A conversation with my colleague Gena, who is new to Savings Groups:
Gena: Paul, are you telling me that people just stay in Savings Groups all their lives, just saving and borrowing?
Paul: Some people do.
Gena: That’s it? Is that all they do?
Paul: That’s not all they do in their lives. They get married, have children, start businesses, grow old and die. They do all sorts of things.
Gena: But in their groups - is that all they do?
Paul: Sometimes. What else would you want them to do? Look, being in a Savings Group is like learning to ride a bicycle. You will probably go on and do other things, but knowing how to ride a bicycle is a useful skill that lasts all your life. I can drive a car, but I’m still glad to ride a bicycle sometimes. It’s perfect for some things, less good for others. What else do you think we should add to people who learn to ride bikes?
Gena: I don’t know - you can teach them to do tricks on their bicycles or something!
I loved this conversation, because Gena so clearly articulated ideas that I have heard many times: Savings Groups work well, and we need to change them. They don’t do everything. They are too simple. We need to teach them how to do wheelies: start group businesses, federate, guarantee bank loans for their members.
It’s true: SGs are kind of boring. Facilitating agencies get bored with them. Donors get very bored with them. Even some members get bored with them, and many groups do learn tricks: they independently choose to add all sorts of new funds and features.
I can relate to this: when I was 8 and 9 years old, I was very into doing bicycle tricks. No hands of course, standing with one foot on the saddle, sitting backwards on the handlebars. And - I never had a crash.
But for transportation plain old boring bikes are still pretty good!