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.


    « What's next? (Maybe just more of the same...) »

    Savings Group promoters keep looking for a New Thing, a product or service that will respond to the question “What’s Next” for Savings Groups that have learned how to save and borrow and manager their affairs. The idea of “What’s next” assumes that groups want a “next”. My own experience with groups is that, not surprisingly, some do, and some don’t. I suspect that more don’t than do, and that within the groups that say they do, it’s mainly the members that talk a lot who say they do, while the silent majority sits by. 

    I remain skeptical of the constant effort to add value to groups, beyond being an SG. Sometimes things are just fine the way they are. For instance, I’m a member of a ten year old bookclub. We haven’t diversified into movies or civic activism or an income generating activity. We haven’t formed a Federation of book clubs. We just meet monthly, discuss a book we’ve all read, have a glass of wine or beer or limonade, and then set a date for the next meeting. This can go on like this as long as there are books. Everyone is happy, no one wants to add bowling. 
    I’ve also been on a school board, and we mostly just tried to help the school run well. Doing that was hard enough, and managing a Savings Group is hard enough too, for most mortals.

    On the other hand, I know that SGs are a very handy platform for adding things, and, clearly many groups do want some sort of more, different and better. Innovations bring varying amounts of value and risk. I still recommend the AKF study on combining SGs and other activities.. which I wrote with Ben Fowler. Its findings are still valid. The study points out that we want to maximize choice, maximize benefit, and minimize risk, and putting the collective savings of the group at risk is always a high-risk strategy. Facilitating agencies need to assume the moral responsibility when they, as trusted advisors, give really bad advice, which happens sometimes. No group ever sued an internatinoal NGO for bad advice, but if they did, some INGOs would be in deep trouble. You know who you are.

    Even selling solar lamps to groups, which should be a no-brainer, and which I actively promoted for years, is riskier than I ever imagined. Members sometimes spend a lot of money (for them) to buy a faulty product, which fails and has an unenforceable warranty. Ouch. 
    There’s an America saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I suspect that applies to Savings Groups. 


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    Reader Comments (2)

    I also once promoted a solar lamp as an income generation startegy and one person who listened to me bought a large quantity of lamps which he did not manage to sell all. What matters is that he bought the lamps with the loan from the group, but he refused to pay the loan back with interest with excuse that he could not sell all and could not generate any benefit from the sales. This created a trouble and soon he left the group. I felt responsible and guilty for this.

    I agree with you, Paul, that the SGs are just fine the way they are. The reason I encourage bank linkage is not because I want to add additional value, or put the groups' collective savings at risk, but to help SGs run smoothly: security, more savings, and long term savings.

    If a group starts additional activities by their own initiatives (income generation), that's fine, but for the facilitating agencies, teaching them how to save, borrow and do the share out is substantial enough.

    Mon, August 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJong-Hyon Shin

    Thanks Jong-Hyon.

    I completely agree, and your comments remind me that the SG sector urgently needs a typology of linkages. What I know you are doing in the DR strikes me as quite benign, and wildly different from linkages I have seen elsewhere. Your linkages are marked by fairly sophisticated group members, a reasonable banking partner with a long-term vision, no coercion, and an emphasis on current accounts for safety. Some other programs are pressuring less sophisticated members to get into credit relationships with hugely expensive MFIs - these just aren't the same thing.

    And it's hard even to say that clearly if we lump both of these together as simply "linkages".


    Mon, August 17, 2015 | Registered CommenterPaul Rippey

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