Today’s Revolutionary:

Okay, okay, I know that Arizona has come down on the wrong side of some issues. For instance, in this state bathed in sunlight, they have a tax on rooftop solar collectors. Don’t get me started on that.

But I also admire their extreme independence, even when they are wrong - and sometimes they are right. For instance, they have refused to participate in the national nuttiness that is Daylight Savings Time. Arizonans say, reasonably, If you want more sunlight, just get up earlier. Good for them. End of story.



Check out over 300 other 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.


    « Less is More? »

    Dear Readers – A few days ago several savings group fans had a discussion on whether promoters of groups had a responsibility to layer on other activities that might ultimately benefit group members. Many promoters of groups believe that groups make an excellent platform for services in agriculture, health care, climate change, energy, etc. Others believe that savings group promotion should stay minimalist – that good savings groups will unlock the funds and empowerment needed for members to attract other valuable resources. We believe Hugh Allen did a terrific job defending a minimalist, standardized approach to savings group promotion. What do you think?

    From Paul Rippey to Hugh Allen. ( and I believe that if an institution - any institution - doesn’t include climate change in its strategic thinking, it isn’t thinking very well. It’s not just one issue out of many screaming for attention; it’s the cross-cutting issue of our times that will profoundly affect all of our lives, and increasingly so for subsequent generations.

    Hugh’s Allen’s Response to Paul. As it happens Paul, I agree with you, entirely and without a hint of irony, about climate change (my office in Solingen hit 35 C this last summer).  But what if, as a programme promoter, I think other things are more important?  Should I be taught Right Thinking?   

    At the back of what I’m saying is that poor people are really quite wise about what ails them and much more capable of dealing with the issues than we think they are.  This is what savings groups have taught me and would be a useful default concept to apply in determining where (and if) we should make the effort.  

    To Which Kim Wilson Responded. If the poor are as wise as you say - or perhaps not very wise but at least as wise as the rich - then they will in fact be able to discern truth from rubbish. So will the field officers. We already have savings group field officers on a forced march, why not add a little sparkle that they and locals find useful? Savings group field officers might glad sell useful products or provide relevant messages in climate change, health or agriculture.  

    Hugh Allen’s Response to Kim and Paul.  In development we always talk about sustainability and empowerment and then always find reasons why what we’ve done is not enough: why the gains may be insufficient and the participants still vulnerable. But what we rarely consider is that whatever extra we decide upon may not be essential and may undermine what we allege to prize so much about savings groups: their autonomy, self-confidence and the ability to manage their own development agenda.  After all, if we are still there, we prove that we think they remain in some way deficient and ‘in need’.

    I know that proponents of making use of groups as a development platform will always talk about how they plan not to make such mistakes. But do they pass this on to an over-zealous FO with productivity targets to reach and an underlying disbelief in the rights and capabilities of the poor?  And, in all of my working life, I have never come across a programme that packs up its toolkit and moves on because it is convinced it’s done enough? Unless the money runs out. 

    But let me tell you a tale which may explain why I think the way I do.

    Between 2001 and 2004 I was the Country Director for ApproTEC in Tanzania.  We worked with the private sector to have commercial enterprises produce, distribute and sell high-quality treadle-pumps through a commercial chain comprised of a manufacturer, 3 wholesalers and 56 retailers.  We followed up 150 pump buyers and found that the average farmer who spent $120 on a pump and some pipes made an extra $777 per year over the next three years.  All we did was provide risk-management incentives to the supply chain and thereafter left them alone to get on with it.  

    Enter the FAO, which enquired of us why we weren’t engaged in helping farmers who practiced irrigated horticulture to plan their production and planting cycles; nor helping them with marketing advice and the supply of other inputs.  We said that this wasn’t our business, so the FAO generously agreed to fund a study in which they asked us to track two cohorts for two years: 50 people who just bought pumps from a selection of retail stores and an additional 50 who also bought from the same stores and to whom we provided the services recommended by the FAO.  We had a pretty decent income measurement tool and did as they asked and after two years analyzed the results.  Both cohorts had increased production and income, but, on average, by almost exactly the same amount.  When we enquired more deeply we discovered that what the FAO recommended was being practiced by both cohorts.  Since we had unlocked the major constraint to production, both sets of farmers were equally motivated to study and solve the barriers to increased output.  It would seem that people who were left on their own were able to react in a more dynamic and positively self-interested fashion than the FAO had predicted. Once again, we had all assumed that poor people had needs that called for external solution (reflecting their presumed condition of helplessness) and under-estimated their capacities.   

    As a result of this work, we stuck to promoting the sale of pumps and, after 3 years and 10,000 pump sales were able to infer from our research a  financial impact of $43.18 million.  We concluded that because all the other stuff would have cost about the same as setting up the marketing chain, we would have reduced the economic impact by about $20 million for no discernable economic benefit.  The point here is that what the FAO suggested we try sounded a logical thing to do, but it turned out to be much less necessary than everyone assumed.  Maybe we should ask ‘why?’ more often and be less inclined to ask ‘why not?’

    If I carry this argument further in order to address the question as to why I’m uneasy about NGOs looking on groups as a way of getting a new product into the village (such as solar lamps) I would ask if there was work being done to develop a commercial distribution system, independent of groups, so that lamps were stocked in local retail stores, where shopkeepers could extol their benefits (if the margins are right), make money on the deal and continue to buy from a wholesaler.  Maybe there is, I don’t know, but I could guarantee to move many thousands of lamps in this way, through channels that are set up to do such work and which profit financially from the practice of their speciality. 

    Finally, I know I may appear to hold rigid views on what constitutes a ‘proper’ SG, but I hope it’s not true (it might be).  Basically, I don’t think it matters whose methodology is used, so long as the basic principles are the same and the delivery system is professional.  But I do believe that once you’ve decided on a methodology (and have proven that it’s cost-effective and creates strong, profitable and stable groups), it’s necessary (if you want to go to scale) to standardize what you do so that everyone knows their job and enjoys doing it.  Allowing for evolution is essential if new insights, practice and technology are to be brought into play but it needs to be a managed learning process that leads to an improved way of doing things that is, to some degree, standardized. 


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