers) and entrepreneurial prowess (i.e. bearers of success and
Kiva’s mythology of the working poor thus helps to resolve the frustrating pessimism and
ineffectiveness of traditional charity. Our surveying of KF shows that while users seldom join Kiva
in explicitly critiquing conventional conceptions of the poor, they readily partake in Kiva’s
‘positive’ conception of the poor and the obligations that arise from it:
Two years ago I traipsed through Kenya and Tanzania and I saw something that shattered the images
the media always show us to portray the region (violence and passive helplessness): really hard-
working people limited only by their means. I want to help. Not out of guilt or a sense of North-
South fairness, but just because I hate to see human potential go to waste.’ (Louis-Eric, male, Canada)
I have been a business owner and entrepreneur for many years and firmly believe in the talent and
optimism of the individual ... I am anxious to see the results of my lending and look forward to
passing the word and changing the world – one person at a time!(Shirley, female, Canada)
I believe one’s appetite for work should be the only barrier to success and consider it a privilege to put
some of my capital out there to make a difference for a few enterprising people. (StevePPS, male, USA)
As evidenced by these quotes, all three KivaFriend members share Kiva’s celebratory visions of
the ‘enterprising poor’ as hard-working, talented individuals with considerable potential. Users
like Shirley and StevePPS identify with the borrowers’ entrepreneurial qualities and experience the
loan as an affirmation of their personal moral beliefs (e.g. ‘the talent and optimism of the individ-
ual’ or ‘one’s appetite for work’ as ‘the only barrier to success’). The celebratory portrayal of the
working poor not only inspires hope but also reaffirms the worthiness of the ‘recipients’. In Louis-
Eric’s words, failing to assist the working poor can be experienced as letting ‘human potential go
to waste’.
10 Marketing Theory 13(1)
Kiva’s ‘philanthropic investors’
Kiva’s ‘Product philosophy’ states that philanthropic lenders primarily seek connections with
borrowers. To paraphrase Kiva’s founders, lending represents a great ‘connectivity tool’ that
‘creates an ongoing communication between two individuals that is more binding than a donation’.
Put differently, Kiva’s lenders are not only entitled to financial return (i.e. zero-interest loan repay-
ments) but also to ongoing information (e.g. borrower profiles and loan descriptions, MFI profiles
and loan updates), which allegedly enables them to simultaneously make wise investment choices
and to more meaningfully connect to borrowers.
The interplay of philanthropic sentiment and entrepreneurial pragmatism represents a common
theme in Kiva and user narratives. For example, Flannery repeatedly stresses the sustainability and
information-richness of micro-loan philanthropy. He argues that when you receive repayment from
an entrepreneur in the developing world, ‘you learn something: you can have a transformational
impact in this world by relating to others as a business partner’. His views are commonly shared
by users:
While I am a frequent and chronic donor to various charities (from rainforest relief to panhandlers) the
microlending approach is the first real way I’ve seen to leverage my limited resources and be able to
use them to help people over and over again. And with repayment, I can get direct feedback on whether
the process is working or whether my funds are just being swallowed up. (Michael)
It is probably the ability to choose who you want to lend to that I enjoy the most. The best I can
compare it to is when Oprah built that school in South Africa, I believe. She essentially said she was
tired of giving money to charities who put it in a pile ... and decided to do something herself. Kiva hits
that spot on a smaller scale. I love it. (Samantha, female, USA)
Rather than having their money ‘swallowed up’ by charities that ‘put it into a pile’, users like
Samantha and Michael experience their lending as philanthropic giving with increased autonomy
and control over their ‘funds’. Michael praises Kiva’s for enabling lenders like himself to effec-
tively ‘leverage their limited resources’. The ability to choose whom to borrow to, and to retain the
control over the funds, enables users to construe their philanthropic loans as small-scale VP.
Samantha’s words, in particular, closely echo Jackley’s vision of Kiva ‘allowing the average indi-
vidual to feel like a mini-Bill Gates by building a portfolio of investments in businesses around the
globe’ (Aaker et al., 2010). Furthermore, users like Michael share Flannery’s interpretation of each
loan repayment as proof of successful poverty alleviation.
Although used carefully so as not to confound or inconvenience its users, financial terminology
features prominently on For example, the subpage that displays the personal history of
lender’s activity on Kiva is titled ‘My Portfolio’. As is common in ‘venture philanthropy’ circles,
lenders are offered varied financial statistics, ranging from delinquency-, default- and currency-
exchange–loss rates to portfolio distribution statistics (by borrower gender, country, sector and
MFI partner). Visuals and stories of specific borrowers are always complemented with financial
details about the loan. Kiva also develops innovative investor tools, such as the ‘risk rating
system’, which categorizes field partners (MFIs) on a spectrum of one to five stars.
However, that is not to suggest that Kiva promotes a radically economic reading of philanthropy
or that all users experience lending through Kiva as a business investment. Some users confess of
being completely unaware of Kiva’s ‘lending concept’ prior to receiving their first loan repay-
ments. More importantly, users who do appreciate Kiva as a site for philanthropic investment,
effortlessly combine the personal and economic aspects of microlending:
Bajde 11
I think the idea of microlending has the potential to be world-changing. Kudos to Kiva for finding a
way to make the connections much more personal and to allow us to build up our own little pools
of capital that can be reused again and again. (Tomgray, male, USA)
Like many, I was hooked in by the ability to directly help an individual of my choosing. Bonus points
for a good chance that everything lended [sic] out would come back, which I could then use to lend back
out to someone else. Brilliant!I was sold on that alone. But wait, there are also journal updates and reports
from people that you help out?!"Good Lord this is the best charity tool ever!’(Joe, male, USA)
Tomgray’s condensed description highlights the dual role of lending as a facilitator of personal
connections and an effective social investment. Rather than opposing economic thinking (man-
aging one’s ‘pools of capital’) to social engagement (‘connecting’) and intimacy (‘much more
personally’), he merges the two perspectives into an appealing version of philanthropy, which will
simultaneously change the world and bring people together. A similarly positive view is espoused
by Joe, who praises Kiva’s ability to directly connect lender to borrowers. In accord with
Flannery’s earlier claims, the loan contract is seen to simultaneously ensure efficacy (i.e. the
money ‘comes back’ and can be relent perpetually; it is multiplied/leveraged) and meaningful
lender–borrower relationships (i.e. the loans are ‘direct’ and ‘personal’).
We have set out to critically explore the ideological dynamics surrounding Kiva as a case study of
the ideological aspects of marketized philanthropy. The preceding section provided an emic
account of the ideological beliefs conveyed by Kiva and negotiated by its users. In this concluding
part, we focus on how these beliefs coalesce into a coherent philanthropic ideology. We discuss its
relationship to conventional philanthropy and expose several worrisome facets of this utopian
ideology. We conclude by discussing the role of cultural innovation and marketing in proselytizing
utopian philanthropic ideologies.
Kiva’s ‘ideology of entrepreneurial philanthropy’
As proposed by Grim (1998: 27), ‘philanthropy is constantly ideologically reinvented, performed
and contested’. The ideological beliefs encountered in the context of Kiva represent a marked
example of such reinvention. They form a pervasive utopian ideology, herein termed the ideology
of entrepreneurial philanthropy (IEP), which transforms the ways in which people imagine
poverty, progress and philanthropy. IEP is a utopian ideology inasmuch as it both explicitly and
implicitly challenges dominant conceptions of philanthropy and poverty alleviation (see Table 1).
As proposed by one of its founders, Kiva aims to ‘retell’ poverty by replacing the conventional
imagery of the helpless poor with celebratory visions of ‘the ‘working poor’ waiting to be
unleashed by loans. In addition to propagating alternative conceptions of beneficiaries of charity,
the entrepreneurial ideology also challenges conventional conceptions of philanthropic giving and
giver. Specifically, IEP promotes a flattering representation of Kiva’s lenders as engaged investors
and propagates the lender–borrower relationship as an egalitarian partnership premised on
dignified ‘hand ups’ (as opposed to handouts) to the entrepreneurial poor. These utopian con-
ceptions legitimize lending through Kiva as a morally and pragmatically superior alternative to
conventional charitable giving.
IEP can be described as a marketized ideology due to its profound reliance on entrepreneurial
values and beliefs (e.g. Kiva’s ‘working poor’, the ‘venture philanthropy’ approach). More
12 Marketing Theory 13(1)
importantly, contractual (economic) arrangements (i.e. loans) play a pivotal ideological role in
constructing meaningful philanthropic giving and receiving. Despite its seemingly pragmatic
appeal to accountability and transparency, Kiva remains an exceedingly ideological site. The
‘alternative’ conceptions of philanthropy, poverty and social progress promoted by IEP prove
relatively narrow and partial when scrutinized closely. For instance, Kiva’s ‘positive’ view of
poverty turns a blind eye to the poor who fail to qualify as the worthy ‘working poor’ and Kiva’s
celebration of microlending (at times explicitly) relies on devaluing unilateral philanthropic giving
as patronizing and ineffective and receiving help without repayment as shameful.
Kiva as a site of benevolent deception
IEP entails several elements that could be taken as utopian in the narrower sense of utopia as a
‘distortion of reality’ (van Dijk, 1998). Kiva’s ideological retelling of poverty and philanthropy
exhibits several distortive tendencies as highlighted by the critics of microfinance-based develop-
ment initiatives. These initiatives have been critiqued for harbouring unrealistic expectations by
overestimating the role of micro-loans, entrepreneurial individuals and microeconomic activity
in bringing about social progress (Bateman, 2010). True to Kiva’s slogan ‘Loans that change lives’,
a positive impact of Kiva loans on borrowers’ lives and communities is assumed to be all but inev-
Such utopian assumptions starkly contradict the recent research and experiences with
microfinance in poor countries (e.g. the Andhra Pradesh crisis). As proposed by Dichter and
Harper (2007), Bateman (2010), Mader (2011) and many others, microfinance is hardly a panacea
to world poverty and can easily prove to be of limited advantage or even harmful to the poor.
Kiva’s case thus confirms Edwards (2010) assertion that marketized philanthropy tends to narrow
the discussion of what social progress is, and how it could be achieved, thus curtailing its ability to
provoke comprehensive social transformation (Edwards, 2010).
What is more, Kiva’s claims regarding the inherent connectivity of loans that bind specific
lenders and borrowers have also been revealed as more imaginative than real. As revealed by
Roodman (2009), Kiva does not actually facilitate direct person-to-person lending. In reality, Kiva
loses control over the funds once they are transferred to local MFIs and MFIs regularly fund
entrepreneurs prior to featuring them on Although Kiva has promptly amended its web-
site in response to these charges, the ‘illusion’ of direct person-to-person connectivity and lenders’
Table 1. The outline of emic beliefs comprising Kiva’s utopian ideology of entrepreneurial philanthropy.
Core ideological conceptions
Ideological beliefs regarding
‘Kiva-type’ philanthropy
Ideological beliefs regarding
‘traditional philanthropy’
Conception of poverty Optimistic – Focus on untapped
entrepreneurial potential
Pessimistic – Focus on pain and
Conception of beneficiaries (Bfic) Working poor, proud ‘bonsai’
Helpless, dependent poor
Conception of benefactors (Bfac) ‘Philanthropic investors’, engaged
agents of change
Naive, detached, powerless
Conception of philanthropic relation
between Bfic and Bfac
Egalitarian, binding partnership Unsustainable patronage,
intermittent, superficial
Conception of philanthropic giving Dignified ‘hand up’, social investment Degrading ‘handout’, aimless
Bajde 13
total control over the use of their funds remains central to Kiva’s proposition as well as to the users’
construal of lending through Kiva. In addition, while studies commonly find that the poor often
repay their micro-loans by forfeiting their remaining possessions or by simply taking on new
MF loans (Bateman, 2010), and while MFIs have both the opportunity and an active interest in
artificially keeping the repayment rates high, loan repayment continues to be offered and accepted
as the ultimate proof of successful alleviation of poverty. In this sense, we can second Eikenberry’s
(2009) claims that Kiva’s marketized philanthropy tends to uncritically, and at times even
deceptively, package and promote its preferred ‘cures’ to social ills.
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to argue that Kiva’s entrepreneurial ideology seeks to simply
eradicate conventional philanthropy, or that (by extension) marketized philanthropy simply does
away with conventional philanthropic beliefs and values. At least in Kiva’s case, there is little
evidence of diminished philanthropic engagement of givers, or of eroded relationships between
benefactors and beneficiaries found in studies of consumptive philanthropy (Wirgau et al., 2010).
Quite the contrary, we found Kiva to inspire passionate philanthropic engagement among seasoned
philanthropists, novice givers and those who might have otherwise given up on (conventional)
charity. Although by privileging individualistic, utilitarian giving over unconditional communal
obligation to needy others, IEP arguably fails to live up to traditional philanthropic ideals of
inclusiveness and non-instrumental giving (Bajde, 2009), it nevertheless helps philanthropic givers
to identify with distant others by recognizing in themselves and the ‘working poor’ a set of shared
entrepreneurial qualities, interests and ambitions that inspire hope and action towards a better
future. It also enables philanthropic givers to meaningfully relate (virtual and illusory as this
relation might be) to distant others in a more prolonged manner – beyond the conventional
monetary donation (i.e. at least for the duration of the loan).
Kiva as a site of cultural marketing innovation
We propose that IEP rejects the ‘hostile world’ reading (Zelizer, 2011) of the market and phi-
lanthropy as two incommensurable spheres of life. Instead it functions as a hybrid ideology, which
realigns philanthropic beliefs and values with selective market/entrepreneurial ideological
elements. The philanthropic practices encouraged by Kiva (e.g. lending and repaying) are legit-
imized by drawing upon the clout of market instruments and values. To paraphrase Moody (2008),
while IEP borrows from market-oriented ‘cultures’ (i.e. entrepreneurship and venture capitalism)
to critique conventional philanthropy, it is essentially a hybrid of both. On the one hand, IEP
retains the philanthropic appreciation of benevolently relating to distant others. On the other hand,
it turns to market mechanism, instruments and values to resolve the alleged failings of conven-
tional philanthropy. These elements are employed both practically and ideologically to conduct
and legitimize an alternative approach to charitable fundraising and giving.
We see a vital contribution of our study in demonstrating that Kiva represents not only a viable
extension of microfinance to philanthropy but more fundamentally, a ‘cultural innovation’ (Holt
and Cameron, 2010). From a marketing perspective, Kiva does not merely parasitically attach itself
to a trendy ideology, embellishing its services with entrepreneurial lustre. It serves as a ‘prose-
lytizer’ (Holt, 2004) of market ideology by productively embedding market mechanism,
instruments and values into philanthropic practices and relations. The case of Kiva thus highlights
the crucial role of ideological innovation in philanthropic marketing. Following Holt and Cameron
(2010), Kiva’s success can be attributed to the brand’s seizing of an ideological opportunity arising
from the growing resistance to conventional philanthropy and the steady appeal of SE and VP. The
14 Marketing Theory 13(1)
Kiva brand has been imbued with an ideology that brings together and innovatively applies utopian
beliefs to a novel context (i.e. philanthropic micro-loans). While Kiva’s ideology and its
entrepreneurial approach to philanthropic giving and the values associated with it (e.g. individual
choice and control, self-dependence) are hardly new, there is considerable innovation in the way in
which these ideological elements are woven together and ‘marketed’ to a broad audience of
philanthropic givers.
Ironically, despite Flannery’s contention that its unique information-rich model enables Kiva
‘to go beyond marketing’, Kiva’s IEP can be taken as marketing par excellence. By bringing the
market to philanthropy and philanthropy to the market, Kiva performs a remarkable marketing
innovation. The neoliberal veil of unfettered pragmatism and radical transparency obscures an
ideological torrent transforming the way we think about poverty and philanthropic giving. While
in the past, entrepreneurial philanthropy was largely restricted to the western entrepreneurial elite
(Friedman and McGarvie, 2003), Kiva succeeds in providing a more broadly palatable ideology,
which imbues a mass-philanthropy brand with the reputation of a highly efficient, radically trans-
parent philanthropic tool that uniquely empowers both givers and recipients of charity. To rephrase
Jackley, Kiva’s ability to command attention and successfully compete with conventional charities
is inextricably tied to ‘the stories it tells’ not only of specific people and their loans but – more
importantly – about the fundamental questions of how poverty, philanthropy and progress should
be imagined and pursued.
Kiva invites philanthropic givers not only to passively consume or conform to the IEP but to
productively perform entrepreneurial beliefs and values through a range of philanthropic practices.
While lender practices, such as the processing of loan information, making multiple investment
decisions and the ongoing management of available ‘Kiva credits’, are rendered meaningful through
IEP, they are also elemental to IEP’s perpetuation. As argued by Zwick et al. (2008), Cova and Dalli
(2009) and others, ideological innovation and effective diffusion of utopian ideologies are vital for
consumers to adopt the necessary ‘productive’ roles. In no small part, Kiva’s success in popularizing
the IEP and engaging its massive user-base in philanthropic ‘investment’ is owed to Kiva’s ability to
harness the emergent information and communication technologies (Watson, 2009).
The so called Web 2.0 technologies in particular have played a crucial role in allowing Kiva to
set up its virtual ‘mass-market’ for philanthropic investment and to facilitate meaningful philan-
thropic giving through exchange of ideological beliefs, images and information. Without these
technologies, it would be untenable to coordinate and bring together such a broad pool of
borrowers, MFIs and lenders. For instance, it is Web technologies that reduce the barriers and costs
of communication and transaction so that local MFIs can viably pitch prospective micro-loan
investments to persons across the globe and individual lenders can independently participate in
$25 micro-loans with relative ease. The Web also played a crucial role in enabling lenders to gather
around a common cause, both in less conspicuous ways (e.g. the lenders’ individual contributions
towards a specific loan are automatically pooled together to cover the full amount of the loan) and
in more active engaged ways (e.g. creating and sustaining a community such a KivaFriends,
participating in lending teams and inviting others to join the cause).
The Internet has also played an important role in disseminating Kiva and IEP beyond the
borders of California and the United States. Yet, despite its progressive internationalization and
subsequent global reach (e.g. Kiva boasts of bringing together lenders of over 200 nationalities
with the poor of more than 60 different nationalities), the western anglophone cultural background
remains dominant among Kiva supporters and the KivaFriends members studied here. Since
philanthropic practices and philanthropic ideologies are always influenced and structured by the
Bajde 15
specificities of particular cultures (Ilchman et al., 1998), there is every reason to believe that the
ideological elements and processes we outline above are far from universal. On the one hand, the
entrepreneurial approaches to philanthropy are generally associated with the anglophone-western
setting (the United States in particular) (Bishop and Green, 2008), and the literature suggests that
this cultural setting provides a fertile ground for individualistic, utilitarian ideologies of philan-
thropy (Gross, 2003; Liebersohn, 2011). On the other hand, philanthropic doctrines practiced by
the richer and the more powerful nations spread fast and exert considerable global influence (Ilch-
man et al., 1998).
Our data shows that Kiva and its IEP can resonate with philanthropists of diverse cultural
backgrounds. Unfortunately, the relatively high homogeneity of the studied community prohibits
us from exploring the precise role of cultural background and potential patterns of cultural
variation in appropriation of Kiva’s model of philanthropic giving and IEP. These limitations
notwithstanding, we can argue that IEP gravitates towards an anglophone-western view of the rela-
tionship between philanthropy and the market, while at the same time exhibiting a translocalness
indicative of the tenacious and effective spread of philanthrocapitalism. We urge future research to
consider these and other ways in which ideologies of philanthropy (both locally and globally)
transform and are transformed by philanthropic practices in the process of innovatively align-
ing/realigning economic and social facets of giving, sharing and exchanging with the poor.
1. For the purpose of this treatise, the terms ‘philanthropy’ and ‘philanthropic giving’ will be used in a broader
sense denoting any type of giving aimed at improving the well-being of distant others (Payton, 1989).
2. Despite the persistent sociological and anthropological evidence of the inescapably economic nature of gift
giving (and vice versa), the notion of a ‘pure’ gift unsoiled by economic interests and concerns remains
important in the Western cultural tradition (Bajde, 2009). The prevalent distinction between gift giving and
market exchange is acutely evident in Derrida’s (1992: 13) deconstruction of the modern gift, where the
author claims: ‘for there to be a gift, it is necessary (il faut) that the donee not give back, amortize,
reimburse, acquit himself, enter into contract, and that he never contracted a debt’.
3. The large majority of KF members are of anglophone origin. Based on statistics available on KF and Kiva.
org, we estimate that, despite the recent influx of non-anglophone Kiva supporters, anglophone members
still represent more than three quarters of KF members. In 2007, the initial year of KF’s existence, US-
based users alone represented more than 90%of all KF users.
4. Accordingly, in most countries lending through Kiva does not legally qualify as a (tax-deductable) charitable
donation. The loan can also not be considered as a ‘free gift’ from the borrower’s perspective, seeing as
borrowers still need to pay (often considerable) interests to cover the involved MFI’s costs and profits.
5. To be fair, Flannery does explicitly reject this naive view of microfinance in his ‘Innovations’ article titled:
‘Kiva and the birth of person-to-person microfinance’. Yet, his insightful admonition pales in the face of
the pronouncedly one-sided enthusiasm regularly espoused on and
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Domen Bajde is an assistant professor of marketing at Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana. His
research interests have revolved around sociocultural aspects of consumption and charitable giving. Domen’s
work appeared in books on cultural marketing, gift giving and education as well as in various international
journals, including Consumption, markets and culture, where he also serves as a member of the editorial
review board. More recently, he explores the role of market-making processes and devices in shaping con-
sumption, gift giving and sharing. He loves to teach when it is time for research, and do research when it
is time for teaching. Address: Faculty of Economics, Kardeljeva plosˇcˇad 17, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia.
18 Marketing Theory 13(1)
... Fejerskov, 2017Fejerskov, , 2018Jenkins, 2011;McAllister & Allen, 2017); non-profit organizations (e.g. Bajde, 2013;Maier et al., 2016;Saunders, 2013); and corporations (Godfrey et al., 2017;Widger, 2016a, b). ...
... In line with their funders' philanthrocapitalist values, NPOs increasingly adopt: business-like organization models which marketize relationships and commodify activities; business-like goals that increasingly focus on financial matters; and business-like rhetoric, utilizing corporate language (Maier et al., 2016). To appeal to philanthrocapitalist funders, NPOs recast donations as purchases (Li, 2017) and philanthropy as consumption or investment (Bajde, 2013). Purported as a means of increasing organizational capacity and efficiency, these processes can increase the power and perceived legitimacy of NPOs if they are already well funded and established (Maier et al., 2016). ...
... Though scholars have repeatedly raised concerns of mission drift-the neglect of social purpose in favour of organizational objectives (Bajde, 2013;Eikenberry, 2009;Green & Dalton, 2016)-in a systematic review of 599 relevant sources, Maier et al. (2016) found that evidence of mission drift as a result of NPOs becoming more business-like has so far been mixed and inconclusive. However, they did find that such processes may reproduce neoliberal values and systems, further embedding the elite position and status of philanthrocapitalist funders and objectifying beneficiaries. ...
Full-text available
Philanthrocapitalism—the strategic application of market methods and motives for philanthropic purposes—plays increasingly prominent roles in policy design and implementation at national and international levels. Notwithstanding philanthrocapitalism's growing significance, relevant scholarly discourse remains limited and fragmented. Drawing together diverse debates, our paper systematically reviews and synthesizes academic literature on philanthrocapitalism. Alongside raising questions about the casting and practice of philanthropy, the 186 relevant publications included in our review indicate a strong emphasis of philanthrocapitalism in the areas of education, international development, healthcare and agriculture. Across these, we identify and discuss the importance of three cultural frames: (1) development challenges being framed as scientific problems; (2) beneficiaries being framed as productive entrepreneurs; and (3) philanthropy being framed as social investment. Outlining and critically examining these issues, this work contributes: a comprehensive analysis of key debates and issues; strengthened conceptual clarity and nuance through an evaluative exploration of the multiple interpretations of philanthrocapitalism; and a future research agenda to address persisting knowledge gaps and refine focus.
... While providing valuable insights into how emotional responses, emotional meanings, and mindsets can stimulate donor motivation and charitable donations, psychological consumer research on charitable giving does not question the ideologies, discourses, structures of feeling, and apparatuses involved in the formation and sustenance of subject positions, such as that of a charitable donor. For example, the rise of microlending as a popular alternative to charitable giving (Bajde 2013) has taken place in a socio-historic environment marked by structures of feeling of aspirational hope enveloping microcredit, as well as structures of reflexive doubt (Thompson 2005) toward charitable giving as an instrument of progress and development (Moyo 2009 show that by nurturing and dramatizing these structures of feeling, market intermediaries actively contribute to the erosion of existing subject positions (e.g., charitable donor) and cultivate competing subject positions, such as that of the microlender. ...
... Despite its mission to erode uneven relations of power and privilege by providing dignified, empowering credit (Bajde 2013), the OMM subjugates subaltern realities and voices to the mandates of the market. The subaltern can only speak (Spivak 1988; Yartey 2017) through the mediated narratives and images that are carefully fashioned by the intermediaries to facilitate affirmative and connective encounters for lenders. ...
Why do people willingly bestow upon themselves the responsibility to tackle social problems such as poverty? Consumer research has provided valuable insight into how individuals are created as responsible subjects but has yet to account for the crucial role of affective dynamics in subject formation. We draw upon affect theorizing and nascent research on ‘affective governmentality’ in organization and policy studies to theorize the formation of responsible subjects via affective encounters (i.e., consumption encounters through which consumers’ capacities to affect and to be affected change), and to explore how affective encounters are mediated downstream. Through a qualitative investigation of the online microloan market, we explain how market intermediaries contribute to the creation of affective-entrepreneurial subjects who willingly supply interest-free loans to the disadvantaged. The intermediaries accomplish this by nurturing and dramatizing a structure of feeling that subtends affective encounters, and by deploying apparatuses of affirmation and relatability to target and intervene into affective encounters. In addition to illuminating the affective dynamics involved in consumer responsibilization and subject formation more broadly, our study also facilitates critical reflection on the subject-formative power of consumer experiences and experiential marketing, and carries important implications for research on charitable giving, and critical thinking on microcredit.
... Such a perception also aligns with a normative perspective where individuals are expected "to take care of themselves and operate successfully under competition" (Altan-Olcay 2015; also see Rankin 2010). Highlighting such characteristics can be seen as moving beyond (albeit not fully replacing) traditional and more degrading conceptions of 'third world women' as "helpless beggars" (Bajde 2013) and "suffering victims" (Valencia-Fourcans and Hawkins 2016) who lack agency and become passive recipients of development (e.g. Mohanty 1984;Spivak 1988;Peterson 2010;Wilson 2011). ...
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Advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality in agriculture is a recognised development goal, also within crop breeding. Increasingly, breeding teams are expected to use ‘market-based’ approaches to design more ‘demand-led’ and ‘gender-responsive’ crop varieties. Based on an institutional ethnography that includes high-profile development-oriented breeding initiatives, we unpack these terms using perspectives from political agronomy and feminist science and technology studies. By conceptualising the market as an ongoing, relational performance made up of discourses, practices and human and nonhuman actors, we trace how the market is understood as an effective socioeconomic institution for soliciting demand, but also becomes a normative agenda. Construed as a demand variable, the relational and structural dimensions of gender are rendered less visible, which might strengthen rather than transform power relations’ status quo. On the other hand, a feminist science and technology perspective broadens the field of vision not only to the gendered dimensions of crop breeding, but also to the nonhuman actors, such as the crops and traits falling outside the market sphere of interest. By putting political agronomy and feminist science and technology studies into conversation, the article contributes to the development of a feminist political agronomy.
... Le marché serait devenu le champ social principal au travers duquel l'individu s'engagerait dans un « travail identitaire éthique (Barnett et al., 2008 ;Bertilsson, 2015 ;Grosglik, 2017 ;Thompson, 2011). La consommation serait alors idéalisée, considérée comme le meilleur moyen de résoudre les questions sociétales (Bajde, 2013), entraînant leur dépolitisation (Winlow et Hall, 2012). Notons que cette individualisation de la responsabilité viendrait également entretenir l'illusion d'agence chez le consommateur (Sherry et al, 2001 ;Tadakewski, 2010). ...
Ce travail de thèse vise à étudier les dynamiques de marché dans une perspective critique. Nous y adoptons une définition du discours comme pratique sociale qui construit les objets et les positions de sujet. Par la mobilisation des théories de l’école d’Essex et du champ des Critical Discourse Studies, nous appréhendons les dynamiques de marché comme des processus d’hégémonisation. Le marché, conceptualisé comme formation discursive, construirait objets et positions de sujet et tendrait à démontrer leurs caractères non contingents par des pratiques articulatoires spécifiques. La légitimité d’un marché résulte ainsi d’une articulation cohérente et stabilisée du système objets/sujets. Cette stabilisation reste temporaire : la fixation des significations et la présence continuelle des antagonismes sont centraux dans l’étude des stratégies politiques des formations discursives. Pour étudier la manière dont les marchés articuleraient constamment leurs significations, nous nous intéressons au contexte du marché des produits « simili-carnés ». Face aux problématiques environnementales liées à la surconsommation de viande, ces derniers, en imitant la viande par leur apparence, leur goût et leur texture, pourraient se substituer facilement à la viande sans modifier la structure des repas. Nous étudions comment ce nouveau marché vient se positionner face un ensemble de luttes discursives évoluant autour du marché de la viande, et tente de stabiliser un système de significations en remodelant des éléments discursifs préexistants. Parce qu’un nouveau marché n’est donc pas un élément exogène, nous montrons la nécessité d’examiner le contexte discursif dans lequel il s’ancre. Notre travail empirique est constitué de données historiques (journaux, livres, discours politiques...) et d’entretiens de consommateurs et d’acteurs du marché des produits simili-carnés. L’ensemble des données a été analysé par une analyse de discours « multiniveaux », dans une attitude herméneutique, qui nous permet d’observer la reproduction des discours à différentes échelles. Dans un premier temps, nous décrivons comment la maintenance du marché de la viande implique le développement d’articulations hégémoniques permettant d’intégrer un ensemble de problématisations, qui viennent diluer le concept de viande. Dans un second temps, nous exposons comment le discours végan s’engage lui aussi dans un processus d’hégémonisation, en disloquant le marché de la viande et en interpellant les sujets par une articulation du dualisme raison/émotions légitimée. Enfin, nous examinons comment le marché des « viandes végétales » peut être appréhendé comme le résultat d’une articulation « postpolitique » du marché de la viande et du discours végan, et ce qu’il implique en matière d’effets idéologiques. Son existence dériverait d’une logique de récupération poussée à son extrême, menant à le constituer comme espace de forte contestation des significations. La « fausse viande » devient alors sujette à une polyphonie discursive et est infusée des traces hégémoniques des formations contiguës, laissant planer une menace pour sa légitimité. Une discussion et une conclusion soulignent les contributions théoriques, épistémologiques et pratiques (vis à vis des entreprises, organisations parapubliques et ONGs) ainsi que les limites et voies de recherche.
... Within this group of studies, the notion of utopia is evoked to bring richness or clarity to emancipatory or anti-structural consumption phenomena via reference to colloquial ideals of what society could or should look like. Within this group of studies, a plethora of consumption contexts and performances have been identified as utopian or holding utopian potential: from depiction of a quasi-utopian world of democratic togetherness on board cruise ships (Kolberg, 2016); to the Burning Man festival where within a confined space, and during a limited amount of time, escapist utopian visions can unfold within a "youtopia-a good place for me to be myself, and you to be yourself, together" (Kozinets, 2002, p.36); to microfinance and entrepreneurial philanthropy (Bajde, 2013) and fantasy reenactment rendezvous (Belk & Costa, 1998). ...
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This paper introduces liquid consumer utopias, defined as market-mediated expressions of individuals’ desires to re-imagine and re-construct reality, and to re-frame the present. This conceptual lens illuminates previously untheorized consumption phenomena, which are socially constructed, and often critical, efforts to enact an alternative way of being in an increasingly uncertain and unpredictable world. Three key characteristics of liquid utopias are outlined—immediacy, transience and hyper-individualization––each pointing to liquid consumer utopias’ function to facilitate present-oriented and short-lived re-imaginings of reality. Co-existing alongside the solid and collective utopian consumption of interest to prior research, these emergent forms of liquid consumer utopias articulate a re-imagining of the present (rather than the future), have an emphasis on individual (rather than communal) experiences of betterment, and an orientation toward temporary re-framings of the experienced reality (rather than a pursuit of permanence and long-lasting change). Implications are discussed for retailing, experiential consumption, and consumer self-optimization.
... This argument leads her to conclude that 'market orientation in the arts context has never meant any scarification of artistic goals to the whims of market tastes and preferences' (Lee, 2005a, p. 154). Additional examples of those who favour marketisation include the study of an emerging market economy in Shanghai (Chan & Xiao, 2008) and Bajde's (2013) case study of a charity organisation engaged in microfinance. The latter describes an activity here assured to bring more optimistic and effective outcomes against poverty than traditional philanthropy, since this type of 'marketised philanthropy' (p. 3) supposedly reduces rather than increases feelings of guilt and shame among beneficiaries. ...
It is, today, widely accepted that market structures, logics, identities and activities are spreading throughout society, including civil society and its organisations. Scholars increasingly use the marketisation concept to describe these tendencies. This paper reviews the meaning attached to this concept, when used in the context of civil society. A sample of 210 peer-reviewed articles in civil society studies published between 1993 and 2017 is explored in an analysis that suggests that marketisation is being used with much variation in the literature. The analysis also shows that apart from more generic descriptions of persistent attempts to privatise and commodify various goods and services, few articles seem to involve more detailed definitions or profound conceptual arguments. Taken together, this indicates a development where the concept of marketisation runs the risk of losing its analytical powers. To avoid this, the paper proposes a stricter and more transparent use of the term ‘marketisation’ and suggests ways to further develop this concept in research.
... Anyone anywhere can become a micro-borrower with no joining fee. However, as Armstrong et al., (2018), Bajde (2013) and Barry (2012) ...
The research problem Theories of organising are dominated by a neoliberal agenda. This authority has been disrupted by social and sustainable entrepreneurship research that highlights alternatives to this hegemony. The motivation for this paper is to argue that the emergence of internet platforms contributes to new ways of working in the social solidarity economy (SSE). We focus our exploration on organisational practices and characteristics, evaluating platforms as contributions to commoning. Method Our approach offers a way out of the public–private dichotomy. We build theory by positioning the SSE as a series of approaches that hybridise redistribution, reciprocity and market: three distinct strategies of social organisations for achieving their primary purposes. Utilising Elinor Oström's theory of common pool resource institutions (CPRIs) and her design principles, we appraise three internet platforms (Kiva, Loomio and Kickstarter). We triangulate organisational, academic and media narratives to assess the embeddedness of their commoning practices and potential as social innovations for a postcapitalist economy. Contribution to knowledge Social enterprises (SEs) can develop internet platforms that use CBPP to build and support the SSE. This is the first paper to deploy Oström's work to study how SEs use CBPP, thereby developing the theoretical connections between these two fields. Our findings are part of a discourse that challenges neoliberalism and identifies how the SSE contributes to sustainable development.
... Most of its activity occurs in emerging countries where traditional finance is difficult to access. However, Kiva positions itself away from nonprofit organizations and is more aligned with an entrepreneurial perspective (Bajde, 2013). On its website, sentences such as "beyond charity" or "Kiva gives you the chance to help people by supporting their businesses. ...
Third-party endorsements are appreciated in entrepreneurial ventures since they help signal the value of an idea and the trustworthiness of an entrepreneur. They contribute therefore to reducing ‘information asymmetry’, always present in an entrepreneur-investor relationship. However, the role of third-party endorsements in for-profit contexts might differ from that in prosocial contexts. In prosocial contexts, investors are interested not only in financial returns but also in creating a social impact. On the one hand, the endorsement might signal trustworthiness, while on the other, it might also signal that the entrepreneur already has some financial support and thus is less in need than an entrepreneur with no support at all. Investors seeking to maximize their social impact might perceive the social impact generated by funding an endorsed entrepreneur as smaller than the social impact created by funding an entrepreneur with no support at all. This study analyzes these contradictions through the lens of signaling theory and explores the role of third-party endorsements in the success of entrepreneurial projects in the context of online social crowdfunding. A comparison of different types of endorsements shows that having a pro bono endorsement provides the best equilibrium between the number of investors and dollars per investor.
Limited attention has been paid to market actors’ interventions and their consequences in regard to shaping NGOs’ behaviors in China. Drawing on a case study of a national disability organization’s participation in China’s largest internet fundraising campaign—the Tencent Charity Day—this paper examines how market actors constitute the institutional contexts that shape and restructure NGOs’ framing and practice. I argue that market actors transform the institutional environments of NGOs by transplanting social media platforms’ institutional logic concerning the attention economy to incubate NGOs’ charitable marketing practices. The consequences of this transformation are the re-coalitions of actors, as well as the rise of charitable framing and the market methods of charitable programming. Meanwhile, market interventions unintendedly open spaces for grassroots NGOs to pursue their social missions and re-envision rights and advocacy under transformed state–civil society relationships, even though this process is highly uneven and hierarchical.
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This article extends critical and normative theorizing about the assumptions and implications of marketization for nonprofit and voluntary organizations and suggests an alternative discourse. It describes reasons for the increasing marketization of nonprofit and voluntary organizations and what the literature has shown to be problematic about marketization. It argues that one way to resist colonization by the market is for academics and practitioners of voluntary and nonprofit organizations to create and apply a democratic counterdiscourse.
This book is a history of European interpretations of the gift from the mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth century. Reciprocal gift exchange, pervasive in traditional European society, disappeared from the discourse of nineteenth-century social theory only to return as a major theme in twentieth-century anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, and literary studies. Modern anthropologists encountered gift exchange in Oceania and the Pacific Northwest and returned the idea to European social thought; Marcel Mauss synthesized their insights with his own readings from remote times and places in his famous 1925 essay on the gift, the starting-point for subsequent discussion. The Return of the Gift demonstrates how European intellectual history can gain fresh significance from global contexts.
Over the past three decades, economic sociology has been revealing how culture shapes economic life even while economic facts affect social relationships. This work has transformed the field into a flourishing and increasingly influential discipline. No one has played a greater role in this development than Viviana Zelizer, one of the world's leading sociologists. Economic Lives synthesizes and extends her most important work to date, demonstrating the full breadth and range of her field-defining contributions in a single volume for the first time. Economic Lives shows how shared cultural understandings and interpersonal relations shape everyday economic activities. Far from being simple responses to narrow individual incentives and preferences, economic actions emerge, persist, and are transformed by our relations to others. Distilling three decades of research, the book offers a distinctive vision of economic activity that brings out the hidden meanings and social actions behind the supposedly impersonal worlds of production, consumption, and asset transfer. Economic Lives ranges broadly from life insurance marketing, corporate ethics, household budgets, and migrant remittances to caring labor, workplace romance, baby markets, and payments for sex. These examples demonstrate an alternative approach to explaining how we manage economic activity--as well as a different way of understanding why conventional economic theory has proved incapable of predicting or responding to recent economic crises. Providing an important perspective on the recent past and possible futures of a growing field, Economic Lives promises to be widely read and discussed.