We’ve all see optical illusions, like the horses in the picture to the left. As you probably can guess, the two horses are actually exactly the same, and it’s simply the background that we see them against that makes one appear darker, and one appear lighter.
So it is with many things. Including savings groups.
I came to savings groups having worked with pro-poor financial institutions for years, and so when I first saw them, they looked like particularly low cost, decentralized nano-banks. Financial services were the background, and I was struck by the way that SGs contrasted with that background. I saw SGs as very efficient profit-maximizing investment vehicles.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more about how we all are social beings, about the way that our communities form us and make us who we are. That’s a new way to see things for me, and I’m seeing SGs against that background. Now I tend to see SGs as bundles of relationships and conversations, commitments and support networks. I’m more interested in how people in savings groups evolve as people because they are members, interacting regularly with the other members.
In fact of course neither view is The Truth, and both capture something important about savings groups. I apologize if this is so obvious it doesn’t seem worth saying, but in fact perhaps we all sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we understand why people in savings groups do what they do. Any simple answer to that question is bound to be wrong.