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.


    « Why I don't share in the enthusiasm for "Financial Inclusion" »

    I have four friends who lost their homes during the financial crisis, or who are in danger of losing them. In every case, they say, “We were naive. We shouldn’t have taken the mortgage (or the second mortgage). But it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was our fault, but it was also the banker’s fault. They misled us.

    Four families, losing their homes.

    The banks took the money and ran. They repackaged the mortgages and resold them. They got richer, and the poor got poorer. I was reminded of that by the crisis in Greece, where the poor Greeks have a terrible choice: stay in the Euro zone with severe austerity measures more or less forever, or go their own way with a new, worthless drachma. How did they get in this situation?

    Duh. The banks helped them do that. Here’s part of Wikipedia’s description:

    “Greece has had particularly precarious debt dynamics and Greece is the only member state that cheated with its statistics for years and years. It was revealed that Goldman Sachs and other banks had helped the Greek government to hide its debts. Other sources said that similar agreements were concluded in “Greece, Italy, and possibly elsewhere”. The deal with Greece was “extremely profitable” for Goldman.”

    Let’s see: Very clever people from big banks mislead people and help them make bad decisions. Bankers are so clever in fact that they are able to get rich out of tragedy. People suffer.

    The poor suffer the most.

    Does this sound familiar? Is there a pattern here?

    Now, I don’t deny it is handy to have a bank account. I have a couple, in fact. But I consider them necessary evils, and if I could spend the rest of my life without ever seeing a bank, I would. Maybe progress means that everyone on the planet will be “financially included”, and their resources will be under a pyramid of financial institutions with Goldman Sachs at the apex.

    What’s wrong with that picture? What could go wrong? How about, “everything”?

    Maybe that’s inevitable, and if it is, I accept it. But I’m not happy about it, and I promise to keep looking for alternatives. I am saddened and amazed at the enthusiasm of many of my friends and colleagues, as they help herd poor people into formal financial institutions. Don’t you have any second thoughts about that?

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    Reader Comments (7)

    Hi Paul, as long as people are not involved in credit, I think bank is handy for the poor: safe, excessive saving can be stored, and you can keep the money for as long as you want.

    But I agree that the world is promoting financial inclusion like a panacea for poverty. In a recent webinar on financial inclusion in World Bank, I saw people talking about the importance of usage of bank accounts as well as the access. One of the panelists said that the usage can be increased by transferring government cash transfers through bank accounts...! Shocking. That is not usage. Most people withdraw the cash transfers almost immediately once deposited. What does this "usage" have to do with poverty reduction?

    I do not doubt that there are banks behind fueling this fad on financial inclusion.

    Wed, July 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJong-Hyon Shin

    Paul, I agree entirely that financial inclusionistas need a more explicit treatment of the ethical basis for what they do: pushing poor people into relationships with big institutions that may not care too much for them; exposing them to banking and monetary risks they may not begin to understand and have no practical way of assessing; and incurring disproportionate penalties like getting shut off from formal credit for a number of years on the back of a negative credit report for failing to repay a small loan on which the borrower in any case collected a huge risk premium (I´m thinking the much touted M-Shwari here). I don´t think this can be boiled down to a good/bad or do/don´t issue, but there are definitely ethical issues that need to be grappled with that are routinely ignored.

    Jong-Hyon, I couldn´t agree more with what you say. I do think that usage is a good measure of customer usefulness and hence customer value, but only when it is a voluntary behavior. Getting my welfare paid into an account and systematically withdrawing the cash is not an indicator that financial services are useful for me. It´s just what I have do to get paid.

    Fri, July 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIgnacio

    Hi Ignacio,

    Thanks for that comment, and I appreciate your remarks. I do however have the feeling of being gently chastised when you say, "I don´t think this can be boiled down to a good/bad or do/don´t issue".

    I wouldn't want to boil anything down (except perhaps for the Board of Citibank...). But I do think the worldwide growth of an oligarchy of the super-wealthy is the number one moral issue we face, and formal financial institutions are the belly of this beast. This oligarchy is blocking an effective response to climate change, is complacent in the face of social injustice, corrupts governments in just those places where good governance is most important, and perpetuates destructive conceptions of human beings as primarily "consumers". Well, the list goes on, and I'm sure you could complete it more eloquently and exhaustively than I.

    Of course I could make this more nuanced: I gladly point out that I don't mean to confuse institutions and their workers, and I understand that some financial institutions, such as my own bank, seem really to put people before profits.

    But, the point of my short blog post was indeed to stress the good/bad issue, and remind some of my colleagues that they are in bed with strange and dangerous partners.


    Sat, July 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Rippey

    Hi Paul, I really did not mean any form of chastisement, I´m very sorry if it came across that way. My comment on good/bad, dos/don´ts related (rather cryptically, I see now) to the standard approach of addressing ethical issues via standard codes of practice or consumer protection principles. The ethical issues run much deeper, as you pointed out.

    You raised the very real conflict that exists between two distinct societal challenges that we have ahead of us: controlling the super powerful and the banks that do their bidding, and extending the privileges and benefits that we enjoy (including access to banking services) to those who can´t. There´s no nuance required, we just need to make personal choices as to where we put our efforts.

    Sat, July 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIgnacio

    Thanks Ignacio,

    That's just my Catholic upbringing, making me feel chastised.


    Sat, July 18, 2015 | Registered CommenterPaul Rippey

    Thanks, everybody. I love reading these threads and learning from experts in a sector I don't know much about.

    I was just realizing that 'financial inclusion' is not a term we use in conjunction with development or poverty alleviation where I live in the US. Hasn't aggressive 'financial inclusion' been the problem?

    Saving, however, resonates with me, even though I know the concept is unfamiliar to many people. I come from a modest family and thought I was a saver. Then I met my husband, whose Scots-Irish name I have. His ancestors came to the US in even more dire circumstances than mine. But they certainly passed down the saving habit, which acquired by marriage.

    Mon, July 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCarol McCreary

    A colleague just called me out for using the word "evil" to refer to banks that made millions of dollars coming up with clever schemes to separate people from their homes. He thought that the word "evil" was too strong.

    Like most words, "evil" has multiple senses. Just to be clear about the nuances here, I meant "evil" in the dictionary sense of, "harmful or tending to harm: the evil effects of high taxes." I stand by that.

    I wasn't trying to go so far as the other definition, "embodying or associated with the forces of the devil: we have been driven out of the house by this evil spirit." However, it's interesting that the example given is "driven out of the house..." So perhaps that sense applies also, but I don't know enough about the forces of the devil to assert that His Stinkiness is working through FSPs to break up homes.

    My colleague also thought that I was contributing to a polarization of opinion, and I accept that also. But I want to share the blame here. My friends who have lost or may lose their homes feel polarized by the banks. In fact, they feel screwed by the banks. Perhaps the appropriate place to start de-polarization would be the billionaires. Just sayin'.

    Thu, November 12, 2015 | Registered CommenterPaul Rippey

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