Five Best Savings Group Ideas of 2013

Five Best Savings Group Ideas of 2013

Unlike the bad ideas that have been recycled year after year, the good ideas of 2013 are all new this year, which is quite exciting! We count down from five to one, towards the very best idea of 2013.


5 New MIS

Hugh Allen and VSL Associates have rewritten the standard MIS, creating something which is web-based and more decentralized and more flexible. I don’t fully understand all the implications, but I share some of Hugh’s enthusiasm for something that can be easily managed by local organizations and allows them to put themselves on the map, at their own risk.


4 Puddles

Jean Claude Rodriguez Ferrera is in California, working with some very smart friends and thinking way outside the box, to find ways of bringing savings groups to almost anyone, on line. It’s still very early, and I don’t know what to make of Puddles yet – but just wait: this could change everything.


3 Activists

The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Pakistan is replacing the concept of the trainer, as the font of knowledge about how groups are run, by the activist, a person who trusts and empowers group members to share what they know. A lot of group formation happens because of activists anyway, informally. AKRSP will recruit people with a track record in civil society, who already make things happen, and give them some support, some tools, and a mandate.


2 e-Recording

FSD Kenya has invested in a smart phone app that will replace much of the drudgery of bookkeeping in SGs, improve accuracy, simplify monitoring, and provide a much larger set of data to help us understand group performance and dynamics. Coupled with video training, it creates the possibility of a “group-in-a-box”, a simple kit that may eventually democratize the creation of high-quality groups, and bypass the INGOs altogether. The key word is democratize: like many innovations, this can be used either to centralize control, or to give people control. 


1 Video Training

Freedom from Hunger has pioneered the use of short films that can be used on smart phones to train both trainers, and groups, in local languages. The potential advantages are huge: this may reduce costs, but even before that, it is likely to assure consistency of messages, something which is terribly difficult to achieve otherwise.



View Printer Friendly Version

Email Article to Friend

Reader Comments (4)

Such wizdom. Greed goodbye even maybe. Wow.

Tue, December 31, 2013 | Bjorn Joakim

I'm with you on video training Paul, but I'm not at all sure the idea of e-recording is yet a winner (I might be wrong, which is my stock-in-trade). I realize that e-recording will allow an SMS to tell you your balance and your debt (if the Record-keeper presses the right buttons), but can it capture data and present it to members in a form that respects the ways in which poor people assimilate and analyse reality - and allows them to challenge what they find? Or may it be just another item in the armoury of Mystifying Instruments, only to be fully understood by a priesthood - and never to be queried?. If I think that the number of stamps in my passbook isn't right, I am quite likely to call for an enquiry. But if it's on a small, glowing screen two inches from the Record-keepers glasses, will I be quite so daring?

I think that Ignacio said it best when he noted: ".... In order to stand a shot at displacing informal savings options, digital savings solutions must give people much more sense of being in control over their money and their circumstances. Digital savings solutions need to make it easy for people to play out the mental processes by which they decide which financial levers to pull.......We are far from being able to build these user experiences, but let’s start by understanding the nature of the attraction of today’s informal solutions and the inherent limitations of merely digitizing stores of value."

Amen to that

Mon, January 6, 2014 | Hugh Allen

Paul - Thanks for highlighting Freedom from Hunger's mobile training and the associated advantages. I just want to clarify that the mobile training tools are for use by the volunteer trainers—not groups—to form and organize savings groups and to deliver business education sessions to group members. During initial training, volunteer trainers practice using the mobile videos and the mobile application; afterwards, they are also able to access them at any time to serve as “mobile guide”, refresher and reminders, which should help to ensure quality and consistency of service delivery.

We have piloted this approach with partner organization BUPDOS in Benin, and hope to replicate further with other interested organizations, as well as develop more education mobile applications on additional topics. To view sample sessions, go to for business education application and for the first video of a 10-session series for savings group formation.

Looking forward to hearing more thoughts -

Fri, January 10, 2014 | Eden Rock

Thanks Hugh and Eden,

Hugh: I agree totally with the principle that electronic approaches need to give people more control and more transparency than existing solutions. I think that is starting to happen. The e-Recording app is at best at version 1.0, and maybe it's still beta 0.9. Even so, there are gains in speed and accuracy AND transparency, I believe. And the will be countless improvements. In the quote from Ignacio, he seems to be confusing "digital" and "formal". I would like to see "informal", that is, in the sense of member-owned and controlled, take advantage of new technologies. I don't want people to use smart phones so that CitiBank or Barclays can take their money and control of their financial lives faster.

Eden: Thanks for the clarification, and thanks for the links. For me, the big gain will be to speak directly to the group members. There may still be a trainer hanging around for a few years, but in the long run, I'd like to get rid of all of that apparatus and visits and cost, and give people tools to improve their money management themselves. We'll see what happens, of course. I can't imagine that the INGOs will ever train everybody - they aren't even keeping up with population growth. This HAS to go viral if we think that community-managed savings-led groups can contribute to most people's lives.


Sat, January 11, 2014 | Paul Rippey

Five Worst Savings Group Ideas of 2013

Five Worst Savings Group Ideas of 2013

Report from Bogota Forum on Savings Groups

Report from Bogota Forum on Savings Groups