Today’s Revolutionary:  Gregor Mendel


Gregor Johann Mendel (20 July 1822 – 6 January 1884) was a scientist and Augustinian friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Though farmers had known for centuries that crossbreeding of animals and plants could favor certain desirable traits, Mendel’s pea plant experiments conducted between 1856 and 1863 established many of the rules of heredity.
Mendel worked with seven characteristics of pea plants: plant height, pod shape and color, seed shape and color, and flower position and color. With seed color, he showed that when a yellow pea and a green pea were bred together their offspring plant was always yellow. However, in the next generation of plants, the green peas reappeared at a ratio of 1:3. To explain this phenomenon, Mendel coined the terms “recessive” and “dominant” in reference to certain traits. (In the preceding example, green peas are recessive and yellow peas are dominant.) He published his work in 1866, demonstrating the actions of invisible “factors”—now called genes—in providing for visible traits in predictable ways.



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.

    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.


    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

    nclusionistas 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. 

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    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

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    New film about SGs from FSD Kenya

    Here’s a film we just made about FSD Kenya’s work with Savings Groups. We hope you enjoy it.


    The Inclusionist Vs. The Affordable Care Act*

    A few months ago, the instructor of a user design workshop challenged the class to redraft the website, the official site of the Affordable Care Act.

    In a flash, my 23-year old classmate and team member, Sam, deftly sketched out a new landing page and a few forms. We had time left over to chat. It was Sam’s chance to question the very existence of the site itself.

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    Shared Value Communities - trust, sharing, collective intelligence

    A famous 16th century Portuguese poet, Luis Vaz de Camões, once wrote: necessity refines ingenuity. In our brave new world of scarcity, ACAF Portugal is focused on delivering social impact to improve this country’s low level of interpersonal trust (one of the lowest levels in OECD countries). This lack of trust undermines cooperation, initiative and sustainability, a trend we aim to stop. We also want to help prevent poverty and unemployment through our Shared Value Communities, a way to generate and manage collective intelligence and resources.

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    Tool vs. Machine

    E.F.Schumacher, the economist who promoted “human scale” development, distinguished between a tool and a machine in this famous passage from the chapter Buddhist Economics in his book, Small is Beautiful:
    … there are therefore two types of mechanisation which must be clearly distinguished: one that enhances a man’s skill and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in a position of having to serve the slave. How to tell the one from the other?

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    How does that game work?

    By the time my daughter Sayer was six years old, she had learned how to play games on our old Apple computer. Once when I had brought some work home from my office on my laptop, Sayer came up and looked at my screen. “What’s the name of that game, Daddy”, she asked? 
    I smiled, and said, “Excel”. Sayer asked how you played it, and I showed her how to add three and three. I never told her that most people don’t consider Excel a game
    I thought of that incident when I visited a savings group in in Caimito Dominican Republic today. The group was made up of young people, led by the President, Adelarissa, aged nine. The group is in its third

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    If you care about health, read this

    If you work in savings groups and at the same time you are working to reduce the impact of malaria (like Savings for Change in Mali) or of HIV (like many USAID programmes) or to improve maternal and child health (like the Aga Khan Chitral Child Survival project in Pakistan), read on…

    A new World Health Organisation report says that air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths a year. Most of these are due to indoor air pollution, from primitive lighting (like the open flame kerosene lantern in the picture at the left) or from inefficient ways of burning charcoal or firewood. That is more deaths than HIV and malaria combined - that’s hard to believe, I know. 

    And when people don’t die, they are often injured. Carbon monoxide weakens immune systems. Kerosene spills and burns children. Houses catch on fire. 

    Click to read more ...