Today’s Revolutionary:  Mike Nichols

 

Mike Nichols, shown here with his comedy partner Elaine May, was an American comedian, playwright, actor, and director, and one of the few people who in his career won an Emmy award (for television), a Grammy (music), an Oscar (movies), and a Tony Award (Broadway). He is best known to many of us for directing some memorable movies including The Graduate, Catch 22 and  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf - but I first heard of him when he and Elaine May were doing improvisational comedy gigs in small clubs. They would ask an audience member to give them a first line to a skit, and another to give them the last, and then, with no rehearsal or prior conversation, would act out a short play that began with the first line, ended with the second, and - sort of - made sense! They became very popular and raised the bar for improvisation. Nichols just passed away, a few days after his 83 birthday.  

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.


    In Their Own Hands - Discussion, photos, and blog postings inspired by the new book by Jeff Ashe and Kyla Jagger Neilan. Jeff Ashe has done more different things well in bringing financial services for the poor than anyone I can think of, and this rich experience is reflected in the book. Totally recommended.

    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.

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    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.

    Monday
    Apr022012

    « CARE, Equity and Orange launch cell phone saving group product »

    I was so excited a couple of weeks ago (March 16) to attend the formal launch of the CARE-Equity Bank-Orange cell phone savings group project in the Nyanza province of Kenya.

    We worked with Equity Bank and Orange for six months to develop a joint product for Savings Groups. It was approved the week before the launch, and so far as I know, it’s the first time there has been a unique product designed for savings groups, where groups can save and borrow, using their cell phones, with the same level of transparency they are used to in their regular VSLAs. The new product enables Savings Groups to replace cash completely and ensure security, at lower cost, with less risk, and with a remarkable level of transparency.

    CARE helped design the product and a grant from BMGF helped fund our staff time, but we didn’t subsidize Equity or Orange at all. Equity and Orange paid their own development costs. A savings group or their representatives can go to any Orange agent, sign up for an “Pamoja” account, and that automatically opens a banking account for the group at Equity Bank. It’s amazing – the members go to an airtime retailer, and in a few minutes they have all the protection and security of a regulated commercial bank account. The accounts were designed by Equity especially for savings groups. They have no minimum balance, minimal withdrawal fees, and no deposit or ledger fees. Groups have to open the account over Orange’s Iko Pesa system, but once the account has been created, it can be accessed using any mobile network such as Vodacom or Airtel The program uses a proprietary mobile banking platform named Eazzy24/7 developed by Equity Bank.

    When we started with Equity and Orange, one of our concerns was not to destroy the principles of the VSLA group as we moved to modern banking technologies. We know that the iconic box with three locks is not about security – it’s about transparency, and we needed to retain that transparency in the absence of the box. Orange was willing to design and manufacture a special SIM card especially for groups –so far as we know, it’s the only one of its kind in the world. It has two features that were designed to mimic some familiar characteristics of savings groups: First, it has its own version of the three key holders. The SIM card requires three separate pass codes; each virtual key holder memorizes one of the codes, and they pass the phone around, enter the three codes, and unlock it so that it can conduct transactions.

    The second feature that is currently in its final stages of testing is that all group members can register their cell phones and then they receive an SMS telling them about any transaction made to the group account. This is the ultimate assurance that no one has tampered with the group’s resources between meetings.

    Finally, another exciting feature of the product is that as the group opens a group account, every individual member also can open an account, at no cost – Equity even takes their photo for free and issues them free Equity account cards with their photo’s included. On the day of the launch, 21 groups wanted to participate, and the same day, over 600 people opened their own personal accounts and became financially included.

    My colleague Nelly Otieno said, “This is my dream come true! The bank has come to the field, and now the clients don’t need to go to the bank.” I share Nelly’s excitement. This is a way for groups to move into the formal space, while preserving the special characteristics of savings groups. For majority of these people, it’s the first time they have had any sort of interaction with a formal financial institution. Until I heard people say that, I hadn’t realized how excluded many people felt. Now they feel like they are really a part of their country’s economy. 

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Great strides for sure for SGs.

    The fact that a members can access from other mobile networks is good opening for competition. great partnership to leverage technology for financial inclusion.

    One nagging thing though everytime i think about replacingcash- and this is not criticism but something that needs to be taken care of also may be- How is replacing cash for an sg member useful when they need the cash to pay with cash for services like consumption costs?
    will their need not to deal with cash prompt the service providers to also replace cash? may be

    Tue, April 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterundignified

    Congratulations CARE for helping move clients from the cash world into the digital world. While I am not sure going formal matters, what does matter is that services are convenient (at your doorstep), safe (not subject to villains or glitches of any kind), relevant (products begin to actually match patterns of reality), and the ability of users to plan with new tools. Formality might guarantee safety but does not in and of itself offer convenience, flexibility and the ability to plan. Going digital opens doors whether linking users to formal or informal services. Plus it offers the benefit of connectivity among groups (down the road) and most important, the benefits of privacy when it comes to individual accounts. Bravo.

    Tue, April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim Wilson

    What an innovative way to bring technology into savings groups to increase security and save valuable time while also maintaining transparency. I wonder how this will affect the social components of savings groups. Will the shift toward technology decrease the social pressure for loan repayment? More importantly, will the corollary benefits of leadership development, autonomy, community engagement and coordination, and empowerment be lost? And this raises an additional consideration: is the most crucial component of savings groups the savings generated or its associated, community development benefits?

    Wed, April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine Oglietti

    I really liked that the importance of transparency and other aspects of VSLA methodology were taken into account on this. It is exciting!

    I do however, have the same questions as posed by Katherine Oglietti floating around in my mind. I hope that CARE will keep us apprised of the impact of this service regarding the questions she raised.

    Thu, April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJill Thompson

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