Research and Theory
Ah, how I wish this were a longer section. There is so much we still need to find out about Savings Groups. And yet, so much of the research that has been done isn't really up the standards we would hope for. But there are a few good studies, so let's talk about them.
A few randomized control tests (RCTs) have been carried out of SG projects. These have been criticized by some people, who pointed out, among other things, that some of the studies were extremely short. CARE's Uganda study is an example: only 24 months from start to finish, so that 40% of the groups hadn't even distributed a single time. Point well taken, except that even during those short periods, the studies found substantial positive impacts. Who knew? This is truly remarkable - compare similarly rigorous studies of microcredit, and you'll see the difference. Credit programs help a few people, and hurt a few people, and overall they don't have much net impact. SGs are a better deal, it seems (which is why I get sad when I see smart well-intentioned people trying to turn SGs in credit solidarity groups by leading them to banks which make their money by lending). Anyway, SEEP published an excellent summary of the various RCTs, by Megan Gash and Kathleen Odell, which I completely recommend.
I had the privilege of working with FSD Kenya onThe Quality of Delivery Study which looked at how different delivery channels perform - by delivery channels, we mean the differences between the approaches of different NGOs - corporate culture, incentives, agent training, group training, group methodology and so on. There are some important lessons here for anyone working with SGs. Check it out.