Do It Yourself Savings Groups
There are two big categories of Savings Groups in the world. Let's call the first one engineered, and the second category we'll call Do It Yourself or DIY.
A lot can be said in favor of the engineered groups, those that were formed by CARE, Plan, Aga Khan, World Vision, Oxfam, Freedom from Hunger, World Relief... and the list goes on. There is no question (at least, that's what I think) that millions and millions of people have benefited from being members of the many groups that they have formed. So, Thank you International NGOs! And not only have you trained a lot of people, but you have spread the idea and the approach of Savings Groups far and wide.
And that brings us to the second category of groups, the DIY groups. These mostly exist thanks to the NGOs that introduced the engineered groups: members of engineered groups like the experience so much, they share it with their friends. They create Do It Yourself groups.
No one knows how many DIY groups there are, because they are simply formed by members themselves. But, there is evidence that the number is very high, and in some countries at least, there seem to be more DIY groups than engineered groups. (The evidence is spotty, though - that will be the subject of another blog post some day).
It is notable that the engineered groups have gotten about 100% of all the love and resources that the development community has given to savings groups, with 0% going to the DIY groups. This makes sense: if CARE or their local partner trains a group, well - it's their group in a way. They want to take care of it, and it's an asset that they can use to market their services to donors. "See, we have 60,000 members that we can reach with health, or education, or whatever!" And the NGO knows where the Engineered Groups are, and there is sometimes a sort of loyalty that develops in the two directions: the NGOs take care of their groups, and the groups hang with the NGO, in hopes of getting more goodies. Whereas, with DIY groups, no agency can even find them, much less shower them with goodies. Here's a chart that shows the way this looks to me:
But, there are SO MANY DIY groups out there. What would it look like if we gave them just a little bit of help? Just a pat on the back for encouragement? Or a short training manual, or access to someone who would support them? Maybe, if the NGOs spent just 1% of the total budget they have for informal groups to strengthen the DIY groups, then they might come out a lot better off.
Now, it's very nice to say that, but the practical question arises, How can we reach the DIY groups?
The answer is, I think, that we reach them the way we reach anybody nowadays: through the internet and social media. If I wanted to solve a problem 20 years ago, I had to find someone who knew the answer, and sometimes that was difficult to do. Now, it's easy: I just go to YouTube, and there is someone who has the answer, and who shows it to me in a short video. If there's no video, I google the question, and there are sites that will give me the answer.
So, I'm testing some of these ideas on a new site, StartYourSavingsGroup.com. All on-line, people can find a very short manual, a model constitution, and can ask for a volunteer coach.
This site is a test of a concept, and I am completely certain that there are lots of people out there who can do a better job. And, nothing would make me happier than seeing that someone else was disseminating the idea of savings group to more people, more efficiently. If you can do that, please Go For It.
And, as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!