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.


    « Five Best Savings Group Ideas of 2013 »

    Unlike the bad ideas that have been recycled year after year, the good ideas of 2013 are all new this year, which is quite exciting! We count down from five to one, towards the very best idea of 2013.

    5 New MIS
    Hugh Allen and VSL Associates have rewritten the standard MIS, creating something which is web-based and more decentralized and more flexible. I don’t fully understand all the implications, but I share some of Hugh’s enthusiasm for something that can be easily managed by local organizations and allows them to put themselves on the map, at their own risk.
    4 Puddles
    Jean Claude Rodriguez Ferrera is in California, working with some very smart friends and thinking way outside the box, to find ways of bringing savings groups to almost anyone, on line. It’s still very early, and I don’t know what to make of Puddles yet – but just wait: this could change everything.
    3 Activists
    The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Pakistan is replacing the concept of the trainer, as the font of knowledge about how groups are run, by the activist, a person who trusts and empowers group members to share what they know. A lot of group formation happens because of activists anyway, informally. AKRSP will recruit people with a track record in civil society, who already make things happen, and give them some support, some tools, and a mandate.
    2 e-Recording
    FSD Kenya has invested in a smart phone app that will replace much of the drudgery of bookkeeping in SGs, improve accuracy, simplify monitoring, and provide a much larger set of data to help us understand group performance and dynamics. Coupled with video training, it creates the possibility of a “group-in-a-box”, a simple kit that may eventually democratize the creation of high-quality groups, and bypass the INGOs altogether. The key word is democratize: like many innovations, this can be used either to centralize control, or to give people control. 
    1 Video Training
    Freedom from Hunger has pioneered the use of short films that can be used on smart phones to train both trainers, and groups, in local languages. The potential advantages are huge: this may reduce costs, but even before that, it is likely to assure consistency of messages, something which is terribly difficult to achieve otherwise.


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    Reader Comments (4)

    Such wizdom. Greed goodbye even maybe. Wow.

    Tue, December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBjorn Joakim

    I'm with you on video training Paul, but I'm not at all sure the idea of e-recording is yet a winner (I might be wrong, which is my stock-in-trade). I realize that e-recording will allow an SMS to tell you your balance and your debt (if the Record-keeper presses the right buttons), but can it capture data and present it to members in a form that respects the ways in which poor people assimilate and analyse reality - and allows them to challenge what they find? Or may it be just another item in the armoury of Mystifying Instruments, only to be fully understood by a priesthood - and never to be queried?. If I think that the number of stamps in my passbook isn't right, I am quite likely to call for an enquiry. But if it's on a small, glowing screen two inches from the Record-keepers glasses, will I be quite so daring?

    I think that Ignacio said it best when he noted: ".... In order to stand a shot at displacing informal savings options, digital savings solutions must give people much more sense of being in control over their money and their circumstances. Digital savings solutions need to make it easy for people to play out the mental processes by which they decide which financial levers to pull.......We are far from being able to build these user experiences, but let’s start by understanding the nature of the attraction of today’s informal solutions and the inherent limitations of merely digitizing stores of value."

    Amen to that

    Mon, January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHugh Allen

    Paul - Thanks for highlighting Freedom from Hunger's mobile training and the associated advantages. I just want to clarify that the mobile training tools are for use by the volunteer trainers—not groups—to form and organize savings groups and to deliver business education sessions to group members. During initial training, volunteer trainers practice using the mobile videos and the mobile application; afterwards, they are also able to access them at any time to serve as “mobile guide”, refresher and reminders, which should help to ensure quality and consistency of service delivery.

    We have piloted this approach with partner organization BUPDOS in Benin, and hope to replicate further with other interested organizations, as well as develop more education mobile applications on additional topics. To view sample sessions, go to for business education application and for the first video of a 10-session series for savings group formation.

    Looking forward to hearing more thoughts -

    Fri, January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEden Rock

    Thanks Hugh and Eden,

    Hugh: I agree totally with the principle that electronic approaches need to give people more control and more transparency than existing solutions. I think that is starting to happen. The e-Recording app is at best at version 1.0, and maybe it's still beta 0.9. Even so, there are gains in speed and accuracy AND transparency, I believe. And the will be countless improvements. In the quote from Ignacio, he seems to be confusing "digital" and "formal". I would like to see "informal", that is, in the sense of member-owned and controlled, take advantage of new technologies. I don't want people to use smart phones so that CitiBank or Barclays can take their money and control of their financial lives faster.

    Eden: Thanks for the clarification, and thanks for the links. For me, the big gain will be to speak directly to the group members. There may still be a trainer hanging around for a few years, but in the long run, I'd like to get rid of all of that apparatus and visits and cost, and give people tools to improve their money management themselves. We'll see what happens, of course. I can't imagine that the INGOs will ever train everybody - they aren't even keeping up with population growth. This HAS to go viral if we think that community-managed savings-led groups can contribute to most people's lives.


    Sat, January 11, 2014 | Registered CommenterPaul Rippey

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