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.


    « Part II: The Greatest Impact »

    Adaptation and Innovation

    Since the first savings group pilot in 2008 and early 2009, the methodology has been constantly improved.  Children were interested in saving, but I noticed they were bored in the long adult meetings. I tried starting separate children’s groups with their own meetings and leadership, and the children quickly began to accumulate their own savings. 

    Children’s savings manuals

    Different partner organizations tried forming groups through promoters and directly by the organization.  We observed that having promoters form groups was more sustainable: the expertise stayed in the community. There were changes in the promoters as well. Women with only a third grade education and four kids, who had never spoken in public, have formed four savings groups. In the outskirts of Cacaopera, several savings promoters have formed as many as 8 groups. 

    CRS asked me to standardize what we had learned. Working closely with a team of specialists, Gaye, Jose Angel Cruz and I helped to write a manual on savings. We didn’t write the manual for people who are educated – we wrote it for the promoters and the groups. The manual explains the savings methodology using drawings based on rural Central America culture and living situation. There are promoters now who can’t read and write. They use that manual.

    Sacrificing to Save

    In rural communities throughout the region members have proved again and again that they are not too poor to save. The sacrifices they make to save are notable.  Children will walk 6k to school to save .25 in bus fare. Rural women wake at 4 or 5 AM to grind the corn to flour by hand rather than paying the mill.

     The Greatest Impact

    In spite of the significant sacrifices women and children make to save, the greatest impacts are not financial.  The most important benefit of savings is the personal growth that takes place in members. The women tell me, We like working together, the solidarity. We are all in this together.  

    Savings groups aren’t just about savings, they are about cultural change. This change happens first at the personal level as participants learn responsibility and begin to plan for the future. They take control of their own lives, and gain trust in their group. Many become leaders their communities. Savings is about breaking the cycle of dependence on outside intervention. Women realize they have a voice. Children learn leadership skills.  These women and children become the protagonists of their own future.

    Today in San Antonio del Mosco where the first group was formed there are now 40 groups of women, adolescents and youth.  In each country there are now technical teams with CRS and its partner organizations dedicated to the work of forming savings groups. This has enabled us to reach so many communities. There are now more than 300 savings groups in Central America, and that number is always growing.

    Mabel recently returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. While there, she led a week-long training in the Dominican Republic to integrate savings groups into all CRS programming in the country. In Haiti, she conducted a diagnostic of the tent cities to see if savings groups could be used to help families to save to rebuild their homes. Her savings manuals are currently being translated into Creole and re-illustrated for the Haitian context.

     - This interview has been translated from Spanish.


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