Featured Article: Video Training

Should you use video to train Savings Groups? Good question. The answer is simple: Yes, you should. In fact, I think for most programs, it is irresponsible not to use video to train groups.

You are probably using some variety of cascade training to train your groups. Cascade training brought the savings group sector to where it is, so Thank You, Cascade Training!

However, the unpleasant fact about cascade training is that it doesn't work very well. Read on...

Why group quality is often poor

You know what cascade training is, right? It usually works something like this: a master trainer is brought in to train the country program staff in how to form and train Savings Groups. That NGO works with local partners and - no problem - trains their trainers. The trainers go out an form a few groups themselves, and then they start recruiting village agents or community based trainers. Then the village agents train groups. This method keeps costs way down - the master trainer, who is expensive, only has to train a few people. The International NGO - not quite as expensive - only has to train a few people. Most of the work is done by the local NGO, which is much cheaper, or by the village agents who are free. What a good system! What could go wrong?

Well, plenty can go wrong, as we know. In cascade training, there is information drop-off at every level. Even the very best master trainer only gets 95% of the information across. The program staff - much less experienced with savings groups - only get 80% of what's left to the local NGO partner. That partner is lucky if they can pass on 75% of the remainder to their groups. Then its time for the village agents to start training, and these young women and men have much less education (sometimes none), often no training experience, may be illiterate, and they do the best they can. By the time groups are formed at the bottom of the cascade, a lot of them are poorly trained and sometimes these groups themselves go out and form more groups. You won't read about this elsewhere, but - brothers and sisters, I tell you it's true. I had a stretch a couple of years ago where I saw terrible groups one after another in five programs in three countries, and I came away feeling very sad about the whole Savings Group enterprise. 

But I remembered how many good groups there also, and how some agencies have done such a good job. In fact, there are too many great programs to list here, but if you want an example of cascade training with rigorous testing and apprenticeship and certification, read the short article, And Micah Begat Philip.

And yet, for every CRS, doing intelligent recruitment, thorough training, rigorous selection and careful supervision, there seems to be another NGO just throwing trainers out there who form a lot of groups, and no one cares about the quality, or even seems to know what quality looks like, or how it can be measured.

You can't rely on cascade training alone, sending trainers out and hoping for the best. You can't. If you try to do that, you will have message drop off, and you will have poorly trained groups, and as a result, a lot of your groups will break up and people will lose their savings. CRS accompanies their training by rigorous selection and careful supervision; these things work, and they are expensive.

So here's a shortcut that can help: work to shortcut the cascade with video. Prepare the basic most important messages on videos, and then distribute those videos to everyone. We'll talk about what to include and how to distribute videos later on. First, let's look at the advantages of video

The Advantages of Using Video

Message consistency: Videos deliver exactly the same information every time they are watched, never omitting a point; and they will deliver the exact same message to every participant, reducing later conflict about what the rules or principles governing the group should be. They are patient, never get irritated, and do not remind repeating the same message again and again. They never are late for a meeting, and they never have a bad day. 

Vibrancy: Well-prepared videos allow SG members to witness new behaviors being practiced by people like themselves. What people see often stays with them much better than what they simply hear about. If you like, check out this video from FSD Zambia - it's a great example of giving information through story telling.

Credibility: There is anecdotal evidence that members believe what they see in videos more than what they read in manuals or their constitution, and more even than what their trainer told them. One SG member in Zambia said that the videos took the messages off of paper, where they were only theoretical, and made them “reality”. In Kenya, members quote the narrator on the e-Kit videos, as if she were the ultimate authority on all things Savings Group. 

Saturation: Even the best trainer cannot train people who are absent from a training, and training sessions often often are given with some members absent for travel, illness, ceremonies or other reasons. Also, new members join groups after they have been trained, and often are left on their own to pick up procedures with little formal training. Videos can assure that all members, new and old, receive the entire curriculum. 

Durability of message: Members forget, and the original training messages can be forgotten especially as they are diluted by the influx of new members. Videos can stick around and provide even non literate members with a reminder of the principles and procedures they were trained in. 

Spreading good practice: Videos can "escape" from the program where they are introduced, and spread to other programs. While this might produce conflict, hopefully the groups will at least be exposed to information that can be useful to them. For instance, the Group Formation Kit videos in Zambia state unequivocally that groups should meet every week, in a country where monthly meetings are widely practiced. The data indicate that weekly groups outperform monthly groups, so contaminating other programs with the weekly meeting germ might be a very positive thing. 

Reduced Costs: Much has already been accomplished to reduce the cost of Savings Group training. Nonetheless, there are significant gains still to be made. Video training has been shown to reduce the cost of bringing about behavior change substantially in other fields. A study in India of the Digital Green project showed the cost of having a single desired practice successfully adopted by a single farmer was $38.18 under a training and visit system, compared to $3.70 in a video-based project. There is no guarantee that similar ten-fold improvements will be found in a SG projects but it is easy to imagine video speeding up the training process in many SG projects. 

How to make videos

There are lots of ways to do this, from very expensive to very affordable Here are some examples of very different video styles, from West Africa, Kenya, Zambia and Dominican Republic.

To be clear, I like some of these better than others, but they are all good. They all help groups understand policies and procedures. They all help make groups secure places for poor people to keep their money. So don't worry too much about style yet; we'll come to that.

In most cases, you will want your videos to be in one or in several local languages: Wolof, or Bambara, or Lingala, or Ki-Swahili, or a hundred others. You are talking directly to the people, right? This is not for the senior staff or the visitors or the trainers with high school educations. 

Most countries have, I believe, very competent local film makers who would jump at the chance to make savings group videos. These are the same people who make documentaries for projects, and TV spots for beer and banks. They know how. Negotiate with them, but trust them. It will be a very collaborative process - you will be a member of their team.

Other options are to bring in someone from another country. In most cases, you are wasting your money if you do that, I think; not only will you pay for a lot of travel but you will also pay for someone who doesn't speak local languages, or understand the visuals that appeal to local people. Of course, you have to value cost and benefit. 

If you have NO budget for this, you would be shocked at what you can capture with a high-end smart phone. My iPhone is one model out of date, and shoots amazingly good video, especially out doors. And I can edit on my phone or my laptop. Really, this isn't rocket science.

However, you need to start with a script and a shooting outline. Don't just start shooting. Would you like a model to start with? Good! Start with the scripts for the Master Trainer Group Formation Kit videos developed by FSD Zambia. Ask Chipili Mwaba for a copy.  

Fundacion Capital in Dominican Republic didn't have a budget for the video that is previewed above, so they made a film for four hundred bucks. That's lunch money in many projects. Local firms will cost tens of thousands. International: I hope you have deep pockets. Don't go there.

You can spend USD 400, or you can spend USD 100,000, or somewhere in between. Don't assume that what you get for the high price is many times better than the less expensive approach.  

What do good videos contain?

Videos should contain what we want members to know. Sometimes people make the mistake of concentrating too much on procedures, and not enough on principles. Procedures include things like the flow of the meeting, bookkeeping, and handling cash. Principles are ideals like democracy, inclusiveness, and respect for things the group has agreed to. Both principles and procedures are essential, and both should be covered in video training. 

The FSD Zambia Savings Group Formation Kit videos address this deliberately, having part of every video address principles, and part of it address procedures. The first part is principles, the second part is procedures. To keep these separate, the videos use different narrators for the two, with a named woman narrator ("Agnes Banda"( talking about principles, and an unnamed male talking about procedures. Look at this example - Video #2 on beginning to write the constitution. Notice how it starts with principles and then, around 4:20 Agnes says, "Here's how we decided on our rules..." and the male narrator takes over. 

You can start from zero - or you can just get a copy of the scripts that were developed by FSD Zambia - again, ask Chipili Mwamba for a copy - and modify them as you need to.

What do we do with videos once we have them?

On two occasions in two countries I have been shown carefully developed videos, and then I've asked, What do the groups think about these?, and I've been surprised to hear, The groups haven't seen them. Huh? It turns out that programs have developed videos for trainers, but have a policy of not showing them to the groups. 

Ask yourself why a program would have useful, accessible information in local languages that shows people how to run groups, and then, would keep those videos from the groups? Look, there is a lot of inertia in programs. No one wants to change things too much or too fast. The old way of doing things is comfortable and easy. 

Note also that technology and automation have always scared people who are afraid of losing their jobs, and some trainers, and maybe some other program staff, have been afraid that videos will replace the trainers (they won't, by the way, at least not soon - they will just enable them to get a lot more done, better and easier.)

Look, we all know that INGOs support human and economic development, but they also have to operate like businesses and to respect their contracts, and they are married to old ways of doing things. Savings Groups are still formed in very top-down ways. CARE or AKF or CRS claim to know something important, and so they ask for money from a donor to pass this information onto "poor people". We all work in that model - I've lived most of my professional life within that model, and it's been very very good to me. But it's not the only way.

Instead of training groups, what if we take everything we know, package it so it's easy for people to unpack and duplicate, and then give it to the people. What that means specifically is we can get out of the business of training savings groups, and get into the business of empowering savings groups to train savings groups, that in turn train savings groups.

As we know, in some countries, there are as many more groups formed by other groups as there are by all the NGOs combined. Rather than celebrate and assist that phenomenon, we have ignored it or co-opted it. We've co-opted it by letting trainers come in to existing member-formed groups and take credit for training them. And we've ignored it by putting just about 100% of our resources into cascade training, administration, consultants, vehicles, salaries and so on, and 0% into making it safe and easy for groups to train other groups. If you are forming groups the traditional way, you need to spend on all those things - but even in traditional programs, the way the resources are distributed - 100% for groups formed by the project, 0% for groups formed by other groups - doesn't make sense. 

So, in practice, what does this mean? How do we give materials to the groups themselves? Well, let's look again at the FSD Zambia program:

First, the videos are clearly developed for group members, not for trainers. This is completely clear in the scripting and visuals of the videos. 

Don’t show your videos to the groups. GIVE your videos to the groups!
— FSD Zambia Master Trainers Program

Second, we tell trainers, Do not show videos to the group, but GIVE videos to the group.

Third, we created a new position of Video Librarian within the group management structure, along with the Record keeper, the counters, the key keepers and so on. The Video Librarian's job is to receive the videos, either on smart phone, dvd, or memory stick and make them available to all the group members. 

Fourth, we made some rules to guide groups in training other groups:

  • Don't train another group if there is a good trainer available to do the work (but groups seldom train another group when there is a good trainer around anyway).
  • If you do train another group, make sure you are committed to training the group completely - don't quit halfway.
  • If you want to train another group, make sure you follow the modules on the videos, and give the group you are training their own copy
  • Don't train another group unless you have mastered how to run a group yourself. Otherwise, you will not be able to train the other group in things you haven't yet learned. 

This video shows how trainers (including group members forming new groups) are told to use videos in training groups:

What's next for you?

Want to look into this? Contact me (Paul Rippey). I'll be happy to chat about using video in YOUR program. Let's make this happen.