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.


    Documentary Shorts

    The Aga Khan Foundation and Freedom from Hunger in collaboration with Oxfam and Stromme have produced films introducing savings groups, and sharing stories of savings groups in Mali and Cambodia.  The movies do an excellent job of explaining the basic concepts in just 8 and 5 minutes shorts, and providing a clear understanding of why savings groups are so effective in diverse contexts and communities.  You can watch them here - or find them permanently under Intro to Savings Groups.  Happy viewing!

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    Waiting for Rain and Returns

    Written in 2010, “Waiting for Rain, Reaching for Mangoes,” a paper on savings groups in rural Swaziland is filled with surprises. While the sample size of four groups cannot represent practices across that country, it does present practices worthy of our own reflection. To undertake the study author Julie Zollmann returned to her Peace Corps country to visit four chiefdoms. There, she uncovered group activities that many veterans may find puzzling.

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    Less is More?

    Dear Readers – A few days ago several savings group fans had a discussion on whether promoters of groups had a responsibility to layer on other activities that might ultimately benefit group members. Many promoters of groups believe that groups make an excellent platform for services in agriculture, health care, climate change, energy, etc. Others believe that savings group promotion should stay minimalist – that good savings groups will unlock the funds and empowerment needed for members to attract other valuable resources. We believe Hugh Allen did a terrific job defending a minimalist, standardized approach to savings group promotion. What do you think?

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    New Report on Savings and Rural Livelihoods

    Today, the Feinstein Center at Tufts University, released this report on savings groups, livelihoods and value chains in Ethiopia. While the report looks promising, the methodology needs scrutiny. In a nutshell: the baseline and first impact assessment were done concurrently.

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    Where the Benefits Come From

    While even a negative experience with microcredit can benefit savings groups, the same isn’t true of a history of handouts (standard practice in development programs).  In fact, the more communities have been given free stuff – fertilizer, grains, food assistance, new homes, - the less they’re able to benefit from savings groups.  

    Saving in quetzales on USAID grain bags

    Nowhere was this more apparent to me than in visiting the communities of San Marcos, Guatemala.  With a long history of violence, discrimination and a burgeoning opium trade, the indigenous communities surrounding San Marcos have one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.  The region qualifies for Title II food assistance from USAID, and HOPE*, the same organization promoting savings groups, distributes a year’s supply of corn, rice and cooking oil to pregnant women and mother’s of children under four.  

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    Haiti - Saving Despite Crisis

    January 12, 2010 was an unforgettable day for the members of the Brave Warriors (Konbatan Vayant), a savings group based in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Members lost their homes, businesses and loved-ones to the Goudou Goudou, the earthquake that tore through their city. Despite the devastation, this group continues to meet every week in its host church, Paroisse Sainte Claire.

    I first met the Brave Warriors in July of 2009, and was struck by how inspired their reasons were for joining back when it was forming in 2007. I recall one remark in particular: “I joined the group to reduce headaches!

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    Why microcredit is good for savings groups

    Savings groups aren’t promoted in a vacuum.  Many if not most communities where groups are introduced have a long history of interventions, ranging from medical brigades, agriculture projects, child sponsorship programs, food assistance programs to microcredit.  And the community’s past experience with assistance has everything to do with how they perceive and adapt to savings groups.

    Group secretary, Eda, updates the balance sheet at a meeting in El Tomabu, Nicaragua.

    Let’s start with microcredit.  In spite of its declining reputation, past exposure to microcredit helps savings groups. The groups I visited in Nicaragua, where microcredit reaches even rural and isolated communities and the movimiento no pago (no repayment movement) reflects clients disillusionment with credit, are quickly proving themselves to be competent lenders.  

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