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.


    « Hyenas circling the hut »

    A big problem with Savings Groups is how successful they are.

    They often last for many years, and members save a lot of money. Maybe not individual members, but when you multiply individual savings by twenty members or so, the group’s savings become a nice bundle. And, when you multiple that by the hundreds or thousands of groups that may exist in an area, then the sums get very important indeed.

    So Savings Groups - because they are so successful - tend to consolidate a lot of money in one place, or at least, close enough that clever people start thinking of clever ways to separate poor people from their money. 

    Some readers may have heard Amrik Heyer’s presentation at SG2015 in Lusaka: she used the phrase “the hyenas are circling the hut” to describe this phenomenon, which FSD Kenya has begun to study. 

    It’s not a pretty picture. Groups get targeted by all sorts of people and institutions, including those whose job it is to protect the group. Some of those trying to relieve the poor of their money that we saw in Kenya include:


    • School teachers, who join groups, have themselves elected chairman, and then proceed to change the contstitution so they can borrow more. You can guess how well they pay back.
    • Rogue agents, who train groups in some new and bad ideas, including “trainers can borrow from all their groups” and “members must pay the trainer annual dues - forever”. 
    • Churches, which use their moral authority to urge members to keep all their savings in structures that the churches themselves set up, so they can make larger loans to local merchants.
    • Networks of agents, who do about the same thing, setting up Community Based Organizations and SACCOs to consolidate savings into larger pools to be managed by - you guessed it! - the same networks.
    • Banks and MFIs, who pay trainers a fixed amount per member or per group they bring into the bank, so that self-managing savings-led groups can get into a cycle of ever-increasing external debt.
    • Ponzi schemes and swindlers. You know about them.
    • Armed robbers, who in some cases have murdered treasurers, in some cases while they were taking money to a bank.

    There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that most groups are smart, and they remember to follow the procedures they have learned, keep information confidential, and not lend or borrow outside the group. 

    But - the bad news: sometimes the hyenas succeed and poor people lose their money to clever lazy corrupt people. Do NGOs have any moral responsibility for post-project outcomes? Is there anything we can do, in fact?

    Well, yes to both of those questions.

    If we put poor people into a situation filled with risk, it’s appropriate to take steps to reduce the risk. And, yes, there is a lot we can do. It all starts with the training we give to the groups - not just about how to run a group well, although we do that - but also about what the members should expect after the project ends.

    I’ll be writing more about that in days to come and I would love to hear your ideas also. Write me here if you like. 

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