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.


Search Savings Revolution

Enter search term in the box below and click on the arrow.


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!

This form does not yet contain any fields.
    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.


    « Is 2012 The New 1810? »

    Recently, while searching for examples of how banks may have helped customers level lumpy cash inflows into even cash outflows, I found this:

    “When a depositor was unable to work the bank granted him a weekly allowance out of his own savings.”

    The quote caught my attention. It was from a 1925 article in the Delmarva Star, referencing a bank founded in 1810 by Reverend Henry Duncan of Dumfriesshire, Scotland*. 

    I had been working on a project for a bank in Brazil and curious to learn which financial institutions had been clever enough to help self-employed customers substitute unpredictable incomes with ones more certain. Portfolios of the Poor explains how low income people find ingenious ways to convert small, uneven, cash influxes into useful lump sums, but does not elaborate on the reverse, how the poor find ingenious ways to convert lump sums into even cash flows. Nor does it discuss financial instruments that perform this service. Various bonds, pension schemes and insurance policies offer annuities, of course, but I was specifically looking for something simpler, more accessible, when I came upon the Duncan article.  It goes on:

    “The idea of the savings bank was not new in 1810, when Duncan evolved the elaborate plan by which his bank was run. Two hundred years before it had occurred to a Frenchman, it had been tried out in widely different forms in England and Germany. Daniel Defoe, creator of that enterprising hard luck victim, Robinson Cursue, has been called the original savings bank man, for he suggested that the government establish a savings bank and run it as a public benefaction.”

    It appears that Rev. Duncan’s bank was a private benefaction with more than a few of its incantations conjuring the same promises of savings groups. For instance: “Even in the poorest of poor families, [Rev. Duncan] reasoned, there must be some odds and ends of income wasted on ineffectual trifles. And he offered reward, in the shape of interest on investments, hoping to induce his flock to realize that is saving is, itself valuable.” Promoters of savings groups captivate new members with similar counsel: “Sequester your spare coins and notes in a group fund and watch your deposit grow twice: once from your abstinence and again from interest!” 

    But do savings groups take the extra step Rev. Duncan did when he offered his poorer customers the chance to level chunky, uncertain incomes into smoother, certain ones? Sure, groups offer loans, annual distributions, and even withdrawal of savings but they don’t help members receive a stream of regular income around which they can plan meals, purchases of animal feed, or payments for medicine. One might easily imagine a member requesting that her annual share-out be converted to bi-weekly annuities in the following year. 

    To my knowledge, groups don’t offer members such a service. Likely the accounting would be cumbersome, at least today. But might we look to a future where technology eases this burden. Imagine members speaking into an app to record transactions and instantly present individual and group balances. Share-outs would be a breeze, as would as the calculation of annuities. If we can imagine such a capability, perhaps in 2012 we might summon the services of 1810.

    * Note if you are into the History of Microfinance, check out David Roodman’s CGAP post on the Lessons of Microfinance History

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (2)

    Thanks Kim for an interesting post. I have 3 take homes from this:
    1. I also don't know of savings groups that offer a stream of regular income for members and this is a possible prospect - especially if it can be facilitated by technology. It could be a simple app that informs members of how much they could get as regular income if they, suppose, retained their annual share out in the group.
    2. The need for an app that makes share out computations so much the easier.
    3. An app that people can 'talk' to.

    As we work on an e-Recording application, we will certainly keep these three points on the cards.


    Tue, March 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterKuria Wanjau

    Hi Kim,

    A couple of thoughts (expressed, as usual, in my disorganised free-flow format)...

    The idea of a sensible savings facility, providing relevant useful services to its savers as being a "benefaction" really hits a good spot with me. Despite the depredations of neoliberal junk socioeconomics, the concept of something being a 'public good' has not yet been completely erased. And as we consider the sorts of things that might be accepted as a public good in today's technology-driven and complex world, I believe there's a case for the abovementioned savings facility to be included.

    Just as we now accept that clean drinking water and effective sanitation are public goods -- with the consequential view their provision should not be left entirely to the vagaries of the unfettered market -- to say nothing of electricity and telecommunications (both hotly debated in New Zealand as our unthinking government prepares to sell-off such state-owned assets) and other utilities, the economic and social dependence we now have on money creates a strong argument (in my view) for core personal/family savings to be similarly classified.

    Just as sanitation is intended to reduce people's ill-health, so too should practical savings tools be provided to prevent poverty (both the short-term arising from volatile cash flows and the longer-term inability to acquire essential assets). The range of relevant needs runs from the circumstances you describe to the thorny question of provision for income in one's elder years.

    I'm not automatically advocating a state owned and operated institution -- we've seen too many of those turn ugly -- but at least the conscious provision of an empowering financial services sector policy, matched by appropriate levels and styles of regulation and supervision. India's approach to letting SHGs flourish comes to mind, as do those countries with strong savings & credit cooperative movements.

    Secondly, if I weren't newly up to my eyeballs in Dili -- where savings are key to our MFI's transformation -- I'd happily show you how the accounting can be made very straightforward; no longer a fear factor!

    Sat, March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Pirie

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>