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Savings-Led Financial Services Working Group Image

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Savings-Led Financial Services Working Group

A savings group is like a tiny local credit union: members save together, lend their savings with interest, and share the profits. Today more than 5 million people worldwide participate in some form of savings group. The popularity of these groups stems from a great need among the poor for help with managing household cash flow, particularly in remote villages or urban slums where no brick-and-mortar financial institutions exist.

Due to the tenacity and rapid growth of savings groups, donors and practitioners increasingly require a practical understanding of savings groups' operations and their potential for serving the "unbanked" poor. The Savings-Led Financial Services Working Group (SLWG) was created to this end, bringing together practitioners who work with savings groups to both share their knowledge and experience and disseminate learning more broadly. The working group creates publications, holds on-line discussions, and gives conference presentations to further knowledge of savings group methodologies.

What are the working group's recent accomplishments and 2012 work plan?

In 2011, the Savings Led Working Group successfully disseminated the first MasterCard Learning Product from 2010:  "Savings Groups, What are They?"  which has served to promote the initiative outside of the core group of savings group practitioners. In 2011, we also developed the content for the second MasterCard/SEEP publication:  "Savings Groups at the Frontier," which draws on the energy of the Arusha Savings Groups Summit and analyses some of the major themes of discussion. 

The 2012 work plan of the Savings Led Working Group includes promoting the savings group methodology and enhancing its visibility to external development actors, as well as proving its methodology by highlighting its financial and social achievements. The Working Group will also continue to offer a space for practitioners to advance their interests, guaranteeing continued improvements in service delivery and extending critical thinking on the impact (both intended and unintended) of savings groups on served populations. 

What are the working group's initiatives?

In addition to producing the publications and collaborative online resources listed below, the Savings-Led Working Group has two learning initiatives to increase information sharing among savings-led practitioners. The first is a literature database that collects operational studies, program impact assessments, and training manuals relevant to the savings-led field. Member organizations can contribute their documents to this database and make them easily accessible to savings-led practitioners and the wider NGO community, thus increasing the visibility of savings-led methodologies. A second initiative is mapping member organizations' savings-led operations around the globe. The mapping aims to keep practitioners informed of the growth of savings groups and increase the opportunities for cooperation among organizations.

What are the working group's upcoming publications?

Coming out of the 2011 Arusha Savings Group Summit is the publication "Savings Groups at the Frontier," reflecting on and building upon some of the main discussions of the Summit.  The publication will be available in mid-2012.

About the Summit: On October 4-6, 2011 over 250 savings groups practitioners from over 50 countries gathered in Arusha, Tanzania, to attend the Arusha Savings Groups Summit, an event co-sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MasterCard Foundation, Financial Sector Deepening, and SEEP. 

Participants had the opportunity to share their experiences with savings groups, their challenges and achievements, and their hopes for the future of the movement.  The event opened with Stuart Rutherford’s challenge to participants that savings groups fulfill the varied and complicated financial needs of the poor—a conversation which inspired subsequent discussions:  what is the intersection of technology and savings groups? What are the appropriate program design, bookkeeping, and replication strategies to reach poor populations?  Are savings groups an appropriate vehicle for other development interventions?  What should be the role of facilitating agencies in group promotion?  and much more.  In addition, theSummitprovided an opportunity to share preliminary results of important research (qualitative, quantitative, and RCTs) measuring the social and economic impacts of the model.

What are savings groups' current global outreach?

Savings groups are expanding rapidly across the globe.  This chart reports on expansion numbers by country and organization.  Data is being collected by Hugh Allen in collaboration with the SLWG.  


  • Savings Groups: What are They? defines saving groups and profiles the approaches used by the most experienced facilitating agencies and projects. This publication provides an introduction to savings groups relevant to both practitioners and donors. Download the document in English or French.
  • Sintesis del foro en linea: Grupos de ahorro en America Latina is a synthesis of a three-day online conference with organizations implementing savings groups across Latin America. Topics of interest include an analysis of different methodologies, strategies for linking groups to businesses and other initiatives, and issues of sustainability. This document will be available in English later this year.

Online resources

  • Savings Revolution compiles expert blogs, podcasts, publications, and much more on Savings Groups.  It is everything you need to learn more about Savings Groups and get involved with this exciting approach to financial services delivery.
  • The SAVIX is a reporting system that provides transparent and standardized data on community-managed microfinance. It collects and validates financial and operational data from more than 70,000 savings groups promoted by six facilitating agencies. The aim of the site is to facilitate analysis, develop norms and improve performance across the sector.
  • SPINNAKER aims to provide practitioners and researchers with an online platform that aggregates data and information on savings, engages leaders in the field, and highlights innovative savings products to funders, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in the savings for the poor field from around the world.

Get Involved

The facilitators for the Savings-Led Financial Services Working Group are Eloisa Devietti and Candace Nelson. Working group members must be staff of SEEP Network institutional members. Click here to find out how you can contribute.

The SLWG is also building an online database of literature useful to savings-led practitioners. The completed database will be publicly available and include operational studies, impact and evaluation studies, and training materials. To contribute materials to this initiative, please send them to Eloisa Devietti.

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