Today’s Revolutionary:
Kathrine Switzer

Kathrine Switzer (b.January 5, 1947) was the first woman to register (as “K.V. Switzer”) and run in the Boston Marathon, in 1967. (Other women had jumped in previous marathons and completed it, but without registering and without numbers on their jerseys). Most of the other runners in the 1967 race were happy to run with a woman, and the race organizers did nothing, until about mile 4, when officials, led by Jock Semple, tried to stop her. “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers,” cried Mr. Semple. Kathrine’s boyfriend, also running the race, shielded her, and she continued and finished.

Switzer has since pointed out that nowhere in the rules was there any provision that runners had to men only. It was just assumed. In an case, the rules were revised five years later, in 1972, explicitly allowing women, and Mr. Semple, who had tried to stop her before, was instrumental in having the rules changed.



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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.


    What's happening at Savings Revolution?

    Big big thanks to the readers who have written to ask, What’s happening at Savings Revolution? One even wrote and asked, “Are you okay?”

    Yes, we’re very okay, and thank you for your concern. The concern is engendered simply by the extremely low level of activity on the site. Almost no new posts for months.

    Click to read more ...


    Hyenas circling the hut

    A big problem with Savings Groups is how successful they are.

    They often last for many years, and members save a lot of money. Maybe not individual members, but when you multiply individual savings by twenty members or so, the group’s savings become a nice bundle. And, when you multiple that by the hundreds or thousands of groups that may exist in an area, then the sums get very important indeed.

    Click to read more ...


    Critical Message Videos

    At the SG2015 Conference, I had the chance to represent FSD Zambia’s Critical Message Videos - CMVs - to a plenary session, and then in a breakout session. I made the case that in every program forming Savings Groups, group quality was arranged in a bell curve: there are a few truly excellent groups, the ones that get shown to visitors; a big mass of okay groups, that help the project reach a lot of people…

    And then, there are some groups that just haven’t had the training they need to function well and be durable. These are the groups that break up, or the groups where people sometimes lose their money. They have problems because they haven’t internalized the principles that really truly are critical: one of the messages is the primacy of the constitution; another is the obligation of members to ask questions and be informted.

    The videos were developed by FSDZ, CARE Zambia, Plan Zambia and PFP Zambia. There are five messages, each available in three languages: Nyanja, Bimba and Tonga. And FSDZ receently made these videos available with subtitles in English. There was a lot of interest and demand for copies of these, and I hope that they will inspire projects around the world to make their own versions. If you do, let us know!

    Here are links to the five videos with English subtitles. (For more info, write to Fred Chaatila at FSD Zambia.)

    CMV 1: Follow your constitution

    CMV 2: All transactions at meetings

    CMV 3: Member participation 

    CMV 4: Cash safety

    CMV 5: Member responsibility







    Quit drinkin' and start savin', you kids

    The following is excerted from the Zambian Post newspaper 21 August 2015:

    “MPIKA district commissioner Catherine Chileshe says the district will continue to lag behind in development unless the high alcohol consumption among residents is checked. … Chileshe said she was saddened by the widespread alcohol abuse and child negligence in the district. Chileshe cautioned residents against

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    What's next? (Maybe just more of the same...)

    Savings Group promoters keep looking for a New Thing, a product or service that will respond to the question “What’s Next” for Savings Groups that have learned how to save and borrow and manager their affairs. The idea of “What’s next” assumes that groups want a “next”. My own experience with groups is that, not surprisingly, some do, and some don’t. I suspect that more don’t than do, and that within the groups that say they do, it’s mainly the members that talk a lot who say they do, while the silent majority sits by. 

    I remain skeptical of the constant effort to add value to groups, beyond being an SG. Sometimes things are just fine the way they are. For instance, I’m a member of a ten year old bookclub. We haven’t diversified into movies or civic activism or an income generating activity. We haven’t formed a Federation of book clubs. We just meet monthly, discuss a book we’ve all read, have a glass of wine or beer or limonade, and then set a date for the next meeting. This can go on like this as long as there are books. Everyone is happy, no one wants to add bowling. 

    Click to read more ...


    Let's Look Before We Leap

    I recently was asked to read a draft of an academic paper on the pitfalls of microcredit and the virtues of savings groups. The paper tidily summed up the false assumptions of microcredit, all in hindsight of course, which included: poor people use loans to build their businesses; poor people are entrepreneurial; credit is the key ingredient to micro-business growth. And so on.

    Click to read more ...


    The Supply-Centricity of Customer-Centricity

    Today, I used my smart phone to pound tiny nails into a wall. The procedure worked well enough to hang a small picture, but it cracked my phone case. 

    I wasn’t trying to go digital by using a mobile device. I simply could not find the proper tool – a hammer. The episode made me think that going hammer-lite would be silly for a pounding task. I really needed a hammer. If I were trying to tighten a screw, a task I just had to do on a door handle, I suppose I could go screw-driver lite. I could try to wedge a tag of the broken phone casing into the screw’s octagonal chamber, then give it a twist. It might work. But an Allen wrench might work better. 

    So, in financial inclusion why are we trying to go “cash lite?” Cash can be a sturdy pair of pliers that turn income into neat, countable paper stacks – one pushed into the desk drawer for buying groceries and another plopped into a tin for evenings out. Cash can also be a wrench, torqued just so, to help us make sure that we have enough coins to pay the parking attendant or enough paper to pay ourselves when we feel the need to devise a personal austerity plan. 

    Click to read more ...


    Why I don't share in the enthusiasm for "Financial Inclusion"

    I have four friends who lost their homes during the financial crisis, or who are in danger of losing them. In every case, they say, “We were naive. We shouldn’t have taken the mortgage (or the second mortgage). But it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was our fault, but it was also the banker’s fault. They misled us.

    Four families, losing their homes.

    The banks took the money and ran.

    Click to read more ...


    Video on Saving for Change

    Here’s a great short video on the Saving for Change project in Mali produced by the Bureau for Applied Research and Anthropology of the University of Arizona. 

    It’s one of the best videos I’ve ever seen. It shows real conflicts, real results, real process. Savings Groups are sometimes messy and this video doesn’t mind showing that. Plus, it’s well produced and entertaining! I especially like the part around 8:20, where group members discuss their business with a lot of passion!


    Enoughness and Experimentation: Blended Learning Opportunity

    We know that we work in situations of complexity, unpredictability. So why do we keep approaching problems and analysis in the same way?

    There is a global movement committed to do things differently. From the collective impact movement in North America  to the “Doing Development Differently” agenda, we’ve learned that we have to operate more like the entrepreneurs we are working to support.

    Click to read more ...


    Great review, great book

    Here’s a link to an excellent review of In Their Own Hands: How Savings Groups are Revolutionizing Development, by Jeffrey Ashe and Kyla Jagger Neilan - just published in the Enterprise Development and Microfinance journal. It begins:

    The spread and success of savings groups may not be news for
    financial inclusion and enterprise development practitioners.
    However, in their recent book – In Their Own Hands: How Savings
    Groups are Revolutionizing Development
    – microfinance and savings
    group pioneer Jeffrey Ashe and colleague Kyla Jagger Neilan inspire us with the vision, the history, the statistics, and the stories of savings groups, a simple mechanism that is catalysing poverty reduction for millions worldwide.  

    Does the review make you want to read the book? 

    Good! You can get it here.





    Outside the categories of the marketplace

    In his EvangelIi Gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation), Pope Francis says that ethics “calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace.”  What a wonderful phrase!

    The categories of the marketplace that Francis is referring to are things like profit and loss, return on investment, market share, business cases, and financial inclusion.

    We have, maybe unknowingly, maybe indifferently, often let these categories become the sole points of reference for discussions of what is

    Click to read more ...


    Digital IDs and the Peer-to-Peer alternative

    I came across this discussion on the MicroSave website:

    Why Financial Inclusion May Well Depend on Cyber ID Data: Digital IDs are quick and cost-effective – but more data on unbanked customers is needed

    Among the obstacles to digital financial inclusion is the challenge of serving people who lack traditional identity data. But as Trulioo founder Stephen Ufford explains, our online activity creates a digital footprint that can be used to identify us quickly and cost-effectively. He describes how Trulioo is

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    The Savings Group Tiger and the Banking Shark

    Tiger and Shark are both convinced they are the Most Strongest of All Animals.

    Crab tells Tiger that he overheard Shark bragging about how he could beat anyone! Outraged, Tiger runs down to the beach, and bellows to Shark that he is ready to fight to show the world who really is the Most Strongest. 

    Shark says, “Bring it on! I’m ready to fight. I’m the Most Strongest and I’ll prove it!”
    There is a long pause. Nothing happens. Awkward!
    Finally, Shark says, “I’m waiting.”

    Click to read more ...