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.

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    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.


    « Whither the Savings Group? »

    In the introduction of a recent recruitment notice:

    “…is proposing to set up a long-term Technical Assistance Facility in Sub-Saharan Africa that will support various financial services providers to extend financial services to the unbanked/underserved through innovative group savings mobilization products and other financial services, including credit, payments, and insurance, with the overall objective of improving household’s [sic] access to financial products and services. In particular, the Facility will focus on partnering with local institutions that utilize a number of financial products and innovative delivery channels to those facing the greatest financial exclusion, such as women, young people, small-holder farmers, and people living in remote areas.

    “The Facility will support financial service providers (FSPs) as they design projects that include the following activities:

    • Development of new financial services targeted at savings groups and their members
    • Expansion of financial institution outreach in rural areas through new channels
    • Providing training to savings groups and their members
    • Overall capacity strengthening of partner financial institutions”

    Is this the first activity to bridge the gap between the informal savings group and the world of the registered & supervised financial institution? Am I right in assuming this is a consequence of applying the concept of linkages to savings groups, initially to facilitate the group’s operations (e.g. by replacing a lockbox with a bank account)?

    Will the targeting of new services to “…savings groups and their members” include those only relevant to the individual member? If so and if relatively successful, is this likely to threaten the cohesion of a savings group?

    Perhaps more fundamentally, does this represent an important change in the relationship of the savings group with formalised market participants? As with a preceding phase amongst MFIs — in which creating commercial relationships with formalised financial institutions for services supporting their operations was followed by a widening of the range of products and services purchased by MFIs, which in turn was followed by the interest of the capital markets stimulating a pursuit of new legal forms for MFIs to better access capital, leading to the regulation and supervision of MFIs by mainstream market overseers — it may be argued the market may now begin to swallow savings groups in much the same way.

    Of course savings groups must not be insulated or quarantined from the wider market within which they operate. To engineer such a segregation is patronising. Yet is there a risk of losing essential characteristics in the process of engaging with ever more market operators?

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    Reader Comments (1)

    Dear Greg,
    Thanks for a useful contribution to the conversation about the new, huge linkage initiative proposed by the MasterCard Foundation. I think many of us share your trepidation about how this giant experiment will impact individual Savings Groups and group members and the overall trajectory of the SG sector. To me the question as to how this process will positively or negatively impact SGs depends much on the intention of Financial Service Providers and their understanding of the basic SG model. By intention I mean do FSPs see SGs as a means only to promote their own products and services (the linkage) or do they see the intrinsic value of SGs to build social capital, provide a reliable savings and lending mechanism to members and serve as a safe platform for other development activities. I think this will be key to the survival and eventual success (or failure) of this initiative. If FSPs don't understand the very nature of how SGs build solidarity, independence, reliability and safety, by design, its doubtful the groups they form will have the resiliency and structural integrity to last beyond a single share out. The model won't scale and may adversely affect the reputation of SGs in the communities where these "linkage first" groups flounder and fail. Should FSPs truly wish to honor the core value of best in class SG design they will allow groups they form to have the ultimate decision on whether to link or how to link to external credit or other services. By forming SGs with this "fail safe" mechanism central to their design, FSPs can dramatically demonstrate that they respect members ability to make decisions, the integrity of the group, and the communities where they reside.This may be a challenge to institutions who may not always see poor people as possessing the capacity to be in charge of their own self determination. I guess we will see how this unfolds, and on a grand scale.

    Sat, March 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Maddocks

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