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Carsey Institute Launches New Savings Groups Initiative

by on Feb 4, 2014  |  posted in Financial Inclusion, Savings  |  2 Comments
We are at an interesting juncture in the evolution of the savings group (SG) movement. Our emerging field is growing at an unprecedented rate and is moving into many new and exciting permutations, taking it beyond its roots as a simple, low-cost tool to make basic financial services available for poor people. Innovation is bringing new software and mobile technology applications, sustainable replication and is pairing savings groups with other development interventions.

Back in March, the Oxfam SG 2013 conference set a goal of having 50 million savings group members by 2020. If today, as some estimate, there are as many as 9 million savings group members globally, we have a long way to go to bring another 41 million into the SG fold. While visionary goals can be important as a call to action, reaching large numbers should be a secondary goal to building a secure, flexible and enduring financial and social development tool.

In a recent blog post on Savings-Revolution.org, Paul Rippey contends that achieving excellence in the design of savings groups programs is as important in our movement as it is in aviation, medicine and other fields. The loss of even one family’s savings can have tragic results if the group process is not managed well. The misdeeds of commercial microfinance have demonstrated what happens when our values become blurred: client financial security becomes subordinate to investor returns; expansion and scaling-up come at the expense of deep outreach and distract us from challenging the root causes of poverty.

Since its founding in 2004, the Carsey Institute has worked to understand the deeply embedded causes of poverty and what strategies are effective in advancing opportunities for low-income people in the United States. Carsey staff researchers and fellows give policy makers and practitioners the timely, independent resources they need to effect change in their communities. We are very pleased to announce that Carsey will now expand its focus to research on savings groups through the Community Based Financial Inclusion Initiative and the appointment of five new Carsey Fellows to help us carry out this work: Hugh Allen, Jeffrey Ashe, Malcolm Harper, Candace Nelson, and Paul Rippey. While in its early stages, we hope this new Carsey initiative will make significant contributions to the field by helping to answer important strategic questions about the impact of savings groups on communities, the empowerment of women, building community resiliency, serving as a platform for other development activities, linkages with formal financial institutions, among other vital questions. We also hope to establish models to scale up the savings group movement in the developing world and in North America.

Carsey’s Sustainable Microenterprise and Development Program (SMDP) in partnership with Hugh Allen (VSL Associates), and our African partner organizations have trained more than 600 practitioners from dozens of INGOs, NGOs, faith-based NGOS, microfinance institutions, donor organizations, central banks, for-profit consulting firms, MFI apexes and other organizations. In 2011, Carsey worked with Oxfam America and the SEEP Network to host the Arusha Savings Groups Summit, the first global gathering of savings groups practitioners held in Arusha, Tanzania. [ES1] The SMDP Webinar series in 2012 and 2013 featured several well attended webinars on savings groups and, in 2014, the SMDP will partner with Oxfam America and the SEEP Network to offer monthly webinars designed for SG practitioners. The new webinar series, “Taking Savings Groups on the Road,” begins on February 19. It features the Catholic Relief Services Private Service Provider Implementation Manual and marc bavois, the manual’s author, who will highlight both the successes and challenges of scaling up the model. You can register for the webinar here. Other topics offered through this series will include Health/HIV, Saving Groups and Latin America, Monitoring, Linking with Mobile Technology, Regulation, Delivery Methods, Education, Agriculture, Youth, Ultra Poor, Disaster and Conflict, Gender, MFIs & Savings Groups, and a Donor Review of SG Projects. Please check SEEP’s events page for the latest information on upcoming webinars.

We hope the Carsey Institute’s Community Based Financial Inclusion Initiative can make significant contributions to what we know about savings groups and add to the body of research that will help the movement scale up with safety and program excellence as priorities. Our research work will embrace the larger social impact that occurs when poor women begin to see their future in terms of solidarity, commitment savings, collective action, self-determination, and agency.

2 Comments

Cecilia Nchangnwi says:
Feb 02, 2014

This is a very great initiative. I think i will love every breathe of it. will not hesitate to take part in its events if i have the opportunity to. May the Gods of Savings Groups bless this initiative, as it proves to always be the most reliable financial service provision at the base.
Cecila

María Jesús Pérez says:
Feb 02, 2014

Congratulations for this great initiative! Any research and shared knowledge in this field is extremely interesting and relevant to improve. We have been practitioners in this field for many years, and it is still a very relevant part of pur work in some áreas such as Central America. We will try to follow your webminars and resources.
Thanks for this great programme again!
María Jesús, CODESPA

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