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Savings-Led Financial Services Working Group Image

Advancing the inclusion of millions of people around the world into pro-poor, sustainable financial services.

Program Quality Guidelines for Savings Groups

Are all Savings Group members getting the training and services they need?

Are there risks to members that we don’t recognize, or that don’t get our full attention?

The growing popularity of SGs has brought with it much excitement, but has also highlighted some inherent challenges. As the benefits of SGs become increasingly apparent, new and diverse organizations are entering the field and adopting the methodology with a variety of goals and varying degrees of rigor. At the same time, organizations that have traditionally facilitated SGs are innovating with new approaches and technologies; while most of these innovations are assumed to bring efficiency, sustainability, and greater choice to SG members, their long-term impacts are still unknown.

To ensure that SG members are not harmed by this unprecedented growth and innovation, SEEP’s Savings-Led Working Group (SLWG) brought together SG practitioners to define minimum standards for quality programming.  Quality programs are understood as those programs that prioritize members’ welfare and that provide members with lasting and measurable benefits while minimizing risks and promoting group sustainability.  Additionally, practitioners stress the importance of programs serving a large numbers of disadvantaged people in diverse contexts. 

The Program Quality Guidelines (PQGs) begin with the conviction that facilitating agencies have a responsibility to implement quality SGs that safeguard the wellbeing of members and the security of their assets.  They represent a sector-wide effort to build quality from the onset as a guarantee for consumer protection, rather than waiting for problems to emerge before taking steps to address them.



Phase 1 (Complete): drafting the guidelines

  • Over 100 practitioners and industry stakeholders participated in written surveys and hour-long interviews, which informed the content of the PQGs and helped to identify programming priorities and emerging concerns. Between August 2014 and April 2015, the PQGs went through a number of drafts that were posted online for open comment; several agencies and individuals provided feedback that was reflected in subsequent versions. The Guidelines were also vetted at each phase by an advisory committee whose members were chosen for their interest and expertise on the topic. The authors had many exchanges with the advisory committee members to discuss both content and presentation of the Guidelines and to resolve areas of diasgreement among practitioners. The PQGs therefore represent a consensus on good practice based on experience to date and strive to recommend prudent actions, regardless of a particular agency's approach.
  • The Advisory Committee consists of: 
          • Marc Bavois—Catholic Relief Services
          • Kaelyn DeVries—Project Concern International
          • Janet Karsgaard—World Relief Canada
          • Milmer Martinez—Plant with Purpose
          • Sophie Romana—Oxfam America
          • Susan Wesley-Vega—World Vision International
          • Guy Vanmeenen—Catholic Relief Services
          • Boubacar DialloPlan International
          • Gabrielle Athmer—Independent Consultant 

Phase 2 (Completed): Consultations with Industry Stakeholders 

Phase 3 : Industry Dissemination (In Progress)

  • It is the hope that the PQGs will inform the work of a wide range of industry stakeholders, from Facilitating Agencies of Savings Groups, whether local, national, or international, to nontraditional actors seeking to build relationships with SGs, such as financial service providers (FSPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs), to donors promoting SGs.
  • A number of activities for dissemination are planned in the next year, from the official launch of the Guidelines at the SG2015 conference, the Power of Savings Groups, to webinars and presentations at SG gatherings, to commitments from industry stakeholders to share the PQGs within their own networks.

Please visit the PQGs website.

To provide input, share tools, or learn more, please contact Nisha Singh.

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