The International Bank of Bob

Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time

If you’re a Kiva lender or might become one, and you wonder what it would be like to talk to the people you invest in—or if you’re anyone who’d like to come along on the travel from Peru to Kenya to Cambodia and onward, asking ordinary people about their work, families, and dreams…

“Give this book your time. It will pay you back.”

Joss Whedon

“Joyous, humane, and inspiring.”
Arianna Huffington
“Enlightening, inspiring, and entertaining.”
Steven Pinker
“Heartwarming and fascinating (and also laugh-out-loud funny).”
“‘Bank of Bob’ Finances $25 Start-Ups”

feature story

San Francisco Chronicle

“An International Financier, on a Teensy Scale”

feature story, “Giving” section

New York Times

… this book is what I’ve found in Rwanda, the Philippines, Lebanon, and all over the world.
I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Get your copy now by clicking one of these fine booksellers:

Where the story takes us

Front Matter Map REVISED

The Story


A writer (me) lucks into a great luxury travel-writing gig, netting about $20K on a round-the-world tour of the world’s fanciest hotels, including one $3 billion Abu Dhabi swankery with no soda machines but an ATM that vends gold bullion.




1HHowever, confronted in my travels by difficult, even heartbreaking labor conditions and poverty almost side-by-side with some of the glitz, I search for some good way to share my windfall.





DobbsFerry204Eventually, after remembering a talk given by Premal Shah, president of, I start looking into microfinance as a grassroots, bottom-up mechanism to sustain and grow local economies.





kiva_logoEventually, I plunge every dime of my luxury travel booty (about $20K) into a boatload of Kiva loans.  But then comes the obvious question: is it doing any good?


IMG_2553And now you’re into the story. From here out, I literally follow the money—from Kiva to their field partners to some of the actual recipients—traveling around the world again, this time to Peru, Bosnia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines, Lebanon, India, and more.





I started with the same questions anyone would probably have. How much do the loans help?  What kind of lenders and products seem to work best? Where things haven’t worked, why?  But there was more to these trips than I’d have ever hoped to ask.




IMG_6327How is technology strikingly different in some parts of the world? How is it that Kenyan farmers do more of their banking on mobile phones than Westerners do?




O JOn a more personal level: how do some people in recent war zones even recover and even thrive, emotionally and economically?





IMG_6682How is your average Ohioan greeted while walking alone in Kigali and Beirut?






1DWhat’s easier to swallow: coffee made from civet poop, or yogurt flavored with charcoal?






And what country might this graffito be in? (Or where might it not be? That’s a much shorter list.)





The International Bank of Bob:

Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time



read the whole story now—also available as an e-book



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Full-on blurbage

“No book this important should be this delightful. Bob Harris’s funny, tender, and incisive opus works as both an engaging personal memoir and a clear introduction to the world of microfinance. Filled with astonishing anecdotes and indelible characters from those corners of the world most of us never explore, Bank of Bob celebrates a process that is improving the lives of millions through a radically simple concept: moving us past the “virtue of charity” to the exultation of connection. Give this book your time. It will pay you back.”
— Joss Whedon, filmmaker, The Avengers
“Surprising in so many ways: a travelogue that makes the people in exotic locales as accessible as your next-door neighbors; a book about poverty alleviation that often makes you laugh out loud (or cry, sometimes on the same page); and a portrayal of loving families in challenging environments that leaves you feeling stronger, more connected to the world, and full of hope. In short: joyous, humane, and inspiring.”
— Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group
“Bob Harris shows us how to save the world without being an insufferable prig — The International Bank of Bob is enlightening, inspiring, and entertaining.”
— Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
“Most travel books promise to transport you to parts of the world you’ve never seen.  This book goes one better: it will take you to places you’d never have the courage to go, to meet people you’d never meet—from a bicycle repairman in the backstreets of Rabat to a pig trader in Tuzla to a barber in Beirut.  And it’s not even a travel book.  It’s a quest!  Bob Harris goes literally (and literarily) to the ends of the earth in order to see first-hand the effects of his microfinancing loans. A writer with a big heart and a keen eye, Harris’s book will make you feel optimistic, inadequate, informed, fortunate, awful, and edified.  It may also inspire you to help change the world. “
— Hart Hanson, creator, executive producer, and writer, Bones
“Read this book. Be amazed by a man as decent as Bob Harris.  Learn how the world works. And be entertained, amused, and enlightened along the way. Seriously. Just by reading a book.”
— Arthur Phillips, author of The Tragedy of Arthur
“What a wonderfully uplifting book—proof positive that small things really can have a huge impact.  This compassionate travelogue through the world of microfinance not only moves you to count your own blessings, it inpires you to want to make a difference in this world—just like Bob has.”
— Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of FlashForward
“Believe it or not—and I know most people don’t—there’s a moral arc that bends toward justice, and the world really is becoming a better place to live.  This is due in part to the spread of democratic institutions from the top down, but the real change is coming from the bottom up from people like Bob Harris and a boots-on-the-ground approach to helping people improve their lives one small loan at a time.  This book is not only inspirational, it is illuminating, enlightening, and well, damn funny!”
— Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Believing Brain
“Truly inspirational.  Ten minutes after I finished this book, The International Bank of Ken opened in Cambodia.”
— Ken Jennings, author of Because I Said So!


The International Bank of Bob:

Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time

just in case you’re reading the page upside down and starting here for some reason

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And if you’re still reading, the stencil “All You Need Is Love” was spray-painted on numerous walls in West Beirut, Lebanon when I visited in 2011.