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Promoting Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems


Savings Groups: Building Scale and Impact through Adaptation and Experimentation

Jun 15, 2015 (Mon) - Oct 23, 2015 (Fri),

An online course for market development professionals

Course Description

Savings groups (SGs) have gained wide acceptance as a valuable complement to formal and other informal financial services where people can save, borrow, build assets, and receive social supports, even social services.

A range of innovative methodologies have been developed to support savings groups. Nevertheless, gains cannot be assumed and paths are not often linear or predictable. Income and asset gains can be precarious and slipping backward is always a reality for these families and our programs.

Experience has shown that program effectiveness and sustainability varies significantly by institution, incentives, and training. It is critical to combine an understanding of sound practices with the skills to test and adapt these methods in complex markets and diverse populations. 

Course Objective

This course aims to provide mid-career savings groups practitioners and policy makers with an opportunity to critically analyze their context and experiment with key strategic changes to their savings group programs and policies.

This blended (online and face-to-face) course offers four-and-a-half months of online learning and action research in the field culminating in a week of consolidation and innovation in Zambia.

The learning from the course will be simultaneously tested and applied in participants' work while they are connected to a learning community to engage in discourse, share, question and problem-solve with peer support and savings group experts. Each month, a different topic will be explored through articles/readings, video clips, expert panels, discussion forums, and small group applications.

Course Content

  • Savings groups and informal finance in the market
  • Models of outreach and governance
  • Evaluating complexity (financial and social returns)
  • Scaling up and scaling out (agent networks, linkages, branchless banking)
  • Innovations in the field (Zambia field visits and launch of Savings Group conference)
  • Action research skills and systems analysis

Throughout the course an action-learning assignment will be conducted, taking advantage of practitioners in their work environment and the support of the online learning environment. This community-embedded learning opportunity is unique to online environments. Practitioners focus their action-research assignments on current and relevant issues to practice experimentation and adaptation in complex systems


At least two years' work experience with savings groups, cooperatives, or member-based microfinance

Important Note:

The face-to-face component of this course will be held on Monday, November 2 to Friday, November 6, 2015, in Lusaka, Zambia, as part of SMDP Zambia and about ten days before theSG 2015 Savings Groups Conference in Lusaka. It is very important that students registering for this course will be able to attend both the online session and the face-to-face session at SMDP Zambia. The fee for this course includes full tuition for each component – online and face-to-face and room and board for six days during the Zambia session. See Course Fees and Registration page for more details. 

Learn more & register here: http://carsey.unh.edu/smdp/online

If you have specific questions about a course, please contact SMDP Online at smdp.info@unh.edu
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