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.

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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.


    « Interview with Mabel Guevara, Part I: Convincing the Skeptics »

    Mabel leading the Savings Promoter Regional Conference, July 2010Mabel is the regional advisor on savings groups for CRS Central America, and has facilitated the integration of the savings groups methodology into diverse projects throughout Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.  I had the opportunity to work with Mabel on the Catholic Relief Services Agriculture for Basic Needs project last summer, and was inspired by her vision, drive and the personal touch that she brings to her work.  This morning I asked Mabel to share her story about bringing savings groups to rural communities in Central America.

    These are her words:

    Bringing Savings Groups to Central America

    I was first introduced to savings groups in July 2008 at a training taught by Dr. Gaye Burpee and Kim Wilson.  They trained 30 tecnicos, but most of the other tecnicos were skeptical that savings groups would work in Central America.  The other tecnicos commented: The poor can’t save. We at NGOs are work to help the poor – the poor need tangible benefits.

    Later that month, I visited several groups formed by Oxfam.  The groups were saving, but I still had doubts.  CRS insisted that I lead the savings group project.  I had no experience with savings.  I needed to see how a savings group would work in my own life.  My father has always told me - If you want to teach something, you have to do it first. 

    I started talking to my neighbors and family and formed one savings group of 14 neighbors and another with my family in August 2008.  We all had our own goals: one woman planned to save for Christmas dinner, another wanted to buy a new bed cover, and the children wanted new clothes.   I bought two bright blue lock boxes at the local department store out with my own money and we began to save.  We didn’t have registers, just notebooks that we used to keep track of the date and how much each person had saved.  It was among family and friends, so we didn’t make loans.

    In October 2008, I took my first trip to San Antonio de Mosco, a remote town at the Northernmost tip of San Miguel to introduce savings groups.  When I arrived, it was mostly men – maybe 14 and seven women.  The project team was skeptical about the value of savings.  The communities where they worked were extremely poor.  The priest challenged me immediately:  How did it occur to you to talk about savings when people often don’t have enough to eat?  The men repeated his doubts insisting - We are poor.  How can we save if we don’t have money  and asked, what benefits will this project bring?  The women were silent.  It seemed that everyone was against me.

    Somehow it occurred to me to ask the crowd if they owned a cell phone.  Everyone nodded, many in the audience had two phones.  I asked to speak to the women separately.  The women told me: We think we can save.  We would like to try. 

    When I returned to the community, the seven women had convened a total of 120 women interested in savings in two rural communities in the rocky foothills an hour’s walk from town.  The communities elected five women to receive a training to become promoters, and by the end of the year the five promoters had formed ten savings groups in their communities.

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    Reader Comments (6)

    Beautiful story, Suzanne. I went through a similar exercise during a study in 2004 in Cambodia, and hit the same wall. It seemed that everyone understood the word 'savings' as 'savings in cash, in a bank.' Since few had any cash, and even fewer had ever set foot in a bank, they said they were "too poor to save." We had to unpack the concept and ask them what expenses they had dealt with in the past few months? Suddenly we found savings all over the place. A very large part of our work is unpacking language and concepts, and making them accessible.

    Tue, April 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrett Matthews

    I also loved this post and - being an ex-CRS employee assigned to promote the 'old' microfinance - am happy that CRS is moving ahead with the Savings Revolution!

    We also are challenged by the firmly held idea that "the poor cannot save". We would like to become better at chipping away at that idea, especially among the so-called poor themselves!

    To that end, I would love to hear more from Brett and Suzanne on how exactly you "unpack" the concept and win over the doubting Thomases. Is it possible to start a resource exchange somehow? Can you direct me to someplace where you have materials available for downloading?

    Thu, April 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill Thompson

    Hi Jill:

    I've attached the methodology (line of questioning etc.) that we used for the study I referenced above. It 'unpacks' the concept in a way that gets poor people talking (at least, it Cambodia it did).

    It would be interesting to hear from Suzanne on this, too.


    Thu, April 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrett Matthews

    It appears you have to click on my name to see the attachment. Sorry for the confusion.


    Thu, April 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrett Matthews

    Thanks Brett. I downloaded the paper and it looks interesting. I'll let you know how it works out here.

    Tue, April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill Thompson

    Thank you! I unfortunately don't have anything in English, but here is the link to those fabulous manuals that Mabel helped put together. I think what has worked best in Central America is showing doubters that savings groups are working in communities just like their own either through stories or visits. The images used in the booklets are drawn from one of the poorest communities within the A4N program - and that same community now has 8 different savings groups.

    Wed, April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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