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.


    « The Judo of Change »

    Hop (lightly) to the nearest bookstore, library, or Amazon one-click, to read Tina Rosenberg’s Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World. For members and advocates of savings groups, this book has something to offer.  It serves up the “social cure,” which the author claims is key to solving stubborn problems like smoking or seizing basic rights like freedom.

    Some chapters will reconfirm what you already know; others will shed light on ideas that you may have taken for granted.  At the very least, this book will justify your biases or because of its scant sources, bring them into question.

    You likely knew that the geography of group membership matters, that proximity is key to unity. Yet, mega-churches across the world, or at least one called Willow Creek, have struggled with understanding the importance of nearness, preferring to organize small groups of members around affinity versus proximity.

    Turns out, after years of research into the vanishing group problem, hip pastors landed on what savings group promoters have known for a long time: place matters.  Location-based groups trump interest-based groups, or so it seems. (Never mind Facebook and social media, that phenomenon is not adequately addressed in the book.)

    But, here is something maybe you didn’t know: even place-based groups might not work. In fact, the Willow Creek experiment, detailed in the book, shows that neighborhood Table groups, as these social outcroppings are called, can fail.

    They fail if you define success as group sustainability or as ease of manufacture. Table groups often don’t hold together over time and when they do a great deal of instruction, attention and commitment are the cause of their survival. Despite the dissolution of groups or the enormous investment in maintaining them, the multiplication of so many little neighborhood clubs, whether or not their groupiness holds over time, does bring about the transformational change originally sought by the community. People are less isolated, happier, whole.

    There’s are lesson there for savings group promoters – maybe we should stop seeking group sustainability as a sign of success and turn our attention to the lasting changes enjoyed by group members and their neighbors.

    Don’t worry, this book is not about churches, or AA, or fighting AIDS, tobacco, math clubs, or the social resistance that brought down Milosevic. Yes, it’s about all these things on the level of story-telling but at its root, this book deals with what makes human association hum.  And it’s loaded with credibility, sort of.  Read Rosenberg’s summary of Grameen II and you will know that she did her homework, if you call a CGAP template citation homework. Grameen groups are no longer about joint liability, where borrowers guarantee the success of other borrowers, or pay the price. But, the average journalist gets this wrong.  At least Rosenberg gets this right. She acknowledges that a borrower’s interest in respect from peers is pressure enough for her to repay her loan; she needn’t be threatened by a peer’s loss of services to keep current.

     I resonated with Rosenberg’s sketches of American life, and her glimpses into rural India, where she closely follows a few change agents to unlock their secrets of success.  

    Sidebar: I was however a bit surprised at how scant her actual research was; it relied mainly on one book. But, Rosenberg did go to India in 2008 and interview the subject of her source, a woman named Sarubai Salve. That meeting appears as revelatory in the author’s depiction:

    A few years ago, if anyone had asked me about the transformational ability of positive peer pressure, I would have thought of alcoholics Anonymous, and maybe nothing else. Now I see the possibilities everywhere. The movement that really drove its power home to me, however, came during 2008 visit to India. When I met Sarubai Salve, I was researching an article for National Geographic magazine about community health workers, not looking for join-the-club stories. But, it was a revelation to watch this steely, competent, authoritative woman – without a doubt the most respective woman in the village – and to realize how she became who she is.

    My favorite chapter, the Judo of Fear, deals with potency of human networks in the Balkans. She says about CANVAS, the political action movement, which mobilized thousands of students, to take down a dictator,

    “[CANVAS] teaches us the use of branding, humor, dilemma actions (note: the author does not explain dilemma actions), and techniques for turning fear to advantage. It shows groups how to make people want to take part by structuring the movement so that your members can see themselves, and be seen by others, as creative, clued in, valuable and heroic.”  

    Is not that a great message for any movement, whether inspired by resistance or inspired by dreams? 

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    Reader Comments (3)


    Great review of Join the Club. I will read the book (which I have at home) and will scour the pages for insights into how savings groups work and what holds them together and how they spread. I am particlarly looking forward to reading the section on Grameen II. Solidarity groups have generally been based on the conept that if all are up to date on their payments the entire group has access to more loans. I have always thought that requiring members to pay for a non-paying member was excessively draconian.

    Perhpas we can have Rosenberg visit some of our groups.

    Jeff Ashe

    Sun, June 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Ashe

    Thank you, Jeff.

    I agree, Tina Rosenberg, would do well to visit some groups.


    Sun, June 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterPaul Rippey

    But don't saving group members pay for non paying members too? Members' share of the interest that is collected on loans will be reduced if a non paying member takes out a loan for which she cannot reimburse and does not have enough savings to cover the repayment entirely. Its just that the connection is abstract.

    Sat, July 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill Thompson

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