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.



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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.


    « Proof the "add-ons" work. Really. »

    I have recently noticed that in most of the places I work, regardless of where they are in their post-conflict/post-disaster recovery process, some form of saving group seems appropriate to meet financial needs. Am I just blinded by my own enthusiasm? Or are savings groups, around for millennium in so many cultures including my own, really a globally good idea?

    While the evidence is still growing from various places – IRC included – and the data collection efforts lead by Hugh Allen and VSLA Associates will add a great deal, I am “cautiously optimistic” we may have a model that really reaches across so many of our perceived programming boundaries (urban/rural, stable/unstable, age, gender and vulnerability). We are also starting to develop a body of evidence that VSLAs, coupled with activities that encourage other critical changes at the household level can make a significant difference.

    My last post told the story about women savings group members in Ivory Coast during and after the horrific conflict in 2011.  Now, I turn to those add-ons or so called “Other Activities”.

    IRC recently did a series of academic research projects, in collaboration with some of the premier research bodies, on the impacts of Savings Groups in Burundi. For those of you not familiar with Burundi it is a nation still recovering from decades of conflict that claimed 300,000 lives and forced over a million people to flee their homes. Since 2003, over 500,000 refugees have returned to the country and the potential for political instability remains high. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world. 

    IRC and it academic partners conducted two randomized controlled trails (RCTs) focused on two main questions:

    1. Do Village Savings and Loan Associations improve economic outcomes of poor households?
    2. Can “Other Activities” have successful, measureable and attributable impacts?

    Each RCT addressed the impact of its “add-on” or OA (other activity).

    • ·         One intervention had a “Healing Families and Communities” discussion series designed to improve child well being in the home.
    • ·         The other focused safer and more equitable gender and power dynamics in the household with the discussion series “Talking


    One of the most interesting things about these two studies (as if the answers to the first question would not be interesting enough!) is that they were designed to show attribution. They were designed to show if the discussion series (the OA) was contributing to positive results outside of  those that could be due to just having more money in the house (again, who can deny that more money in the house is not excellent in itself? I know I strive towards it daily).

    I am not going to go over all the results – but suffice it to say, they all worked. Now, I have to say I was shocked. Really.  Results showing savings groups have an impact on household expenditures and poverty reduction were not surprising to me personally, however much they are gratifying. However, I have long thought that these OAs were of questionable attributable impact. I always thought “when you have more income, of course your power and well-being will improve”. This assumption of mine was also proven to be questionable, so perhaps I am not so reliable. But the fact that these discussion groups, designed to have a light enough touch to not over-burden the key function of the VSLAs,  showed measurable and attributable impact was quite a revelation.

    The “Talking about Talking” series showed the incidences of intimate partner violence (IPV) and the acceptance of violence decreased.  Women reported increased decision making and use of negation skills. The “Healing Families and Communities” series showed instances of harsh discipline decreased and child well-being and mental health improved. These studies are here on the savings revolution website in the resource section, and so if you are curious as to what was measured and how it was measured I would encourage you to check them out.

    I am not yet ready to say “Savings groups are good for everyone and everything”, but I am getting closer. I am proud we are challenging our assumptions, and that we are allowing ourselves to see what else can be accomplished with this powerful tool.










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    Reader Comments (2)

    Bravo IRC!! Thanks Sarah for sharing your findings.....most interesting.

    Wed, February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJill Thompson

    Susan, you are not all blinded by your own enthusiasm. I am with you in the same side that saving group contribute to CWB as well as to whole family in order getting money ,free from fair to lend money .I am the mentor of saving group where group members are shining because they realize changes in their life.

    Tue, March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIYAKAREMYE DONAT-WVRWANDA

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