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.

    Saturday
    Jul182015

    « The Supply-Centricity of Customer-Centricity »

    Today, I used my smart phone to pound tiny nails into a wall. The procedure worked well enough to hang a small picture, but it cracked my phone case. 

    I wasn’t trying to go digital by using a mobile device. I simply could not find the proper tool – a hammer. The episode made me think that going hammer-lite would be silly for a pounding task. I really needed a hammer. If I were trying to tighten a screw, a task I just had to do on a door handle, I suppose I could go screw-driver lite. I could try to wedge a tag of the broken phone casing into the screw’s octagonal chamber, then give it a twist. It might work. But an Allen wrench might work better. 

    So, in financial inclusion why are we trying to go “cash lite?” Cash can be a sturdy pair of pliers that turn income into neat, countable paper stacks – one pushed into the desk drawer for buying groceries and another plopped into a tin for evenings out. Cash can also be a wrench, torqued just so, to help us make sure that we have enough coins to pay the parking attendant or enough paper to pay ourselves when we feel the need to devise a personal austerity plan. 

    As customers, we really don’t want to go wrench-lite, hammer-lite, or even cash-lite. We just want the best tools possible.

    Though the financial inclusion industry trumpets customer centricity – putting the customer at the center of our decisions about how to best serve them – how it goes about this endeavor is baffling.  One might presume that a good method would be to ask the customer what task she wants to perform and then find or make the best tools to help her, as this video suggests. But, for the most part, that’s not our way.  We constantly urge - “get an account, go cash lite” - ignoring a lack in evidence that otherwise might prove: going digital increases income equality, growth and customer happiness. In fact, the opposite has been documented. 

    Despite its customer-at-the-center masquerade, financial inclusion is really about keeping its suppliers at the center. NGOs and governments, reliant on formal aid or foundations recently sprung from their natal corporations, depend on movement and change as their stock in trade. So do corporations. Change is what keeps the media humming with tweets, blogs and press releases. Change is what makes profits grow. In the case of money, pushing people to change over to digital cash serves the top line of the telcos, banks and card companies. Cash does not.

    No organization, it seems, wants to fund a demand-side effort to keep cash around for hammer-like tasks. The assumption is that customers, on their own, can maintain the status quo of cash-as-a-tool. They don’t need us change agents to do so. But this thinking is deeply flawed. While cash is a good tool now and then, even cash is a challenge to some. Even cash must be managed, especially when it comes to credit or savings or even spending. 

    We are removing cash from a system in which cash has not been mastered. “No worries, we will leapfrog all that,” we tell ourselves. Kids will be born into digital money and never miss cash just the way we were born into calculators or apps and don’t miss slide rules. But the problem is that not-yet literate kids have trouble mastering the math behind the apps. In fact, the apps lull them into thinking that they don’t need to know fundamental arithmetic. When they get nonsensical answers from our digital surfaces, they lack the skills to judge their folly. The physicality of the slide rule at least forced some of us to take pen to paper now and then, to check our steps.

    Imagine coming from a culture that is illiterate (adult illiteracy in Africa is 38% and in some countries like Senegal as high as 50%), and then tumbling headlong into the well of mobile money. Your account surely would be empty  - always - either because its contents vanished from fees or because you withdrew your money so you could re-enter the hammer and wrench world. If you stayed in the digital world, you would miss the chance to check your steps. And if you have only a little money, checking your steps is key to survival. 

    A wholesale move to e-cash, even to cash-lite does not reflect the demand of customers. The push is not customer-centric, but supply-centric. The literature defends the push strictly from a view of the presumed benefits to customers, if only they would go cash-lite, not from any real perspective on the tools that customers crave. 

    We have an agenda, which is this: please be our customer, have your needs, express them so long as they are about digital payments or failing that, using a bank account ­­– a lot – and preferably, digitally. Else, we don’t give a damn. We don’t care about your archaic methods of pacing yourself through the use of paper currency. We don’t care about your coins pressed through the slot of a savings box. We desperately want and need you to modernize, to become just like us. Otherwise we have no justification for all the work we do and all the money we spend.

    Tomorrow when I hang another picture, I will look for a hammer in search of a nail. I know a whole industry of hammers in search of nails – it’s called financial inclusion. I’ll begin my search there. 


    Cross Posted with CFI - Center for Financial Inclusion - Blog.

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