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.


    2014: some reflections

    Having done virtually no field work this year I’ve had more time away from the minutiae of individual projects to follow some of the broader themes I find interesting and relevant. As the year draws to a close, I was asked “what have you been thinking about?” and so I found myself pondering what has been — if not to try and figure out what might be, to at least take stock of where we’re at.

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    The Non-Consumer Advocate

    There are some great websites that are swimming against the current of consumerism. Here’s one, from Portland, where I live: The Non-Consumer Advocate. It consistently makes the point that the quality of our lives is not measured by the stuff that we own.

    This idea is a stick in the wheel, or a spanner in the works, of the consumer banking industry. If people made do with less, we wouldn’t need credit card debt, and then - what would happen to the banks? We need to be courageous to think about living that differently. If China had to close some of their coal-powered planet-destroying factories, if Walmart’s

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    In Search Of: Social Fund Stories!

    Each spring, Philanthropiece hosts a Community Bank Conference in Baja California Sur, Mexico, that offers a space for savings group members from the region to gather to share experiences and to learn from one another. The conference features workshops, dialogues, and learning sessions that allow local leaders to grow and deepen their understanding of the methodology. We will hold our next conference in March of 2015, and we plan to highlight the role of the Social Fund within a savings group.

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    Puddle jumping

    Some of you are following Puddle, the US based on-line savings and lending programme. Puddle is still evolving rapidly, but it’s also a functioning service where lots of people are actively saving and borrowing - I’ve invested all of twelve dollars, just to be a member and follow its progress.

     I was excited to see this message from Puddle a couple of days ago:

     Starting today, you can borrow more on Puddle by building trust. 
    To access more money, you can simply trust your friends on Puddle. When a

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    Trim Tabs and Savings Groups

    Good development work is about putting in small inputs which help existing systems work better. To get the maximum impact, you want the inputs to be smaller and the impact to be larger. So to use the old example, a good project doesn’t give a woman a fish, it teaches her to fish. 
    But Better Projects don’t teach a woman to fish. Instead, they create a sustainable fishing school where lots of women can come to learn to fish.
    But Even Better projects don’t create a fishing school. Instead, they empower the Ministry of Marine Resourses to create specialty schools.

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    "Financial Education"

    I just came across this short film and I thought I would share it with our readers who are practicing “Financial Education”.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I was involved in a fairly early effort to spread what we called “Financial Education” in 2006-7 in Uganda, and this was a very successful effort, or so everyone said. But, increasingly,

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    Savings Revolution, Savings Groups, and the New York Times

    David Bornstein, author of The Price of a Dream and many other excellent books, writes of savings groups in this week’s New York Times. His column, part of a blog called Opinionater, focuses on development “Fixes.” Clearly, he thinks savings groups have the potential to be such a fix. Enjoy his post here called “An Inclusive Emerging Economy, With Africa in the Lead.” And he is a fan of Savings Revolution. 


    ROSCAs revisited!

    Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs) are groups in which every member contributes the same amount every meeting (usually the same amount of money, but sometimes sugar or household goods), and the members take turns receiving the entire amount. They provide less flexibility that Savings Groups, but some of the same services: Commitment savings, lump sums, social support. They are simple, generally safe (unless people drop out after they have received their share), and very widespread. ROSCAs have a hundred names

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    We're back!

    Hi Everyone. Sorry that there has been so little activity on Savings Revolution. Thanks for your patience. I (Paul) have been super busy with travel and family stuff, and Kim has been super busy doing other things, and our other contributors have been super busy doing their thing. 

    Thanks for you patience, and thanks for a couple of people who wrote to ask if I was alright! Yes. And, I have some time, and lots of ideas, so put on your seat belts.

    And - everyone - here’s a reminder to use Savings Revolution as a forum - your posts are welcome!


    Excellence Part 3: How do YOU measure "quality"?

    I have recently had the pleaure of speaking with many SG practitioners about the question of Quality Savings Groups. I have been asking the question, “How do you measure quality in a Savings Group?” I got to do this while working on the SEEP “Do No Harm” principles - more on this is future posts.

    Quality is an important question, because - let’s be frank here - quality varies enormously among different groups. Many are fine, safe places to save. Members follow the rules, come to meetings, and respect each other. The group follows safe practices - including meeting weekly, and not pressuring members to take loans they don’t want or need.

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    Which "Savings" - spend later, or don't spend at all?

    Like so many English words, “Save” has multiple senses, so that people talking about “saving” might think they agree, when they don’t - or vice versa. 

    Let me turn to my dictionary: Here are two of the four meanings of Save:

    First, Save means, “keep and store up (something, esp. money) for future use

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    e-Recording reaches Rwanda - part 2

    It has been nearly five months since World Relief first attempted to pilot the e-Recording app in Rwanda. We have since retooled and launched. As I wrote in the first installment we had problems with our smartphone, which had trouble staying connected to the internet. It was an old and very cheap phone, so we knew if we were to give it another try we would have to purchase a new phone. We are now using a Motorola Moto-E, which costs around $130. It’s about $30 more expensive than the smartphones being used in other pilots, but boasts a

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    How to save a lot of money! (unless you are poor)

    Comcast is the largest cable company in the world, with revenue of USD 65 billion a year. On two occasions, national surveys found that Comcast had the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the country, worse even than the Internal Revenue Service. Comcast recently got some particularly bad publicity when

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    Who's gonna save your e-Soul?

    When we do things digitally, we leave behind us a sparkling trail of data. Supermarkets record our sales, credit cards record our purchases, our GPS records our travel, airlines record the cities we visit, bankers record our transactions, Google and Bing record our searches, doctors record our visits, and our internet provider and email service keep records of everything we send and receive.

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