Today’s Revolutionary:  Mike Nichols


Mike Nichols, shown here with his comedy partner Elaine May, was an American comedian, playwright, actor, and director, and one of the few people who in his career won an Emmy award (for television), a Grammy (music), an Oscar (movies), and a Tony Award (Broadway). He is best known to many of us for directing some memorable movies including The Graduate, Catch 22 and  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf - but I first heard of him when he and Elaine May were doing improvisational comedy gigs in small clubs. They would ask an audience member to give them a first line to a skit, and another to give them the last, and then, with no rehearsal or prior conversation, would act out a short play that began with the first line, ended with the second, and - sort of - made sense! They became very popular and raised the bar for improvisation. Nichols just passed away, a few days after his 83 birthday.  

Catch up on over 200 previous “Today’s Revolutionaries” here.


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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.

    In Their Own Hands - Discussion, photos, and blog postings inspired by the new book by Jeff Ashe and Kyla Jagger Neilan. Jeff Ashe has done more different things well in bringing financial services for the poor than anyone I can think of, and this rich experience is reflected in the book. Totally recommended.

    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.

    Making the Road - a blog by Bill Maddocks. “Through honesty, courage and persistent inquiry we learn the way forward as development practitioners and human beings.” Bill brings rich experience not just with development work, but with life, to these discussions. 

    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!

    The Evidence Project. Chris Dunford was CEO of Freedom From Hunger for many years and probably more than anyone helped FFH earn a reputation of being willing to look closely at what they were doing, and whether they really were meeting people’s needs. Chris continues that role now as a blogger…

    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.


    Which "Savings" - spend later, or don't spend at all?

    Like so many English words, “Save” has multiple senses, so that people talking about “saving” might think they agree, when they don’t - or vice versa. 

    Let me turn to my dictionary: Here are two of the four meanings of Save:

    First, Save means, “keep and store up (something, esp. money) for future use

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    e-Recording reaches Rwanda - part 2

    It has been nearly five months since World Relief first attempted to pilot the e-Recording app in Rwanda. We have since retooled and launched. As I wrote in the first installment we had problems with our smartphone, which had trouble staying connected to the internet. It was an old and very cheap phone, so we knew if we were to give it another try we would have to purchase a new phone. We are now using a Motorola Moto-E, which costs around $130. It’s about $30 more expensive than the smartphones being used in other pilots, but boasts a

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    How to save a lot of money! (unless you are poor)

    Comcast is the largest cable company in the world, with revenue of USD 65 billion a year. On two occasions, national surveys found that Comcast had the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the country, worse even than the Internal Revenue Service. Comcast recently got some particularly bad publicity when

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    Who's gonna save your e-Soul?

    When we do things digitally, we leave behind us a sparkling trail of data. Supermarkets record our sales, credit cards record our purchases, our GPS records our travel, airlines record the cities we visit, bankers record our transactions, Google and Bing record our searches, doctors record our visits, and our internet provider and email service keep records of everything we send and receive.

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    A short history of Puddles

    Our friends at Puddle have put together a nice short illustrated history of Puddles, which is an exciting and growing branch of the family tree of savings groups, and a leading Northern Light. Click, read and enjoy!


    Excellence, Part 2: Bad things happen

    Looking through `Excellence, Part 1´ (and reflecting back on ‘Please shut your marketing mouth´) I wonder how many programmes really care about how good their SGs are.  Paul put his finger on it when he said ` professions have very high standards and very low tolerance of failure, and those who fail have to leave the profession.´ Wow!  A revolutionary thought on Savings Revolution!!  I jest. I think that maybe half of our programmes have high standards and a low tolerance of failure.  Most others, I think, subscribe to high standards, and don’t really worry that much if they fall short - or if, here and there, bad stuff happens.

    OK, bad stuff does happen. It can’t be prevented. But it CAN be minimised.

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    Thulisile Sithole – Proud homeowner

    Thulisile Sithole (33) is a member of Ikhwezi SCG (savings and credit group) in Limehill, a peri-urban area in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, which formed with support of SaveAct. The SCG – among the first to be formed in the area in October 2012 – currently has 20 members, three men and 17 women.

    Thulisile is married and has three children aged seven, five and one. She also adopted her brother-in-law’s daughter (now aged five) when he

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    Return to "Tool vs. Machine"

    I was reading Paul’s blog post Tool vs. the Machine and had a few thoughts.

    I’m excited by e-recording - which may be a problem. Should we expect that our passion for everything cellular may not be widely shared?

    One of the really interesting findings of research into M-pesa is that while daily volume is massive, individual balances are less than $3. It seems that while people will trust the system with their money for very short periods of time, they haven’t yet swooned over the opportunity to keep it on a ‘phone for the long-term when a bank is just down the road. The

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    Horticultural Community Entrepreneurship (HCE)

    We have come to appreciate within the two years of the HCE project in Cambodia, funded by the UC Davis Horticultural Innovations Lab and USAID, that bringing together disaggregated members of smallholder farming communities into savings groups is as important for scaling up the production of healthy and nutritious foods as the introduction of new farming technologies and practices. This pilot study examines how

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    Bitcoin Bites Back 

    In an earlier post, I tried, without success, to use bitcoin. Prior to writing that post, I was a believer in this new counterculture currency. Would this be something savings group members would like? Bitcoin seemed cool, subversive in a Height-Ashbury kind of way,

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    Bit Coin - A New Guest At the Roach Motel

    Inclusionistas rest assured. You don’t need to know too much about bitcoin to know that it is not a financial inclusion option.  Essentially, bitcoin is to money what the Roach Motel is to roaches. You can check in but never check out. 

    Click to read more ...


    Inside a Banker's Mind

    The other day I had lunch with an old acquaintance, an African banker. I don’t think he would mind if I used his name, but I haven’t asked his permission, so I’ll call him Mr. B.

    Mr. B is a good guy. He has worked with his bank to make it very easy for people without a lot of money to open an account and do business with the bank. He is using technology in creative ways, and I love it that lots of people who have never had a bank account before now have a convenient way to get the security

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    Hugh Allen on working with SGs...

    I spend most of my time in Africa helping to set up savings groups. These are small informal associations, made up of 15-25 people (mostly women) who regularly meet to save. The money is used as a loan fund, from which anyone in the group can borrow, paid back with interest - at a rate set by the group. At the end of a year all the loans are paid back (defaulting is very rare) and the money is shared out in proportion to what each person has saved. The returns are very high, averaging between 20-30%, because no-one receives a salary and the ‘office’ is usually under a tree! No wonder then that members prefer to save their money in the group instead of a bank, where they get no returns and charges eat away at their savings. I am constantly amazed to be paid for doing this and, in 44 years in development work, have never had such fun and felt so rewarded.

    (This originally appeared in the Guardian Newspaper Unusual Jobs section).


    Imagining a world without banks

    National Public Radio has an interesting podcast called “A World Without Banks”. Here’s what they say on their site:

    There’s this big idea floating around right now. It sounds crazy and fringey, but it turns out some non-crazy, non-fringey people are into it. The idea is this: let’s get rid of the banks. Don’t make them safer. Don’t make them smaller. Just get rid of them.

    The podcast talks about peer-to-peer lending and other new technology-driven possibilities. Sometimes entire industries disappear when

    Click to read more ...