Today’s Revolutionary:
Pablo Fanque


“Pablo Fanque” -Does that name ring a faint bell? Oh, of course! From Sgt. Pepper! John Lennon’s song: 

For the benefit of Mr. Kite/There will be a show tonight/ on Trampoline. The Hendersons will all be there/Late of Pablo Fanque’s fair/What a scene!

I’ve heard this song a hundred times, and sung it myself a thousand times, with no idea who on earth Pablo Fanque was. Fanque was born William Darby on 28 February, 1796. The son of a slave, Darby apprenticed to a circus, and had enough talent that he started performing as both a tightrope walker, and then gained fame as an outstanding equestrian and horse trainer. At one point, he was invited to perform before the Queen. He started his own circus, and for 30 years, it was the most successful circus in England, and the only one belonging to a person of color. 

When he became famous, he adopted the stage name of Pablo Fanque.  He died at the age of 75. A hundred and some years later, John Lennon happened to buy an old circus poster, advertising 

Grandest Night of the Season!…
Lennon moved the words around, put music to them, and the rest is history.


(If this means nothing to you, well … it’s a long story. You see, there was an English band called ‘The Beatles’…)


Catch up on over 250 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.


    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.

    Nanci Lee’s blog. Nanci Lee’s eclectic site includes Savings Groups, and also poetry, travel, links to interesting successes around the world, nature, art, women’s rights, and transformation. A very personal blog, and worth reading.







    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.


    Let's Look Before We Leap

    I recently was asked to read a draft of an academic paper on the pitfalls of microcredit and the virtues of savings groups. The paper tidily summed up the false assumptions of microcredit, all in hindsight of course, which included: poor people use loans to build their businesses; poor people are entrepreneurial; credit is the key ingredient to micro-business growth. And so on.

    Click to read more ...


    The Supply-Centricity of Customer-Centricity

    Today, I used my smart phone to pound tiny nails into a wall. The procedure worked well enough to hang a small picture, but it cracked my phone case. 

    I wasn’t trying to go digital by using a mobile device. I simply could not find the proper tool – a hammer. The episode made me think that going hammer-lite would be silly for a pounding task. I really needed a hammer. If I were trying to tighten a screw, a task I just had to do on a door handle, I suppose I could go screw-driver lite. I could try to wedge a tag of the broken phone casing into the screw’s octagonal chamber, then give it a twist. It might work. But an Allen wrench might work better. 

    So, in financial inclusion why are we trying to go “cash lite?” Cash can be a sturdy pair of pliers that turn income into neat, countable paper stacks – one pushed into the desk drawer for buying groceries and another plopped into a tin for evenings out. Cash can also be a wrench, torqued just so, to help us make sure that we have enough coins to pay the parking attendant or enough paper to pay ourselves when we feel the need to devise a personal austerity plan. 

    Click to read more ...


    Why I don't share in the enthusiasm for "Financial Inclusion"

    I have four friends who lost their homes during the financial crisis, or who are in danger of losing them. In every case, they say, “We were naive. We shouldn’t have taken the mortgage (or the second mortgage). But it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was our fault, but it was also the banker’s fault. They misled us.

    Four families, losing their homes.

    The banks took the money and ran.

    Click to read more ...


    Video on Saving for Change

    Here’s a great short video on the Saving for Change project in Mali produced by the Bureau for Applied Research and Anthropology of the University of Arizona. 

    It’s one of the best videos I’ve ever seen. It shows real conflicts, real results, real process. Savings Groups are sometimes messy and this video doesn’t mind showing that. Plus, it’s well produced and entertaining! I especially like the part around 8:20, where group members discuss their business with a lot of passion!


    Enoughness and Experimentation: Blended Learning Opportunity

    We know that we work in situations of complexity, unpredictability. So why do we keep approaching problems and analysis in the same way?

    There is a global movement committed to do things differently. From the collective impact movement in North America  to the “Doing Development Differently” agenda, we’ve learned that we have to operate more like the entrepreneurs we are working to support.

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    Great review, great book

    Here’s a link to an excellent review of In Their Own Hands: How Savings Groups are Revolutionizing Development, by Jeffrey Ashe and Kyla Jagger Neilan - just published in the Enterprise Development and Microfinance journal. It begins:

    The spread and success of savings groups may not be news for
    financial inclusion and enterprise development practitioners.
    However, in their recent book – In Their Own Hands: How Savings
    Groups are Revolutionizing Development
    – microfinance and savings
    group pioneer Jeffrey Ashe and colleague Kyla Jagger Neilan inspire us with the vision, the history, the statistics, and the stories of savings groups, a simple mechanism that is catalysing poverty reduction for millions worldwide.  

    Does the review make you want to read the book? 

    Good! You can get it here.





    Outside the categories of the marketplace

    In his EvangelIi Gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation), Pope Francis says that ethics “calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace.”  What a wonderful phrase!

    The categories of the marketplace that Francis is referring to are things like profit and loss, return on investment, market share, business cases, and financial inclusion.

    We have, maybe unknowingly, maybe indifferently, often let these categories become the sole points of reference for discussions of what is

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    Digital IDs and the Peer-to-Peer alternative

    I came across this discussion on the MicroSave website:

    Why Financial Inclusion May Well Depend on Cyber ID Data: Digital IDs are quick and cost-effective – but more data on unbanked customers is needed

    Among the obstacles to digital financial inclusion is the challenge of serving people who lack traditional identity data. But as Trulioo founder Stephen Ufford explains, our online activity creates a digital footprint that can be used to identify us quickly and cost-effectively. He describes how Trulioo is

    Click to read more ...


    The Savings Group Tiger and the Banking Shark

    Tiger and Shark are both convinced they are the Most Strongest of All Animals.

    Crab tells Tiger that he overheard Shark bragging about how he could beat anyone! Outraged, Tiger runs down to the beach, and bellows to Shark that he is ready to fight to show the world who really is the Most Strongest. 

    Shark says, “Bring it on! I’m ready to fight. I’m the Most Strongest and I’ll prove it!”
    There is a long pause. Nothing happens. Awkward!
    Finally, Shark says, “I’m waiting.”

    Click to read more ...


    Would I save my own money here?

    Here’s a good question to ask when one encounters a savings group: “Would I save my own money in it”?

    I’ve used the following two videos in workshops to illustrate the point - I would personally save in one of these groups, but in the other, I’d be afraid that I’d never find my money again. Too many hands touching it, nobody checking the record keeper. The other meeting is just about perfect.

    Click to read more ...


    Savings Revolution does it again! (But maybe for the last time)

    Dear Readers,

    The next three posts are all April Fools jokes. There is no board game about Impact Evaluation, I (Paul Rippey) did not write a book called In My Own Hands, and to the best of my knowledge, there are no savings groups in North Korea. (And, if you saw the April First Today’s Revolutionary, let me be clear that Poutine is NOT a wonder food recommended by doctors for a variety of healh issues). These were all jokes.

    I learned today that there is a backlash going on against April Fools Jokes on the Internet. If I am sitting with you and tell you an April Fools Joke, I will make sure that you get that it is a joke before I leave you. But that’s not possible on the interenet. I know some of you read the posts quickly (like I myself do) and believed them. Also, the whole April Fools thing isn’t practiced the same way in different cultures. It would be easy for some of our readers, who come from nearly 100 countries, to misinterpret.  

    I’m not sure we should do April Fools jokes on Savings Revolution. We’ve got a year to figure that out! In the meantime, thank you for reading the serious stuff!



    Impact evaluation, now a board game!

    If rigorous impact evaluation can improve the lives of poor people in developing countries, why couldn´t it improve yours? But few of us have the time or inclination to fill in the necessary questionnaires, the discipline to refrain from polluting behaviors that can get in the way of precise measurement, and the patience to wait a couple of years to get the results. Gamification may hold the answer: if it makes you do and buy things online that you otherwise wouldn´t do and buy, why not gamify your self-improvement research? 

    Click to read more ...


    Paul Rippey’s New Book Launches

    I am thrilled to announce the publication of In My Own Hands: How Three Decades of Work in Pro-Poor Finance brought me Real Estate, a Stock Portfolio, and Diamond Elite Status on Delta Airlines. This is a book I had to write. It shows how my work bringing financial services to the world’s poorest people led my family and me to live in beautiful villas, send the children to private schools, and attend sumptuous conferences in cities from Frankfurt to Seattle, Washington to Cape Town. For young people with a passion to make people’s lives better,  the book is full of useful hints on loopholes in US tax law, maximizing reimbursables, and managing household help.

    Click to read more ...


    North Korea leads world in Savings Groups!

    Kim Jong-Un, The Glorious Village Agent, has brought village level savings to all Korean peasants, factory workers, and party members. The Great Facilitator invented Savings Groups twelve months ago while piloting his jet fighter and at the very same instant writing an opera of extraordinary beauty. He immediately put in place a cascade training structure that brought these wonderful creations to all the citizens of the Democrate Republic of North Korea in only three days.
    Already, Savings Groups have raised the standard of living of Korean workers, pushing them even further ahead of our brothers and sisters in the South, who toil away in near slavery at Samsung, Boeing and Starbucks. There has never been poverty in our land,

    Click to read more ...