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.


    « E-Recording Reaches Rwanda! (Part 1) »

    World Relief decided to start piloting the e-Recording app in Rwanda. It is an Android smart phone app, developed by FSD Kenya, designed to eliminate the traditional ledger and passbook system, moving savings into the digital age. The app performs all the record keeping and calculation functions of the group, including recording attendance, savings, issuing loans and loan repayments, and social fund contributions. It also instantly calculates share-out amounts for each member. All information is saved both locally on the phone as well as in the Cloud allowing the data to be accessed remotely. It certainly has its advantages such as speed and accuracy of data input and calculation. It also records every transaction of the group allowing for more data to be recorded and sent virtually to the facilitating organization leading to easier, faster and cheaper group analysis.

    I was tasked with implementing this pilot project and approached the app with a level of pessimism. My main issue revolved around a perceived loss of transparency. I was a little weary of shifting the record keeping from a passbook to a tiny touch screen. With a passbook, multiple group members can watch and confirm that the share amount is being inputted correctly, but a smart phone in the hands of the record keeper limits the amount of people able to view what is happening during the meeting. This would limit transparency and increase the likelihood of error. There are clearly positives and negatives to moving away from the passbook system and embracing e-Recording, but it is important to try it out and see the effects for ourselves which is the reason for this pilot.

    The pilot would just target one group to try and gauge how the members would react to the change. We chose a mature group that was just about to start their fourth cycle. Choosing a group with a good understanding of our Savings for Life methodology would allow us to get feedback from the group as to which method they preferred. We would run the e-Recording app parallel with the manual system to make sure that the e-Recording is being used properly and have a back-up in case the e-Recording app wasn’t received well. We had given the smartphone to one of our Field Officers before the starting the pilot to let him become familiar with it so that he could train the group. I watched as he struggled to use the touch screen as this was clearly his first time using a smart phone, but he was excited to see how it worked. I went through the app with him a few times then left him alone to see if he could navigate the app by himself. I returned three hours later to find that he had gone from having trouble signing in to the app to simulating an entire cycle to get the full effect of the app. He displayed that he truly understood the app and said he was ready to start training the group. Seeing him interact with the app and how quickly he learned to use it gave me hope that it could be understood by the group; subsiding much of the pessimism I had on how user friendly it would be for group members that had never used a smart phone before.

    Last week we went to the savings group to start the pilot. Unfortunately we had trouble accessing the app; a problem that we later discovered was the phone’s fault and not the apps. We had to postpone the pilot and let the group start their cycle using the traditional method of record keeping. Although we were unable to start the pilot we did learn quite a bit by introducing the app to them and getting their initial feedback.

    Originally we were hoping to get by without translating the app into English. We chose a group near the city hoping to find a group member who understood basic English and could use the app. However, there was no one with the necessary level of English comprehension in the group and now it seems a bit unrealistic to expect that in any group. We currently do not have the budget to get the app translated into Kinyarwanda so we are going to try and make do with English. While it is not ideal we should be able to get some indication of how well the app will work.

    Another area we were able to learn from was where to store the phone between meetings. We had the dilemma of whether to put it in the lock box or have it stay with the Field Officer. We settled on keeping it in the lock box, but when talking with the group they wanted the Field Officer to keep it. Their primary concern was a fear of it being stolen which is interesting because this is the same place that the members are storing all their hard-earned savings so they should trust its security. Clearly keeping the phone with the trainer wouldn’t work long term, because the trainer does not attend every meeting. There also is the problem of needing to charge the phone between meetings which would need to be addressed if the phone were to be kept in the box.

    Discovering these issues early on will allow us to revamp our approach. So while not being able to pilot it this week was a setback it did provide us with valuable information. We hope to have the app translated so that we can re-launch our pilot and hopefully find out if e-Recording is a technology that should be pursued farther. I hope to keep everyone informed as we move forward with our pilot and share what we have learned as a result.  

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    Reader Comments (5)

    Thanks Chris for trying the app and for even going further to try and pilot with a group. I acknowledge the language barrier and Rwanda being a traditionally French speaking nation had challenges with English. I sure hope you will get a way around this issue. Point on language is well taken......and noted. Thanks also for sharing your experience. It is very helpful for us as we undertake improvements on the app. I hope we can continue interacting. I am particularly impressed with what your field officer managed to do despite the new experiences.

    Tue, April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKuria

    Has there been any additional learning on this pilot? Am very interested to see how it plays out in 'real life'!
    Jill thompson

    Wed, April 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJill Thompson

    You would be such a good person to bring this to S. Africa, Jill!

    Fri, April 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterPaul Rippey

    Jill, Kuria, Chris,
    Would anyone be interested in forming an informal working group in regard to the e recording app? Our field agents in Mexico are at the very beginning stages of a pilot with savings groups in La Paz, Mexico, and questions are surfacing. I would be more than happy to facilitate the group, if there's a crew interested and able to join in.
    Katie Doyle Myers

    Tue, January 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Doyle Myers

    Jill, Kuria, Chris,
    Would anyone be interested in forming an informal working group in regard to the e recording app? Our field agents in Mexico are at the very beginning stages of a pilot with savings groups in La Paz, Mexico, and questions are surfacing. I would be more than happy to facilitate the group, if there's a crew interested and able to join in.
    Katie Doyle Myers

    Tue, January 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Doyle Myers

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