Virtual News (En)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Microfinance Meets P2P Technology

The concept of microfinance has been around since Muhammad Yunus founded The Grameen Bank in 1976, lending $27 to 42 women in Bangladesh and challenging the notion that the poor were not creditworthy. Thirty years later, microfinance is just coming into public view, with a big boost in attention brought by the United Nations' Year of Microcredit in 2005 and the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Yunus in 2006.

One powerful example of microfinance entering the mainstream is Since being founded in 2005, Kiva has taken Yunus’ concept of microfinance, stirred in a healthy dose of San Francisco Web 2.0 and created immediate access for the average person to help reduce poverty in the developing world.

The surprising part of this equation is that the lenders are not large banks, or even investors with substantial amounts to contribute, but thousands of regular Internet surfers who were inspired by the photos and stories of entrepreneurs and decided to make loans of as little as $25.

With more than 125,000 lenders participating in the website, over $12 million in microloans funded to date, and media attention ranging from The Oprah Winfrey Show, to BBC World, to NHK Japan, has surprised many with how easy and engaging it is to support a microbusiness halfway across the world to buy a fishing boat, stock a neighborhood store for the holiday season, or purchase a dairy cow for the family farm.

By partnering with established microfinance institutions throughout the developing world, beginning in East Africa and quickly expanding to 40 countries, has been able to reach many populations in a variety of economic and cultural contexts to connect them with lenders willing to provide support.

Kiva Entrepreneurs are located in countries as diverse as Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Mozambique, and Iraq, and often a loan of a few hundred dollars is made from a pool of Kiva Lenders in many countries, contributing $25 or $50 each.

Through's website, you can see not only the business that these ad hoc groups of lenders have chosen to support, but also their lender profile, revealing why they might feel a connection to this particular business or country, and which other businesses they are lending to on the site.

As grew, several field partners found that a shortage of English-speaking staff became a limitation to posting enough businesses to the website to meet demand. decided to provide some extra support and launched its unusual translation program, with close to 200 volunteers logging on every month to translate a steady stream of businesses posted in Bahasa Indonesia, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

These translations provide yet one more point of access for these businesses in the developing world to reach those who are interested on the other side of the Internet, and ensure that the language gap does not create a barrier to this innovative approach to microfinance.

About the Author

Naomi Baer ( leads’s fast-growing team of volunteer translators, reaching from Phnom Penh to Madrid. With 14 years of experience as a professional translator, she has extensive experience managing language projects, serves on the board of the Northern California Translators Association, and is certified by the American Translators Association in Portuguese to English translation. Kiva's Translation Program welcomes new volunteers, and is currently recruiting for Khmer and Nepali teams, in addition to the current working languages. See Kiva’s Get Involved page for more details.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


As a boss/manager/owner, yes, it probably is quicker to do it yourself. Sadly, the challenge is that as long as you think that way, you’ll always have to do it yourself!

If you want to have a successful team/department/business (and a life), then doing everything yourself will have some predictable outcomes:

  • In the long term, it will affect your health
  • It could affect your marriage (or significant relationship)
  • It prevents other people learning and growing
  • It sends the message that you don’t trust anyone
  • It says to your staff that they will never be as smart as you
  • People will eventually leave and go elsewhere. Possibly even moving to your competitor and, horror of horrors, maybe taking some of your best clients with them!

It is my aim to free up the time of owners/managers by a minimum of 30%. To show them how to hand over a whole host of routine day-to-day ‘stuff’, so they can work ON their business and not IN it. However, in order to gain that 30%, they need to be willing to delegate! Simple not necessarily easy. Most owners and managers are terrified of delegating because they’re terrified people will make mistakes. And people probably will make mistakes. But how did you the manager/owner learn? By making lots of mistakes!

Not delegating is what I call a but. Buts are fears; and the only way to overcome a fear, is to discover a WIIFM – what’s in this for me? Think about that. What could you be doing differently if you had 30% of your time free of operational problems? Do you think your bottom line might significantly improve if you were:

  • Out in the market-place talking to key clients?
  • Working on finding new clients and/or markets?
  • Brainstorming ideas for new products and services?
  • Talking to other business owners about possible alliances or synergies?

A better use of your time? Absolutely. So where do you start?

You start by:

Making a list of all the jobs that bore you out of your brain
Costing out each of those jobs (is this a $15 an hour job – a $25 an hour job or a $50 an hour job?)

You then:

Ask which of your team members would like to put their name by which job
And then you create a plan of action. Easiest jobs first.
Then they watch you do the job, you watch them do the job, they then take over the job with you standing in the wings if they need you!

It’s that simple. As a manager/owner you should not be doing the $15 an hour jobs! Never, never, never.

One small point - please don’t confuse delegation with abdication. You must be willing to support them through the learning process; to coach, guide and mentor. Then when the first task is safely handed over (and don’t be surprised if the person ends up doing the job better than you ever did) you are ready to hand over one more task to one more valued employee; and so on until you have your 30%. Then as an owner/manager/team leader, you will be working where you need to be working, on the strategic issues of your business.

It’s as simple as that.

Yes it will take time – sometimes we have to take small steps backwards to gain a giant leaps forward. Just keep remembering your wiifm - 30% of your time spent more effectively. Be prepared to be very surprised at the results. You will live longer, be happier, stay married longer and as if that wasn’t enough, your bottom line results should have similarly grown by a corresponding 30%!

Trust in your people – in my experience, they will never let you down.

About the Author
Ann Andrews CSP is the author of three books, Shift Your But, Finding the Square Root of a Banana and Did I Really Employ You?

She is also a professional speaker, consultant on human resource issues, and founder of the Teams From Woe To Go franchise.

The above article is one of a series which will take employees and managers through a 6 step process of learning how to seriously improve bottom line results by communicating more effectively with each other. Ann can be contacted at, or visit her website

Cultural Awareness, Self-Awareness

Cultural awareness is the key to building successful international business relationships and should include understanding cultural differences and acting appropriately. No doubt most of you associate this with this with learning about the cultural habits, customs and negotiating styles of the country of the person you are going to be doing business with but this is only one part of the process and certainly not the first.

If you read some of the literature on intercultural or cross-cultural studies, you might get the impression that all you need to do is do a bit of background reading on your target culture/country, perhaps buy a special report on the business style and negotiation tactics there and you’ll be set. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

The problem with this approach is that it immediately sets you up an “Us vs. Them” relationship. The Germans are like this and the Japanese are like this – “they” are unusual, different, the other. This is ultimately quite unhelpful when you come to meet your prospective client because as you’ve already pigeon-holed them you’re likely to miss subtle behavioural clues that don’t confirm your picture of people from that culture. More importantly, although these categorisations of countries and cultures work well at a group level, they break down when confronted by specific individuals. For example, the Japanese businessman who is visiting you from Tokyo may have spent a significant amount of time working or being educated in the USA which may have totally transformed his way of doing business and negotiating.

For me, the first step in cultural awareness is not finding out about other cultures but finding out about yourself: your “myths”, attitudes, beliefs, worldview and stereotypes. This may seem surprising and you may even think that you know all about yourself already but it’s extremely important for the following reasons.

1) You’ll be better prepared to overcome problems in meetings with foreign business people
2) You’ll be a better negotiator
3) You’ll be a better communicator

In short it will give you an edge.

So “How do I find out about myself?”, I hear you ask? You’ll probably be glad to hear it isn’t necessary to meditate on a mountain top for 20 years but you do need to begin a process of personal observation in your encounters with others. We need other people to show us our blind spots and show us more of how we really behave instead of how we like to think we behave. This process can be as simple as asking others for their feedback about us and our behaviour in specific contexts (e.g. at work, at home), to reading books (see suggested reading list at the end of this article) and taking online assessment tests, such as the one contained in this article on EQ.
This step in developing intercultural awareness is probably the most challenging to take as it necessitates a willingness to change and some difficult moments as we uncover uncomfortable truths about ourselves. However, once it is then the other steps in the process of developing cultural awareness - knowledge of the culture, politics, history and business customs of the target culture and skills development in culturally-sensitive verbal and non-verbal communication - are relatively easy to acquire.

Suggested reading:

1) When Cultures Collide by Richard D. Lewis, (Nicholas Brealey, 1999).
2) Riding the Waves of Culture by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner (McGrw-Hill, 1998).
3) Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, (Bantam, 1997).

About the author
Neil Urquhart is a communications and intercultural skills trainer who helps individuals and public and private sector organisations win new overseas business through training and consultancy. For the last 14 years he has lived and worked in countries as diverse as Japan, Brazil, Germany and the USA. He is currently based in London.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What a buzz e-day !

By Cédric Rainotte

Imported directly from Anglo-Saxon countries, viral marketing or “buzz marketing” as our friends across the Channel say, are increasingly rubbing shoulders with traditional marketing.

Amazing laboratory of creativity, land of fabricated rumours, degree zero of advertising… It’s easy to get lost in the land of viral marketing!

You are probably familiar with the “Whassup” ads for Budweiser, Sprite’s disappearing goblin or the hilarious Kiss Cool playlets, not to mention the clip of a singing, dancing alien on Gloria Gaynor’s hit.

Indeed, behind a somewhat offputting name hides a simple concept: instead of seducing the consumer by forcing a message, we’re going to nudge him towards being active and do the advertising himself by giving him the irresistible desire to share his discovery… Brilliant yet simple: when the consumer becomes a prescriber, he also becomes an ambassador of the brand!
Contaminated or contaminating…

A few years ago this phenomenon was still unknown to the larger public, but now companies use it more and more. Yet such campaign can sometimes flirt with the limits of legality or even cross the line without a second thought in all impunity. In Belgium people in the profession have created a “task force” within the Internet Advertising Bureau to supervise the situation and avoid any major slip-up that could harm the profession.

You must admit that successful viral marketing campaigns make the average Netsurfer happy. Creative writers have found a concept that carries weight, shows originality, creativity and often don’t hesitate to use wacky humour or even transgress certain taboos to stimulate our curiosity.

Once these elements come together, it’s up to us to spread the good word, exchange the best commercials, posters and screensavers…. There is no lack of format and it works!

Suggest, evoke, desire: these are the key words of viral marketing.

About the author

E-Businessman from the start, Cédric Rainotte came through the Internet decade surfing on new technologies. He founded the companies Cromozone and Barnes & Richardson where he is Chief Creative Officer.

English Translation by Virtual Words

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Loving Life in the Fast Lane – How to improve Work/Life Balance

By Heather-Jane Sears

Are there times when your ‘To Do’ list is just too long? When you feel unsatisfied at the end of the day? Overloaded with email & deadlines? As if you have been in overdrive all week and have run out of time? Don’t worry – there is a cure.

Welcome to the world of complex lives, unrealistic expectations & frenetic change. Even in the best work situation, the pace of change and exponential growth of information can lead to stress, whatever your place in the organisation.

There are some simple things that you can do to stop the feeling of being on a treadmill that is speeding up. The first trick is to break the pattern by reducing the complexity in your life.

Top Tips towards Balance:

  • The best way to get it all done is to do fewer things. So prioritise!
  • Understand who you are, what you really want… and what it will take!
  • Simplify your life and spend quality time with yourself and your family
  • Notice which areas are out of balance, and how that effects you and others
  • Be selective about your choices, establish realistic expectations of self and others
  • Identify what’s important to you. What does personal success mean to you?
  • Reacquaint yourself with your needs, do more of what you want
  • Discuss what you would like, then ASK FOR HELP!

Like many of us, you may find asking for help quite difficult – either because you are embarrassed in some way, or you feel some unwritten rule that you should do it yourself (in my case fitness, ironing & international tax returns spring to mind!). If you had to delegate who would you ask? What time could be released? What would you choose to do with it?

As evenings tend to be less rushed than most mornings, try to plan ahead. Even deciding what you are going to wear the next day, straightening the house, checking the calendar and papers… all help you to become more organised. Make sure that you have clocks visible in most rooms – especially the bathroom! You may consider getting up or leaving home earlier, to give yourself a few calm minutes before meetings begin – this also helps with unexpected delays such as traffic or the fact that your child may have ‘lost’ something again!

As an Effectiveness Consultant & Executive Coach I feel that I should practice what I preach & try to role model best practice whenever I can… but I’m only human! My biggest weakness is my own finances – I just hate the detail, so save time by paying as many bills as possible automatically. I travel a lot, so also try to keep track of my expenses as they accrue so that tax time is not so onerous…I simply sort them by month & category… my bookkeeper does the rest. Are there tasks in your life which you just hate doing? Try to get rid of them if you can…

Many high achievers - from executives of large companies to owners of small enterprises - often feel they must be all things to all people all the time and tend to expect too much of themselves & others. This can set them up for failure and creates feelings of unworthiness.

One symptom of an overloaded life is a schedule jammed with commitments. Ask yourself whether something is urgent or important (it’s not always both!). Can you do it more flexibly? Or change how it’s done to a better way next time? Use checklists to do routine things quickly.
Another tip that I use is to ask for appointments early in the day, reducing my waiting time.
The way we manage ourselves & our precious time is based on habit. We do what we do because we have always done it that way. Habits are unconscious behaviours that are automatic. Various tools such as Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) help people change old behaviour patterns, thus manage themselves & their time more effectively.
(Also visit for more info)

Learning to handle stress keeps us mentally & emotionally fit. Remember that you can’t change the way that other people react or behave – work on changing your own responses & recognise when you need to relax. Loosen up. Be more playful. Take yourself less seriously. I always remember my mentor telling me that “everything is not a pivotal moment in time” … friends tell me I’ve improved with age!

Habits can usually be broken in 21 days. Try these simple tips for success:

  • Identify the new behaviour (& consider NLP as a reliable quick fix)
  • Then think about ways to practice the new behaviour with passion!
  • How you will feel, what you will see & hear when you are doing the new behaviour?
  • Publicly announce new behaviour for a strong beginning eg. Sponsored run/slim etc.
  • Do the behaviour for at least 21 days consecutively…it does get easier!
  • Post motivational pictures & notes to remind you of the new behaviour
  • Be willing to feel uncomfortable until the new behaviour takes hold
  • Change the environment to reinforce the new behaviour
  • Focus on the positive – and particularly on praise when you get it. Celebrate success!

About the author:
Heather-Jane Sears is the Chief Executive of Synergy Global, an international consultancy specialising in Change Leadership & Organisational Effectiveness.

It’s Image that Sells! First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

By Dr. Alan Rae

Buying decisions normally depend upon the first impressions of the potential buyer. The thinking that happens in a blink of an eye.

When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or visit a new website, your mind takes just a few seconds to make its judgement.

We use the word intuition to describe emotional reactions, gut feelings, thoughts and impressions that may not be rational. But what goes on in those first few seconds is perfectly rational. It's thinking that moves a little faster than the kind of deliberate, conscious decision-making that we usually associate with thinking.

In dating, we all readily admit the importance of what happens in the first instant when two people meet. But we often don’t admit to the importance of what happens in the first few seconds when someone encounters a new idea, or when we see an advertisement or website.

Selling products is just like going for a job interview or a first date. Make a good impression on potential buyers and convert the opportunity into a sale. Most buyers choose emotionally. Understanding this is vital. If you’re selling on the internet, it’s important that your website is appealing. It’s often the first and may well be the only impression prospective clients ever see.

So a good first impression gives them the confidence to buy from you or encourage them to find out more about your business. Having a good website with a clean layout tells them you're a credible and professional company.

Imagine yourself wanting to work for a particular company. You’ve finally received an interview. How do you present yourself? You wear your best outfit, go get a great haircut and walk in confidently.

Why? You want to make that first impression stand out a mile and wow the interviewer.

Our society pays lip service to the notion of gathering information and spending time weighing up the pros and cons to make a rational decision. Entire procurement procedures are put in place to make this so. But the truth is we make rapid decisions even without thinking about them.

Our brains are hardwired to take 2 and 2 and produce 5. To create accurate patterns from insufficient data. A real survival skill when you’re after a woolly mammoth with a sabre-tooth breathing down your neck.

We still do this today – time and again our first snap decisions are often the best. So make sure you stack the odds in your favour by producing a strong first impression. Because once it’s formed it’s really hard to shift it.

First impressions are Lasting impressions.

Based on some ideals of Malcolm Gladwell in Blink

About the author:
Dr Alan Rae (AI Consultants) is a dedicated marketer with an IT background. He has written many books including his recently published 1Man Brand and Market OnLine! He uses his own experience of running his own business Ai Consultants, to help small companies with e-business and marketing problems.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Six key ideas for effective networking


Still unknown and underused by many business people, online professional networking platforms can represent a major source of business opportunities.
Besides the specific qualities of sites such as
Ecademy, OpenBC and LinkedIn, these platforms have a series of principles in common that are useful for making the most of them.
Here are six key ideas to get the most out of your business networking activities, online or in the real world:

1 – Your network is not your market, but a way to access it
Even if some of your direct contacts may need your services, your network provides you with the opportunity to increase the profitability of your business approach thanks to leveraging.
So do not pitch your network, but pump the contacts who know potential clients.

2 – Winning by sharing
Giving before receiving is often the best way to become known and appreciated by those who could point you to opportunities. Update your contacts regularly without trying to sell at all costs. When they will meet someone who needs your services, it is your name rather than that of another that will come to mind.

3 – Communicate clearly
Your contacts are not necessarily familiar with your business or your job. It is up to you to communicate clearly by reaching out to them. Make sure that they understand what you do or what you are looking for, as only then will they be in a position to help you if the opportunity arises.

4 – Take your time to pamper your network
First, your contacts are not your key-audience, nor partners or potential clients.They are first and foremost human beings with whom you are looking to create a relaxed and pleasant interaction.Take the time to find out more about them, find out if you have anything that can be useful to them, and contact them or answer them in a personalised way.

5 - Participate
Most platforms have forum and blog functionalities.
Participate! By interacting in forums or publishing online content, you are sure to be noticed and increase the chances of useful contacts.

6 - The network will give back to you
Online networking platforms are a multilateral source of opportunities. Also, when you help out a contact, do not expect reciprocity on their part. It is the network that will give back to you and often enough you will get back a hundred times what you put in!To find out more: Ecademy, OpenBC, LinkedIn, Soflow, Viaduc, 6nergies

About the author:
Pierre LEONARD is Founder and Managing Director of the Virtual Words translation agency, which provides a complete range of language services in some 40 European and Asian languages thanks to a global network of 1,500 translators, interpreters, subtitling specialists and other language professionals.

English Translation by Virtual Words

Seven steps to improve the ergonomics of your workstation

By Sacha Kocovski

Freelancer, employee or employer, we all believe in using means that guarantee our well being in the work place. Here are a few tips that will allow everyone to increase his well being by improving his workspace.

1. Listen to your body
Do you feel pain in your back, wrists, hands, neck or shoulders? Your work posture could be the problem!
Arrange your workstation properly and think about improving your posture.
If the pain persists, consult a specialist (i.e. an occupational physician) who will give you the best course of treatment.

2. Vary your posture
To avoid too much weight on one part of your body (back, neck, etc.), vary your work posture as often as possible.
Try to perform repetitive tasks in different ways: sitting, standing, and/or using different movements.

3. See to your seating comfort
Make sure to always have your seating comfort adapted to your morphology and work. Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet are firmly flat on the floor and that your knees are at an angle of about 90°.
Also make sure that your back is well supported by the chair: lower back firmly in the chair, neck straight, shoulders back.

4. Be on the level
Make sure that your forearms are slightly raised and parallel to your desk.
To minimise the risks of developing carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition in which the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist), try not to rest your wrists on the ‘sharp’ side of your desk for long periods of time.

5. Position your screen
The position of the screen is vital. To avoid neck movements, place your screen so that the upper part of the screen is at eye level.
Also, with your back firmly in your chair, you must barely be able to touch your screen.
Finally, position your screen so that no source of light (window lamp, etc.) hinders the legibility of your screen.

6. Tame your mouse
When using your mouse, your arm must be in a comfortable position. Make sure that your mouse is not too far away from you and that your arms are sufficiently supported (using the adjustable armrests, for example).

7. Vary your tasks
Think about using the variety of tasks that make up your work in an effective way. Every now and then, leave your desk to find out about a project from your colleague, file some documents or read a report on paper rather than on screen.

Good luck in your work!

About the author:
As an ergonomics consultant, Sacha Kocovski founded the ERGOLABS group in order to help businesses improve their products and work systems by paying more attention to their users.

To find out more, read Kelly Andrews’ (2004), Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics.

English Translation by Virtual Words

Being the boss

By Sophie Januel

Being the boss is not obvious, and according to a study published in the February 2006 issue of French magazine, L’Entreprise, profiles of European bosses in all sectors oscillate between autocrat, democrat and meritocrat.

La Tribune of 5 December 2005 published an article by Sandrine L’Herminier entitled “What will be the profile of tomorrow’s CEO?”, which provides the following definition: “The CEO of the 21st century will be ephemeral or not at all…” Not everyone can relate to this answer. In fact, the requirements of a microcosm that combines elitism and globalisation do not necessarily correspond to the reality of hundreds of thousands of ‘small bosses’ whose businesses constitute the actual economic fibre of Europe.

Aspiring too much to standardised profiles such as the “standard management aptitudes of global conglomerates with the goal of achieving great figures for the next quarter” type, we forget all about the SME bosses running the show, with ethics and values, and who have the daily task of squaring the circle.

Therefore, let us put these ‘world leader’ profiles aside, and look closer at the bosses who can serve as role models or at least as sources of inspiration and comprehension in matters of living and know-how as a boss.

In this view, the creed that French author Jacques Benoît develops notably in his book Graine d’Ethique takes on all its significance: “Being the boss means doing management, but also doing it with heart”.

This creed relies on the sharp sense of responsibility of a boss or entrepreneur towards his employees and on his pragmatism favouring actually working in serenity and efficiency, which gives meaning to decisions and actions.

According to Jacques Benoît, “the finality of the company is above all human and social”. Besides attempts at commercial and communicative takeovers, ethics are above all a fundamental element, a common denominator of the adhesion and construction of identity of an individual as well as within a group. It is the source of motivation and involvement of people in the company’s ecosystem.

To this day, this theory is still considered out of touch with reality by some, but at least it offers an alternative to the attitude favouring purely financial management.

About the author:
Sophie Januel manages Arcseo Office Management, a company that handles the organisation and external management of SMEs.
First published on 6 February: and

English Translation by Virtual Words

Thursday, June 08, 2006


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