Loans, lenders, entrepreneurs, businesses… all of these terms can get a bit overwhelming without a proper introduction. When we created the Kiva API we wanted to choose terminology that was objective and easy to understand from a developer (and sometimes, finance) perspective. This means that the language on the Kiva website may not always match up with the terminology in the API – the Kiva website is a dynamic, evolving user experience but the API should be a consistent tool on which your own dynamic applications can depend.
A loan is the most important data object at Kiva. Most other objects are in some way related to a loan. It makes sense; facilitating loans that change lives is at the heart of Kiva's mission. You've probably seen loans referred to as “businesses” or “entrepreneurs” in other places because of the tight relationship between all these concepts. However, in the API, if you want to show a listing of any of these things in your application you should think about fetching and rendering loan objects. For example, from an API perspective, the Lend tab at Kiva.org shows a listing of loans, and the front page of Kiva features a entrepreneur by fetching a loan that is currently fundraising.
A borrower is someone who has requested a loan. We often refer to these individuals as “entrepreneurs” at Kiva because we believe strongly in the entrepreneurial spirit of our borrowers working to make a difference in their lives. A loan may have more than one borrower, and in this case the loan is considered a “group loan.”
A lender is a user registered on the Kiva website for the purposes of lending money and participating in the community. Most lenders have public profiles, or Lender Pages, on Kiva where they can share a bit about what they do and why they lend. Not all lenders have made loans, and not every lender has opted to display public information. Lenders without public information are referred to as "anonymous" lenders.
A partner, or Kiva Field Partner, is a microfinance institution with whom we work to find and fund loans. Every loan at Kiva is offered by a partner to a borrower, and the partner works with Kiva to get funding for that loan from lenders. The association of a loan to a partner is very important since the risk associated with a loan correlates closely to the reputation of a partner. This is why every partner has a risk rating.
Every loan has a journal where Kiva or a partner can provide updates about a loan. Each of these updates is called a “journal entry.” Some journal entries have photos or videos associated with them and provide personal updates about a borrower. Others are more informational or automated updates and are classified as “bulk” journal entries. Lenders can post comments on journal entries.
Lenders can coordinate their activity on Kiva through Lending Teams, found on the Kiva community tab. Teams are usually formed around a common interest (sometimes related to lending, sometimes not) or may represent real-world groups outside of Kiva such as a church or a classroom. Currently, most team activity is centered around making loans as every lender can credit a loan to one team every time a loan is made. As such, teams are associated with both loans and lenders. Teams also have profile information, similar to lenders, where they post a team photo and why the team has come together to loan.