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.


    « Look Ma - No hands! »

    A conversation with my colleague Gena, who is new to Savings Groups:
    Gena: Paul, are you telling me that people just stay in Savings Groups all their lives, just saving and borrowing?
    Paul: Some people do.
    Gena: That’s it? Is that all they do?
    Paul: That’s not all they do in their lives. They get married, have children, start businesses, grow old and die. They do all sorts of things.
    Gena: But in their groups - is that all they do?
    Paul: Sometimes. What else would you want them to do? Look, being in a Savings Group is like learning to ride a bicycle. You will probably go on and do other things, but knowing how to ride a bicycle is a useful skill that lasts all your life. I can drive a car, but I’m still glad to ride a bicycle sometimes. It’s perfect for some things, less good for others. What else do you think we should add to people who learn to ride bikes?
    Gena: I don’t know - you can teach them to do tricks on their bicycles or something!

    I loved this conversation, because Gena so clearly articulated ideas that I have heard many times: Savings Groups work well, and we need to change them. They don’t do everything. They are too simple. We need to teach them how to do wheelies: start group businesses, federate, guarantee bank loans for their members.

    It’s true: SGs are kind of boring. Facilitating agencies get bored with them. Donors get very bored with them. Even some members get bored with them, and many groups do learn tricks: they independently choose to add all sorts of new funds and features.

    I can relate to this: when I was 8 and 9 years old, I was very into doing bicycle tricks. No hands of course, standing with one foot on the saddle, sitting backwards on the handlebars. And - I never had a crash.

    But for transportation plain old boring bikes are still pretty good! 


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    Reader Comments (3)

    And yet many of us in those parts of the world where we all use a big mainstream bank for all our lives ('cos even changing banks means no real change), often wish they would stay the same and stop trying to con us with all sorts of bicycle tricks. Savings are savings, loans are loans, payments are payments (and fees are fees!), performing the same mundane, yet vital, functions no matter how they try and dress them up.

    Thu, February 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

    Interesting parallel Greg. My bank and telecom provider are constantly modifying their packages, fees and billing structures - often with offsetting changes. Apparently, it's to better serve their clients. If that were the case, I would know exactly what I purchase and receive a clear bill for the products and services that I have purchased. Not an unreasonable request - but very elusive in Canada's murky banking and telecom markets.

    Fri, February 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Panetta

    The thing that distinguishes the profit sector from the non-profit sector is that the former makes its money from production and sales of more-or-less standardised products in large quantities at low prices across large geographic areas (think Coke). Non-profits make their money from showing donors how innovative they are, even if it costs a lot and doesn't work without a lot of tweaking and servicing. Is there any way that we can persuade donors (who come from industrialised societies) that maybe a balance is needed: one blends the two, but rather more in favour of production and scale?

    Sat, August 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHugh Allen

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