Today’s Revolutionary:


Around 27 centuries BC, the Egyptians “had a set of some 24 hieroglyphs which are called uniliterals, to represent syllables that begin with a single consonant of their language, plus a vowel (or no vowel) to be supplied by the native speaker”.

Really? Who were these people? Who exactly made the leap from sounds to squiggles? Did his or her friends think she or he was nuts? Who can you write to after you invent the idea of alphabet? There was no one else to read what you wrote!

In any case, the alphabet wasn’t invented very many times. Most writing has spread from a single source. Everyone reading this owes a word of thanks to the Egyptians who turned on the Canaanites who inspired the Phonecians, who taught the Greeks, who shared it with the Etruscans, who transferred it to the Romans … and then it got to be now. Thank you Oh Great Unknown Ancestor. The alphabet was a REALLY cool invention!


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Savings Groups are catching on in Europe and North America.

Follow this movement, and maybe get involved yourself.

Start by reading the Northern Lights page of Savings Revolution.

Then, if you like, contact us below, and we can talk about how you can form your own groups. We’ll put you in touch with someone who can help you do that!

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    Favorite Sites

    Here are some other sites that Kim and Paul read, that we think you might enjoy.


    Winkomun: This is a site of the ACAF network, mostly in Europe. They are doing great work and are Northern Lights leaders. Nice video where various members answer the question, “What is a Group”? Also available in español, català, and français. Where else can you get news about Savings Groups in Catalan?

    The SEEP Savings Led Working Group site. Congratulations to SEEP for putting together this comprehensive, easily accessible go-to site on savings groups. Check out their library, their report on outreach by country, and lots of other goodies.

    Village Finance Blog. Brett Hudson Matthew’s thoughtful posts are grounded in an understanding of oral cultures, history, and social dynamics. Recommended for anyone trying to understand what’s really happening in savings groups. 

    Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion at UC Irvine. “Its mission is to support research on money and technology among the world’s poorest people. We seek to create a community of practice and inquiry into the everyday uses and meanings of money, as well as … technological infrastructures”. ‘Nuff said.

    David Roodman’s Microfinance Open Book Blog. David Roodman combines intelligence, honesty, and a sense of humor. He attempts to bring intellectual rigor to the analysis of the impact of financial services, and isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers in the process.

    Clean Air, Bright Light. This site by Savings Revolution co-founder Paul Rippey contains useful information about lessons learned in using savings groups to promote clean lighting. Still in development but check it out anyway!

    Center for Financial Inclusion. CFI supports traditional microfinance to become more client friendly, more inclusive, and generally smarter. They have a long-term vision for the sector, and the blog attracts many good writers and thoughtful comments.








    Financial Promise for the Poor 

    Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Bulld Microsavings is your go-to book on savings groups. Its contributors are authors you often read in this blog. It covers current innovations in microsavings happening around the world.

    Also, don’t miss…

    Savings Groups at the Frontier, the book inspired by the 2011 Savings Group Summit!

    Buy in UK or US.

    Search Savings Revolution


    Over the last twenty years, many people have become interested in helping poor people around the world get good financial services. Mohammed Yunus and the institution he founded, the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, won a Noble Prize in 2006 for helping start a movement that has brought financial services to millions around the world. 

    Banks and microfinance institutions are one way to bring financial series to the poor. Savings Groups, managed by the members and based on savings rather than debt, are another solution. In fact, we think they’re such a good solution that they really are revolutionary.

    Savings Groups are self-selected groups of 15 to 30 women and men who get together to save and borrow. Rather than go into debt to an external institution, they manage their own savings through transparent procedures and all the money they earn through interest on loans stays in their village, and in their group.

    This seven-minute video is a great short introduction to savings groups:

    A number of international non-profit organizations work with local partners to train people in villages and cities in how to manage their own savings groups. There are now over five million savings group members in Africa alone, and the movement is also growing in Asia and Latin America. (There are even a few groups in Europe and North America).

    Savings Revolution is designed to help you learn more about Savings Groups, and to get involved with the most exciting new approach to bringing safe financial services to people around the world.


    When money flows into informal groups

    I had the pleasure of being at the end of a distinguished chain passing along a new study. (Dale Adams sent it to Hugh Allen who shared it with Savings Revolution). It’s called Outside Funding and the Dynamics of Participation in Community Associations, by two researchers with excellent credentials who were not familiar to me at all: Mary Kay Gugerty of the University of Washington and Michael Kremer of Harvard University. 

    Click to read more ...


    Whither the Savings Group?

    In the introduction of a recent recruitment notice:

    “…is proposing to set up a long-term Technical Assistance Facility in Sub-Saharan Africa that will support various financial services providers to extend financial services to the unbanked/underserved through innovative group savings mobilization products and other financial services, including credit, payments, and insurance, with the overall objective of improving household’s [sic] access to financial products and services. In particular, the Facility will focus on partnering with local institutions that utilize a number of financial products and innovative delivery channels to those facing the greatest financial exclusion, such as women, young people, small-holder farmers, and people living in remote areas.

    Click to read more ...


    Beauty and Savings Groups

    I saw this Savings Group (formed by Cadecom) in Mchinji Distric in Malawi earlier this week. It was a high performing group by almost any measure - and I’d like to talk about some measures that we don’t usually use.

    I thought there was something elegant and beautiful about the group. Not only did they take the time to seat themselves in an almost perfect circle, but they were in lovely uniforms that they had bought from their savings, every one spotlessly clean and pressed. They just looked great.

    For me, elegance and beauty are ends in themselves. So are service and integrity. So are music and art. Do you ever get tired of the non-stop conversations about business plans, return on investment, incentive

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    How cool is Digit?

    I just came across Digit, a new phone app which cleverly observes your cashflow patterns, and decides how much you can painlessly save. It starts out cautiously, transferring small sums from your bank account to a special Digit savings account. If this seems to be okay with you, it will gradually become bolder, and have you save a little more. You can move your money back from their account

    Click to read more ...


    SG2015: The Power of Savings Groups

    Every two years, the Savings Group community has been getting together to meet and greet, talk and squalk, wheel and deal, and party hearty. This is the place where donors and grantees have lunch, linkers and whatever you call the opposite of linkers have animated conversations, big and small implementers get together in the evening, and lots of ideas flow. The SG conferences have been different - more participative, more fun, more honest exchanges, than many other conferences I have attended. 

    This year - as you see above - SG2015 will be in Lusaka Zambia. There are many details still to announce, including the exact dates in November (which will be announced soon). You can sign up to receive regular announcements by clicking here. But now, at least, you can begin to plan - don’t schedule ANYTHING ELSE in NOVEMBER! Tell your friends and family - That’s it! End of story: We’re going to Lusaka!

    Big thanks to SEEP for doing all the hard work of organizing this conference.


    Look Ma - No hands!

    A conversation with my colleague Gena, who is new to Savings Groups:
    Gena: Paul, are you telling me that people just stay in Savings Groups all their lives, just saving and borrowing?
    Paul: Some people do.

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    Savings groups and skills development: A pathway for youth economic strengthening

    A recent Microlinks post notes that savings groups – in combination with skills development and entrepreneurial activity – is a promising strategy to build the economic capacity of youth. Plan International’s Youth Microfinance Project (YMF) has demonstrated success in this area through an integrated youth economic empowerment program that has promoted youth savings groups (YSGs) and delivered financial education, life skills and entrepreneurship training to 90,000 youth in West Africa. Evidence of impact and lessons learned are presented here.

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    New paper on innumeracy, illiteracy and financial inclusion

    This new paper, Oral Information Management Tools: Lighting the Path to Financial Inclusion, addresses the challenge of innumeracy and illiteracy in financial inclusion, with frequent reference to savings groups. Practitioners know that these constraints can cause people to avoid savings groups, or use them sub-optimally. The paper introduces oral information management (OIM) solutions. It includes examples from Cambodia, Bangladesh and the Solomon Islands, proposes a set of core principles for OIM

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    Greeting as a basic human need

    A very poor Malian woman joined Nyesigiso - the big network of cooperatives in Mali that I was then the director of. Remarkably she was able to save some money, and borrowed some also, and went into business. It was a very small business - it started with 1500 francs, about three dollars. The business grew, and she began to acquire some assets and more important, confidence. We wanted to see what the impact of membership was, especially on the businesses of our members, so we brought some consultants in to do a qual-quan impact study. I went out in the field to spend some time with the members, and I met this woman and asked her what had changed in her life. “People greet me now,” was the unexpected response. 

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    2014: some reflections

    Having done virtually no field work this year I’ve had more time away from the minutiae of individual projects to follow some of the broader themes I find interesting and relevant. As the year draws to a close, I was asked “what have you been thinking about?” and so I found myself pondering what has been — if not to try and figure out what might be, to at least take stock of where we’re at.

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    The Non-Consumer Advocate

    There are some great websites that are swimming against the current of consumerism. Here’s one, from Portland, where I live: The Non-Consumer Advocate. It consistently makes the point that the quality of our lives is not measured by the stuff that we own.

    This idea is a stick in the wheel, or a spanner in the works, of the consumer banking industry. If people made do with less, we wouldn’t need credit card debt, and then - what would happen to the banks? We need to be courageous to think about living that differently. If China had to close some of their coal-powered planet-destroying factories, if Walmart’s

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    In Search Of: Social Fund Stories!

    Each spring, Philanthropiece hosts a Community Bank Conference in Baja California Sur, Mexico, that offers a space for savings group members from the region to gather to share experiences and to learn from one another. The conference features workshops, dialogues, and learning sessions that allow local leaders to grow and deepen their understanding of the methodology. We will hold our next conference in March of 2015, and we plan to highlight the role of the Social Fund within a savings group.

    Click to read more ...


    Puddle jumping

    Some of you are following Puddle, the US based on-line savings and lending programme. Puddle is still evolving rapidly, but it’s also a functioning service where lots of people are actively saving and borrowing - I’ve invested all of twelve dollars, just to be a member and follow its progress.

     I was excited to see this message from Puddle a couple of days ago:

     Starting today, you can borrow more on Puddle by building trust. 
    To access more money, you can simply trust your friends on Puddle. When a

    Click to read more ...


    Trim Tabs and Savings Groups

    Good development work is about putting in small inputs which help existing systems work better. To get the maximum impact, you want the inputs to be smaller and the impact to be larger. So to use the old example, a good project doesn’t give a woman a fish, it teaches her to fish. 
    But Better Projects don’t teach a woman to fish. Instead, they create a sustainable fishing school where lots of women can come to learn to fish.
    But Even Better projects don’t create a fishing school. Instead, they empower the Ministry of Marine Resourses to create specialty schools.

    Click to read more ...