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.


    « How cool is Digit? »

    I just came across Digit, a new phone app which cleverly observes your cashflow patterns, and decides how much you can painlessly save. It starts out cautiously, transferring small sums from your bank account to a special Digit savings account. If this seems to be okay with you, it will gradually become bolder, and have you save a little more. You can move your money back from their account to yours any time you like. Everything is (apparently) perfectly safe. 

    This is brand new, and I haven’t even tried it, but I already love it. Why? Because every other gadget-based financial service is sort of like something that already exists. The e-Recording app is a lot like traditional SG accounting. At least five different firms have some sort of automated ROSCA - who needs it? Peer-to-peer lending is efficient, I guess, but people have lent money to each other forever. 

    But Digit - it’s not like anything we do already. The idea of figuring out when we can save painlessly is new, at least to me. That’s what I like, plus, of course, it’s about saving, and it’s something that I can see being hugely useful to poor people. This is version 1.0 - if it catches on, I can’t wait to see version 3!


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    Reader Comments (4)

    Hmmm... The brave new world continues to insinuate itself into the ordinariness of our lives. Digit is an intriguing development and, at first glance, seductive. After all, like a consistently healthy diet or regular exercise, how many of us in the obese world manage to maintain the good habit?

    But I wonder how far we could/want/should go in outsourcing the operation of our daily subsistence to a combination of clever algorithms and faster-than-the-speed-of-light computer chips? Shall I ask my 'personal device' to tell me what to wear each morning? What to eat for breakfast (my digital fridge having already maintained the stock of mathmatically determined best eats)? What to read? (Oh, I forgot, Amazon is already doing that.) What to think?

    Is any of this an instance of what one might call the anthropic fallacy that whatever direction humanity or the human environment develops or moves in, must be okay? Do we understand the real limits of what digital technology can -- and, more importantly, cannot -- do on our behalf? Prof Hubert Dreyfus (Berkeley University) has some interesting views on such restraints:

    If we distance ourselves from the process by installing an incomprehensible intermediary, will we be able to function when it falters or fails? I long held the view that the credit union treasurer should undertake the basic bookkeeping of their members' accounts manually before moving to computerised systems, simply to have the fundamental understanding of the process required to investigate and correct the inevitable errors.

    I'm happy to use something like a sweep facility to move my surplus out of reach of my thoughtless spending, but that's after I've examined and understood my behaviour and consequently determined for myself the applicable threshold. Is it too much to suggest that my doing so gives me greater insights into the way I'm living my lfe, who I am, and how I'm relating to our wide wonderful consumer society? More so than signing up to the latest app, I suspect.

    Fri, February 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

    Hi Greg,

    I suppose I had better defend Digit, since I posted about it, although I am sympathetic to your arguments.

    I think each of us will have areas of our lives that we are willing to turn over to the machines, and areas that we reserve for ourselves.

    I surrender to my map apps when I'm driving in an unfamiliar place. If Google tells me to turn left, I just turn left, and that has saved me so many hours of driving around trying to find things. I COULD find things the old way, with paper and directions, but I just have no interest in doing that. Better things to do with my time, and who needs the stress? - But, I can fully understand and appreciate it if someone else likes to find where they are going with some old fashioned device, like an astrolabe or map.

    On the other hand, I don't follow recipes very closely - I know what I like, and I like to think that I can do a better job meeting my family's and my tastes, than someone else who doesn't know us. Maybe some of those navigators are also recipe followers.

    So - different strokes.

    I'll try Digit, when I'm in the US, but for fun. I was born with the Saver gene, not the Spender gene. But - there are so many Americans in debt trouble, that, if Digit can help them, that's a win for them, a very good thing. I wouldn't fight this just on principle.

    (I met a piano tuner years ago who only had one tuning fork - A440 - and tuned all the other keys off of that. This, despite the easy and inexpensive availability of machines that give one the correct tempered note of every key. He said, "Pianos sound better when you tune them the old way". I am almost completely sure he was wrong about that, although "sound better" is hopelessly subjective. But I admire him for sticking to the old way, and - like you say - when the machines fail, or turn against us (!), he'll be the only one able to tune a piano!)

    Best regards,


    Fri, February 27, 2015 | Registered CommenterPaul Rippey

    No need for any defensiveness; it's an interesting topic to debate. Of course we can, and should, be selective about what and how we delegate from the cerebral to the digital. I too couldn't have got efficiently from DC to Charlottesville without the dulcet tones of the GPS warning me to turn left or right in 100 yards. And as I prepare for yet another longhaul flight, I am reminded of the suggestions that recent air crashes may have been fatally influenced by the inappropriate intervention of pilots in otherwise fully automated controls.

    Yet, albeit somewhat tangentally, I am saddened by this:

    "...a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. A sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture, and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. For blackberry, read Blackberry."

    Fri, February 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

    Very informative, thanks for sharing
    If you’ve ever tried to create a savings habit, you know how difficult it is to get started. Now you’re back to square one. This is a new service, called Digit. Digit is a brand new micro-savings account designed to help you save small bits of money over time. All you need to do is connect your checking account. This allows Digit to analyze your income and spending patterns, and find small amounts of money it can safely set aside for you, try it out for yourself.

    Tue, June 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRose

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