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.


    A short history of Puddles

    Our friends at Puddle have put together a nice short illustrated history of Puddles, which is an exciting and growing branch of the family tree of savings groups, and a leading Northern Light. Click, read and enjoy!


    Excellence, Part 2: Bad things happen

    Looking through `Excellence, Part 1´ (and reflecting back on ‘Please shut your marketing mouth´) I wonder how many programmes really care about how good their SGs are.  Paul put his finger on it when he said ` professions have very high standards and very low tolerance of failure, and those who fail have to leave the profession.´ Wow!  A revolutionary thought on Savings Revolution!!  I jest. I think that maybe half of our programmes have high standards and a low tolerance of failure.  Most others, I think, subscribe to high standards, and don’t really worry that much if they fall short - or if, here and there, bad stuff happens.

    OK, bad stuff does happen. It can’t be prevented. But it CAN be minimised.

    Click to read more ...


    Thulisile Sithole – Proud homeowner

    Thulisile Sithole (33) is a member of Ikhwezi SCG (savings and credit group) in Limehill, a peri-urban area in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, which formed with support of SaveAct. The SCG – among the first to be formed in the area in October 2012 – currently has 20 members, three men and 17 women.

    Thulisile is married and has three children aged seven, five and one. She also adopted her brother-in-law’s daughter (now aged five) when he

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    Return to "Tool vs. Machine"

    I was reading Paul’s blog post Tool vs. the Machine and had a few thoughts.

    I’m excited by e-recording - which may be a problem. Should we expect that our passion for everything cellular may not be widely shared?

    One of the really interesting findings of research into M-pesa is that while daily volume is massive, individual balances are less than $3. It seems that while people will trust the system with their money for very short periods of time, they haven’t yet swooned over the opportunity to keep it on a ‘phone for the long-term when a bank is just down the road. The

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    Horticultural Community Entrepreneurship (HCE)

    We have come to appreciate within the two years of the HCE project in Cambodia, funded by the UC Davis Horticultural Innovations Lab and USAID, that bringing together disaggregated members of smallholder farming communities into savings groups is as important for scaling up the production of healthy and nutritious foods as the introduction of new farming technologies and practices. This pilot study examines how

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    Bitcoin Bites Back 

    In an earlier post, I tried, without success, to use bitcoin. Prior to writing that post, I was a believer in this new counterculture currency. Would this be something savings group members would like? Bitcoin seemed cool, subversive in a Height-Ashbury kind of way,

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    Bit Coin - A New Guest At the Roach Motel

    Inclusionistas rest assured. You don’t need to know too much about bitcoin to know that it is not a financial inclusion option.  Essentially, bitcoin is to money what the Roach Motel is to roaches. You can check in but never check out. 

    Click to read more ...


    Inside a Banker's Mind

    The other day I had lunch with an old acquaintance, an African banker. I don’t think he would mind if I used his name, but I haven’t asked his permission, so I’ll call him Mr. B.

    Mr. B is a good guy. He has worked with his bank to make it very easy for people without a lot of money to open an account and do business with the bank. He is using technology in creative ways, and I love it that lots of people who have never had a bank account before now have a convenient way to get the security

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    Hugh Allen on working with SGs...

    I spend most of my time in Africa helping to set up savings groups. These are small informal associations, made up of 15-25 people (mostly women) who regularly meet to save. The money is used as a loan fund, from which anyone in the group can borrow, paid back with interest - at a rate set by the group. At the end of a year all the loans are paid back (defaulting is very rare) and the money is shared out in proportion to what each person has saved. The returns are very high, averaging between 20-30%, because no-one receives a salary and the ‘office’ is usually under a tree! No wonder then that members prefer to save their money in the group instead of a bank, where they get no returns and charges eat away at their savings. I am constantly amazed to be paid for doing this and, in 44 years in development work, have never had such fun and felt so rewarded.

    (This originally appeared in the Guardian Newspaper Unusual Jobs section).


    Imagining a world without banks

    National Public Radio has an interesting podcast called “A World Without Banks”. Here’s what they say on their site:

    There’s this big idea floating around right now. It sounds crazy and fringey, but it turns out some non-crazy, non-fringey people are into it. The idea is this: let’s get rid of the banks. Don’t make them safer. Don’t make them smaller. Just get rid of them.

    The podcast talks about peer-to-peer lending and other new technology-driven possibilities. Sometimes entire industries disappear when

    Click to read more ...


    New film about SGs from FSD Kenya

    Here’s a film we just made about FSD Kenya’s work with Savings Groups. We hope you enjoy it.


    The Inclusionist Vs. The Affordable Care Act*

    A few months ago, the instructor of a user design workshop challenged the class to redraft the website, the official site of the Affordable Care Act.

    In a flash, my 23-year old classmate and team member, Sam, deftly sketched out a new landing page and a few forms. We had time left over to chat. It was Sam’s chance to question the very existence of the site itself.

    Click to read more ...


    Shared Value Communities - trust, sharing, collective intelligence

    A famous 16th century Portuguese poet, Luis Vaz de Camões, once wrote: necessity refines ingenuity. In our brave new world of scarcity, ACAF Portugal is focused on delivering social impact to improve this country’s low level of interpersonal trust (one of the lowest levels in OECD countries). This lack of trust undermines cooperation, initiative and sustainability, a trend we aim to stop. We also want to help prevent poverty and unemployment through our Shared Value Communities, a way to generate and manage collective intelligence and resources.

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    Tool vs. Machine

    E.F.Schumacher, the economist who promoted “human scale” development, distinguished between a tool and a machine in this famous passage from the chapter Buddhist Economics in his book, Small is Beautiful:
    … there are therefore two types of mechanisation which must be clearly distinguished: one that enhances a man’s skill and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in a position of having to serve the slave. How to tell the one from the other?

    Click to read more ...

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