The 2015 State of the Campaign Report in a nutshell

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An African farmer is linked into the financial system via her mobile phone.
In his presentation today at the Inclusive Finance India Summit New Delhi, Larry Reed featured Mapping Pathways out of Poverty: The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2015. The report is now available online. We will also publish the full report in French, Spanish, and Arabic in early 2016. You can also read previous reports online, just select the year of interest from the drop-down menu “Previous Reports.”

At our 2013 Microcredit Summit in the Philippines, we focused on the partnerships required to deliver financial services to those living in poverty. At our 2014 Summit in Mexico, we focused on innovations in microfinance with a demonstrated capacity to reach those in extreme poverty. This year, we use the report to explore, in more detail, our six financial “pathways.” Each pathways has a chapter, and each chapter does the following:

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WSBI’s journey in making small-scale savings work

WSBI_Mobile Popote product Tanzania_605

Mobile banking service, Popote, in Tanzania, allows savings banks clients to access their account information anywhere. Photo courtesy of WSBI

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>>Authored by Ian Radcliffe, Director, WSBI-ESBG, Belgium

WSBI has long been a supporter of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and its goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. As an organisation that represents the interests of approximately 6,000 savings and retail banking institutions across 80 countries, advancing financial access and financial usage for everyone is core to our members’ missions.

In fact, it is part of a heritage that can be traced back to our members’ roots that in some cases go back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries in promoting self-help among poor communities. And, since it has nowadays become broadly accepted that financial inclusion brings material economic and societal benefits including lifting people out of poverty, the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s mission is entirely congruent with WSBI and its members’ values.

Our Commitment to the Microcredit Summit Campaign was announced during the 2013 Microcredit Summit in the Philippines and renewed again at last year’s Summit in Mexico. Our commitment focuses on two elements:

  1. Identifying successful inclusive finance strategies for youth markets.
  2. Holding events with our partners and member banks to share knowledge about pricing research and the implications on offering savings products for the poor.

Both Commitments have been pursued under the auspices of WSBI’s major financial inclusion program that started in 2008 and that will come to an end later this year. The program’s aim was to significantly increase the number of savings accounts among the poor, working with savings and retail banks primarily in 10 countries [1]. We were developing new business models and distribution channels and, in many cases, taking advantage of mobile technology.

At the end of this particular journey, we are delighted that six of the banks that sustained projects throughout the life of the program doubled savings accounts, and their growth continues. They have developed business models based on lower-income populations and in so doing, these six banks have undergone significant internal cultural shifts, leading to strengthened identities by clarifying their market positioning. One bank even managed to turn a 75 percent dormant customer base into a 75 percent active one with almost all improvement coming from modest-turnover, low-balance savings accounts.

WSBI_agent with mobile money El Salvador_285

Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world
September 23, 2015
Four Seasons Hotel | Washington, D.C.
8:15 AM to 2 PM
Learn more

The banks’ projects were inevitably supported by a great deal of research and analysis performed by WSBI (including the youth research referred to in our Campaign Commitment), which is available on our website. And, apart from project implementation, the core goals of the program included articulating and disseminating lessons learned to a variety of stakeholders, which is where the Campaign Commitment of holding events with partners and member banks comes in.

On September 23rd, WSBI will run its final major event under this program: a workshop in Washington, D.C., entitled Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world.” We will showcase the successes and challenges faced by the banks that participated with us in our journey. Panel sessions and debates will address how banks and their projects have evolved to adapt to changing environments and competitive pressures. We will explore how strategies, institutional cultures, and practices have adapted as a consequence of program lessons. We will also examine what remains to be done and how the banks and others see the way forward.

The accumulated learning on display at “Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world” will be of clear interest to savings and retail banks, policymakers, and other practitioners involved in the financial inclusion world. The program and registration may be found here; participation is free and we really encourage anyone interested to join us at this workshop.

As we all work together in progressing our journey towards full financial inclusion, WSBI remains committed to continuing its work in this field, as witnessed by its commitment to the Universal Financial Access 2020 goal announced at the World Bank Group’s 2015 Spring Meetings. We are actively forging new partnerships aimed at addressing critical legal and regulatory reforms needed to facilitate WSBI members’ activities in improving financial access. We will continue to support the development of financial infrastructures that are tailored to individual environments. We will draw on the wealth of experience generated by our savings program to support savings and retail banks by way of advisory services aimed at overcoming technical or capacity shortcomings and promoting cultural or behavioral change. And finally, more than ever these days, we will support banks in adapting to the digitized world in which we all now exist to stimulate innovation so as to reach out to new customers, in particular those who currently have little or no access to financial services.

Footnote

[1] Mainly Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. Initiatives have also been pursued during 2015 in Ghana and Sri Lanka.


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Getting the ultra-poor on the “economy train”

BRAC group meeting

BRAC group meeting

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>>Authored by Yanira Garcia and Sabina Rogers of the Microcredit Summit Campaign

More than one-fifth of the world’s population lives on less than US$1.25 per day (the “extreme poor”), and most of those people live in rural areas. Due mostly to geographic constraints, it is difficult and costly to reach this population with financial and social services. Having poor infrastructure and few tools, they are stuck in a perpetual cycle of poverty.

This is a problem just begging for a solution. How about six financial inclusion strategies — our “six pathways” — that show promise in ending extreme poverty? Specifically, how about BRAC’s Graduation Approach? In 2002, BRAC set out to help the ultra-poor living on less than 80 cents a day to move up one level of poverty and to develop an approach that could tackle the geography obstacle. (Read Shameran Abed’s blog post to learn how BRAC developed Graduation Approach.)

Exciting results from impact assessments

In June, Science magazine published the results of six randomized controlled trial (RCT) impact assessments of BRAC’s Graduation Approach. The RCTs were conducted in Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan, and Peru among 7000 households and provided the following complementary approaches:

  • Productive assets
  • Training and regular coaching and household visits
  • Access to savings and health services
  • Consumption support

At a half-day event in June at the World Bank, “Creating Sustainable Livelihoods for the Poorest,” the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), and J-PAL disclosed results from these six RCTs.

The RCTs showed that the Graduation Approach is a cost-effective, clear pathway out of poverty. Specifically, attendees learned that it can help drive a sustainable transition to self-employment and ultimately have large lasting impacts on the standard of living of the ultra-poor. “There will be growth in the economy,” stated Esther Duflo, “and the ultra-poor are not on the [economy] ‘train’ and would never get on the train [without help]…The Graduation Approach would push them onto the train.” (Dr. Duflo is co-director of J-Pal and professor of economics at MIT.)

Eligible households were identified through a participatory wealth ranking process as well as through household visits. On average, participant households had higher incomes, increased savings, greater food security, and improved health and happiness. These effects were consistent across multiple contexts and implementing partners.

Additional outcomes from the study include the following:

  • Daily consumption was not negatively affected over time in the selected sites after the program had ended. The authors suggest increased consumption is a result of increasing self-employment activity.
  • Household members were able to afford two meals per day more often.
  • Households continued to increase their productive assets (most in the form of livestock) as well as their savings after the program had ended, with the exception of Honduras. (Participating households in Honduras suffered an unexpected illness that killed all of the chickens, causing the study to be incomplete.)
  • In Bangladesh, where women were targeted, land ownership increased by 38 percent.

The Graduation Approach had the largest impact on ultra-poor households in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and India. Researchers suggest that income diversification may have been a leading factor. In addition, cost-benefit calculations confirm that long-run benefits for the ultra-poor outweigh the graduation program’s overall cost.

Policy lessons for scale-up and replication

The RCTs also provide us with important policy lessons for scale-up:

  • For the Graduation Approach to have a lasting impact on ending extreme poverty, the support and action of governments and policymakers is essential.
  • It is possible to make sustainable improvements in the economic status of the poor with a relatively short-term intervention.
  • The positive results to date indicate that this approach can have a profound impact on improving the lives of the world’s ultra-poor.

Scale-up of the Graduation Approach is underway and will reach thousands of households in the coming years. Mariana Escobar, deputy director general for the Department for Social Prosperity in Colombia, spoke about Colombia’s pilot that started two years ago.

In Colombia, the Graduation Approach has helped repair the lives of the victims of the internal conflict and victims of sexual violence. Ms. Escobar explained that these results demonstrate to policymakers and governments that the extreme poor can make good economic decisions when they are given the right tools.

Edgar Leiva (Secretary of Technical Planning, Directory of Public Policies for Paraguay), Hugo Zertuche Guerrero (Director General of Geostatistical Information of PROSPERA in Mexico), Camilla Holmeno (Senior Economist with the World Bank in Ethiopia), and Fiona Howell (Senior Social Assistance Policy Advisor with the National Team For the Acceleration of Poverty Reduction in Indonesia) shared their respective country’s perspective on the Graduation Approach. On a scale of low to high, policymakers were asked to answer the questions below.

Q: How high was the impact evidence to decide to start a program in your respective country?

A: All of the policymakers answered “high.”

Q: How influential was visiting the site and seeing it in person to starting a program?

A: All of the policymakers answered “high.” Edgar Leiva (Paraguay) explained that his government started a pilot program two days after visiting Colombia’s pilot program.

Q: What was each country’s biggest challenge in implementing the program?

A:

  • Camilla Holmeno (Ethiopia): both cost and complexity.
  • Edgar Leiva (Paraguay): maintaining the positive attitude of workers in the program, which helps create a sort of magic and is so important to the success of the program.
  • Hugo Zertuche (Mexico): budget constraints due to recent decrease in oil prices as well as cross-program competition (and a perception that Zertuche’s program was poaching resources from other programs).
  • Fiona Howell (Indonesia): existing structures and system and coordination among the Ministries.

Q: What is the number one research question you would like to know the answer to?

A:

  • Camilla Holmeno (Ethiopia): test different types of packages with varying levels of transfer across Ethiopia.
  • Edgar Leiva (Paraguay): how closely tied the Graduation Approach is to the psychology of people.
  • Fiona Howell (Indonesia): how we can integrate the urbanized poor into the economic system.

Additional questions for future research were posed in the closing section of the event:

  • Which components of the Graduation Approach drive results? Through this study, CGAP and Ford Foundation learned that household visits allotted for 30 percent of the cost of the program. Are household visits necessary?
  • How do the impacts of the Graduation Approach evolve over a longer time span?

Watch the event recording

Related reading

#tbt: Green Energy and Green Jobs for Bangladeshi Villages

Muhammad Yunus and Queen Sofia of Spain visit a village in Bangladesh served by Grameen Bank (2007)

Muhammad Yunus and Queen Sofia of Spain visit a village in Bangladesh served by Grameen Bank (2007)

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThrowbackThursday blog post, which was originally published as a Box in the The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2009. Grameen Shakti (GS) announced at the end of 2012 that it had reached its first landmark of one million Solar Home Systems (SHS) installed in the rural areas of Bangladesh. In the press release, they said, “Grameen Shakti replaces millions of litres of kerosene by these 1 million SHS and reduces CO2 emission substantially. On an average, GS installs over a thousand solar home systems per day, working with a workforce of 12,000 young people. We are looking forward to witness the signpost of the next million by 2016.”


Dipal C. Barua, Managing Director, Grameen Shakti (www.gshakti.org)

The First Steps to Break the Energy Divide

Grameen Shakti (GS) was created in 1996 to reach rural people with clean, affordable energy through renewable energy technologies.

Bangladesh is rich in sunshine. That is why Grameen Shakti’s first initiative was to popularize Solar Photo Voltaic (SPV) technology. By owning a solar home system (SHS), a rural family can enjoy lights, television, radio, and can power their mobile phones. The up front costs are high, but once they are paid, there are no additional costs, load shedding, or ever increasing electricity bills. This makes a huge difference in the quality of life and income generation in a country where 80% of the people still do not have access to electricity.

A Business Model Suitable for Rural People

Government initiatives to meet the energy needs of the rural people have failed in most developing countries. Grameen Shakti, in contrast, was successful in taking the world’s most up to date technology to the rural people.

The first challenge was to acquire start-up funds and build a network to reach rural people. GS depended on soft loans and grants to start its program. GS also worked with local and international engineering institutions to recruit and train engineers to develop its in-house capacity. Currently more than 50% of GS staff are engineers and they are deployed all over Bangladesh. In addition, local technicians and users were also trained. This means local jobs, community support and efficient after-sales service at reduced costs.

The second challenge was to develop a financial and technical package suitable for rural people. Innovative application of microcredit made a SHS affordable at the same cost as kerosene while ensuring income generation and new business opportunities such as mobile phone vendors and televisions in shops. Special Packages such as a Micro-Utility Model allowed one system to be shared by many shopkeepers, linking the technology with income generation.

Initially GS engineers had to make door to door visits to demonstrate the effectiveness of the solar home systems. Once the villagers became aware of the multiple benefits of a SHS, the system sold itself.

Increased sales have decreased overhead costs which helped GS provide further credit options to the rural people. Local production of solar accessories has further reduced costs. GS reached break even point in 2002. This success drew the attention of the World Bank and other funding institutions and GS was able to source soft loans through the Infrastructure Development Company limited (IDCOL).

Future Vision: Creating 100, 000 Green Energy Entrepreneurs by 2015

Grameen Shakti also has a thriving Biogas and Improved Cooking Stoves Programs (ICS). Biogas plants are providing cooking gas, light, electricity and organic fertilizer to rural people with livestock. Poultry owners have especially benefited. They get rid of poultry wastes, reduce energy costs and earn extra income by renting biogas. ICS are popular with rural women because they can cook in smoke-free kitchens and cut their fuel cost in half. GS plans to construct 500,000 biogas plants and 10 million ICS by 2012.

To reach these goals, GS plans to create 100,000 Green Energy Entrepreneurs by 2015 and has set up 30 local Grameen Technology Centers to train rural women as technicians and entrepreneurs.

GS’s vision was to empower the rural people by giving them access to renewable energy technologies. In the next decade, GS will further this vision by creating green jobs and green businesses at the rural level to bring light, income, health and clean energy to rural people.


Related reading

Building resilience for the world’s poor: The $1.50 challenge

Jeff Ashe_savings group women count money

Savings group women count money
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Ashe

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Pathway

Savings groups (aka village savings and loans associations)


>> Authored by Jeffrey Ashe, Fellow, Carsey school of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire; Research Fellow: Global Development and the Environment, Tufts University

I read the recent World Bank News Flash entitled “International Funding for Financial Inclusion” [1]. In 2013 a total of $31 billion was invested in financial institution building, but what if just the grant proportion if this amount, $2.9 billion, was invested in training savings groups?

  • 200 million of the world’s poor (equal to all the microfinance borrowers today) would have a safe and convenient place to save and easy access to small loans (@$15 per group member).
  • There would be 10 million new savings groups in place in 2 million villages and many thousands of slum communities (@ 4 groups with 80 savings group members per village of 1,000 inhabitants).
  • These groups would mobilize and largely distribute $10 billion every year of which 30 percent ($3 billion) would be the profits from lending to members (@ $1,000 distributed per group of 20 per year) without outside funding.

This is possible since savings groups are able to:

  • Reach those that microfinance is not designed to reach profitably. Even the most motivated micro-lender cannot make money on $0.50 savings deposits and $30 loans.
  • Require a fraction of the staff. Saving for Change in Mali, a joint venture of Oxfam America, Freedom from Hunger, and Stromme Foundation, reached 450,000 women organized into 19,000 groups with 209 trainers. To reach the same number, a typical microfinance institution (MFI) would require a permanent staff of 1,500 [2]. Only a handful of trainers are monitoring Saving for Change groups in Mali today, with few signs that the groups are faltering.
  • Be promoted by local NGOs. Savings group promoters introduce a simple structure while the groups do the creative work of saving, lending, collecting, and record-keeping.
  • Virally self-replicate. The leaders of established groups train new ones at no additional cost.
  • Be profitable for very poor people. When the fund is divided at the end of each cycle, members receive on average $1.38 for each dollar saved [3].
  • Survive independently. A panel study of 331 groups in 6 countries over 5 years indicates a 90% survival rate [4].
  • Serve as a platform for other development inputs. Members launch their own projects, and disciplined groups with financial clout serve as platforms for government and NGO development initiatives and linkages to financial institutions.
  • Promote societal change. In Guatemala, savings groups banded together to elect women mayors. In El Salvador, ex-trainers are assuming roles in municipal governments.

Jeff Ashe_In their Own Hands_book coverWhat is the potential outcome? A randomized controlled trial and anthropological study of savings groups in Mali [5] funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that when only 40 percent of the eligible women had joined groups, there was a village wide (not only group member) effect. The findings included the following:

  • Reduction in chronic hunger with the greatest reduction among the poorest.
  • Increased assets, largely in the form of livestock that could be cashed in when money is scarce.
  • A one-third increase in savings from all sources, including traditional savings clubs (ROSCAS).
  • The substantial word-of-mouth spread of the methodology at no cost to the program.
  • Increased social capital.

Simply stated, the grant funding from a single year of financing financial inclusion could be translated into a modest increase in resilience for 2 billion of the world’s poorest at a cost of one dollar per villager: 2 million villages @ 1,000 inhabitants per village.

Savings groups work because they catalyze the capacity of the poor to achieve their own financial inclusion when provided a simple structure and a bit of training to do so. They represent a crucial component of a strategy for financial inclusion that also includes savings, credit, insurance through institutions, programs targeting the ultra-poor, and conditional cash transfers. This, in addition to the informal means the poor have long used to manage their finances.

Related resources


Sources

[1] Estelle Lahaye and Edlira Dashi, “Spotlight on International Funders’ Commitments to Financial Inclusion“. CGAP, 25 March 2014.

[2] David Roodman, Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance. 2011

[3] SAVIX panel study of 331 randomly selected groups. http://savingsgroups.com/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Karlan, Dean, Jonathan Morduch, Mamadou Baro. “Final Impact Evaluation of the Saving for Change Program in Mali, 2009-2012“. Innovations in Poverty Action, Bureau for Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA), University of Arizona, April 2013.

#tbt: There is No “Silver Bullet” by Jake Kendall

Delegates from the 2000 Microcredit Summit in Zimbabwe

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2011. We hope this will encourage you to reflect on the idea that all new ideas are old.


>>Authored by Jake Kendall, Research Fellow, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The poor are diverse and so are their needs for financial tools

2011SOCR-cover

Download the full 2011 State of the Campaign Report in our Resource Library

The past few years have seen the release of an initial round of results from randomized field trials looking into the impacts of various savings, credit and insurance services on the livelihoods of poor clients. They have been somewhat disappointing to those in the financial inclusion field who expected that they would provide clear marching orders.

Despite failure of many of these studies to find much of a poverty reduction impact on average, digging beneath the surface shows what appears to be a wide variation in both the rates of uptake of the products and in the impacts of the products on different segments of clients. This is not surprising. Financial services are primarily used to manage gaps in income or to generate lump sums for large purchases, investments or emergencies. Individuals will differ in their need to for these services. Thus, we would expect to see differences in uptake and impact. The early evidence seems to confirm that this is the case.

As examples, two recent studies of microfinance credit offerings — Banerjee, Duflo, Glennerster, and Kinnan (2009) studying Spandana in India and Karlan and Zinman (2009) studying First Macro Bank in Manila — do not show any improvement over 14-18 months in basic welfare indicators from providing credit to the general population. They do, however, show large changes in investment behavior or in other outcomes for specific subgroups — e.g. in the India study, entrepreneurs expanded their businesses and those who had similar traits to entrepreneurs launched new ones.

There have been a few studies of the impacts of savings accounts recently as well. Studying rural savings in Kenya, Dupas and Robinson (2009) found savings accounts had impacts when given to women. The study found that women who participated were investing 45 percent more, had 27 to 40 percent higher personal expenditures, and were less likely to take money out of their businesses to deal with health shocks than women who were not offered savings accounts. On the other hand, there were no impacts for the men. Studying Green Bank of Caraga in the Philippines, Ashraf, Karlan and Yin (2006, 2010), find that “commitment savings accounts” do increase average savings among women and increase feelings of empowerment relative to those with regular savings accounts. However, they also found that only 28 percent of those offered the accounts decided to accept them. Studying Opportunity International Bank of Malawi (OIBM) Brune, Gine, Goldberg, and Yang (2010) recently produced data showing that Malawian farmers with “commitment savings accounts” had significantly higher investments in farm inputs, but because the study group is only farmers, it is not at all clear how these impacts would play out in other livelihood groups offered similar accounts. Thus, in the savings studies as well there seem to be very different responses from different groups.

The conclusions we can draw from these studies are limited. It seems clear (and again, not very surprising) that demand for and impact of the different products is often correlated with differences in gender, education, wealth, livelihood segment, etc. That said, the studies to date do not give very fine-grained or particularly insightful segmentations of their study samples. It’s not always easy in academic studies to get sample sizes large enough to do this. There are fundamental limits as to what RCTs can tell us regarding how different individuals or groups respond to a single treatment. Nevertheless, it would appear that a rich direction for future research would be to frame the academic evaluations of financial products more along the lines of how marketers and practitioners would frame them, by focusing on distinct customer segments and assessing the uptake or impact among these different groups.

In a possible exception to the above trend, Jack and Suri (2010) document that, after its launch in 2007, the M-PESA money transfer and e-wallet product reached over 70 percent of all Kenyan households and over 50 percent of the poor, unbanked, and rural populations by 2009. New accounts have even grown by 40 percent since then. The researchers have preliminary results indicating that M-PESA users are better able to maintain the level of consumption expenditures, and in particular food consumption, in the face of negative income shocks. While it’s almost certainly true that, here again, different segments of clients have different uses for the product, clearly most Kenyan households have some financial need that M-PESA fulfills, and by connecting people with the ability to transfer funds, M-PESA may simply be allowing them to transact with a wider and more diverse set of counterparties who can help with whatever particular need they may have.

E-workshop Takeaways: “How to Build Savings Groups and Other Breakthroughs in Financial Inclusion”

SfC Group in Mali_607x272

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As part of their 2014 Campaign Commitment, Carsey School of Public Policy co-hosted a learning event on Thursday, December 11th with us to share the value of starting and scaling up savings groups. William Maddocks (Carsey School of Public Policy) facilitated an engaging discussion, featuring Jong-Hyon Shin (Fundación Capital in the  Dominican Republic), and Jeffrey Ashe (The Carsey School of Public Policy).

We would like to thank the panelists as well as the E-workshop attendees, especially those who participated to the Q&A session. We invite you to comment on this post to continue the discussion about savings groups and other breakthroughs financial inclusion. Please click on the links below to explore the session content.


RESOURCES

Listen to the E-Workshop RECORDING

Have a look at the E-Workshop SLIDES

Review the E-Workshop QUESTIONS


Savings groups picture Eworkshop

A savings group replication agent trains a new group. She is using the all-oral curriculum which makes it possible for communities with low or no literacy levels to create and run a savings group with complete autonomy.

Summary of the E-Workshop

The E-workshop focused on two main issues:

  1. A 2-hour training method to create new savings groups
  2. The link between savings groups and conditional cash transfers.

Jong-Hyon presented her own experience in the Dominican Republic, and Jeff talked about the takeaways from his research in West Africa.

The live discussion with participants also touched on a wide range of topics, including the benefits and challenges of youth savings groups, the role of religious institutions in supporting the savings group movement, and the benefits of bank linkages for both the commercial banks and savings groups members. Check out the full recording of the session available here.


SG Eworkshop picture 2_602x338

A youth savings group in Mali. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Ashe.

 Takeaways from the panelists

 

Jong-Hyon Shin (Fundación Capital) : Group quality: 2 hour vs classic VSLA?

Without doubt, the groups trained by classical VSLA enjoy higher quality than the groups trained in 2 hours. There are 2-hour groups saving as much as the conventional groups, but it is true that the group quality is not even, while the conventional groups demonstrate rather consistent performance. 2-hour training can get the groups to start saving, but it’s not enough to build a strong group. I believe that a group should have at least 3-5 subsequent monitoring visits in its first cycle. This is why I am working with PROSOLI, Dominican Republic’s CCTs, in which the group members will have a periodic visits from their trainers. Another measure to complement 2-hour training is to pay attention to the selection of members. When the members are sufficiently interested, and there is a mutual trust within the group, chances for subsequent intervention drops dramatically. In sum, it is ideal to have groups trained by costly and labor intensive conventional methodology, but if we are to achieve the scale, simple training may not be an undesirable option.

Jeff Ashe (Author of In Their Own Hands: how Savings Groups are revolutionizing development)

Two and a half billion people worldwide need a better way to save and borrow. Savings groups provide an alternative, safe and convenient place to save and easy access to small loans; an approach to mitigating poverty that is uniquely scalable because it is based on catalyzing the capacity of people to mobilize their own resources with only transitory outside help. The cost: a dollar per person and trending downward as what is learned in one village spreads virally to neighboring villages. Within ten years, savings groups with 100 million members could improve the lot of the poor in a million villages, at a cost of less than one percent of what these countries will receive in foreign aid. The extraordinary growth, success and durability of savings groups are due to following these principles:

  • Start with a vision of scale and design for viral replication – multiple groups in thousands of villages in a single country
  • Less is more, and the simpler the better
  • Build on what is already in place
  • Be sustainable – 89% of groups worldwide are saving and lending without outside support
  • No giveaways – giveaways keep control in our hands, not theirs
  • Keep costs low – the problems of poverty are vast
  • Insist on local control, the key to building skills and lowering costs.
  • Embrace learning and innovation

Are savings groups the silver bullet for eradicating poverty? No development effort can deliver on that promise – but savings groups are perhaps the best and most practical place to begin. The strategy of savings groups is based on an awareness that good ideas spread as they always have: through talking with neighbors and helping one another. We will judge ourselves successful when development passes from our hands to theirs.

SfC Savings Groups Mali (June 2010)

The map of the Savings for Change (SfC) program shows the rapid expansion of savings groups in Mali over the last 6 years. Red dots are groups 5-6 years, yellow is 3-4 years, and green are groups only 1-2 years old. SfC is a program run in partnership by Oxfam America and Freedom from Hunger.

To learn more about savings groups, we invite you to read Jeff’s book (In Their Own Hands) and Jong’s blog.


E-Workshops are hosted by the 100 Million Project of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and strive to feature the work of organizations who have announced Campaign Commitments to take specific, measurable and time-bound actions that demonstrate their commitment to the end of extreme poverty. 

Join Fundación Capital and the Carsey School of Public Policy in the global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. State your Campaign Commitment today by contacting us at mycommitment@microcreditsummit.org.

A Comprehensive Approach to Helping the Poor Lift Themselves out of Poverty

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Partnerships against Poverty Summit Banner with logos

Going the Extra Mile: From Safety Nets to Pathways out of Poverty
Track: Partnerships Targeting the Vulnerable
Date: Thursday, October 10th
Time: 9:00 – 10:30 AM

Going the Extra Mile_Picture _Roshaneh Zafar_288x360

Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director, Kashf Foundation

Partnerships between financial institutions, governments, and social welfare programs are essential for empowering the extreme poor reduce vulnerability and gain self-sufficiency. Moderating the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit plenary session “Going the Extra Mile: From Safety Nets to Pathways out of Poverty,” Roshaneh Zafar of the Kashf Foundation (Pakistan) noted that “poverty is a complex matter. We need multiple solutions, we need synergy, we need leverageability, we need scalability; and we all need to work together and do much more.”

The discussion opened with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) of the Philippines Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Juliano-Soliman, who told of their “convergence strategy,” a means to help beneficiaries graduate and stay out poverty through conditional cash transfer (CCT) community-driven development and sustainable livelihoods converging. Through this program, they also partner with microfinance institutions to provide credit to clients that need larger loans than DSWD provides (10,000 pesos, or approximately $230).

Juan Borga (Inter-American Development Bank) and Secretary Soliman

Juan Borga (Inter-American Development Bank) and Secretary Soliman

Juan Borga of the Inter-American Development Bank shared their efforts toward poverty reduction. Working mostly with conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs, they are trying to create a system that creates a relationship between the recipients of the CCTs to the financial institutions so that they will have “the right instruments [to save] and the right incentives to do it.” Commonly, “the financial institutions are not really providing them with the right products they’d like to have.”

Nelly Otieno of CARE International in Kenya and Yves Moury of Fundación Capital (Colombia) highlighted the necessity of building assets through methods such as savings groups and CCTs in order to create pathways out of poverty and to prevent long term dependence on financial programs.

Moury, in particular, stressed the importance of asset building and capacity building as a catalyst to spur sustainability and self-sufficiency–and thus an exit strategy for the implementers. According to Moury, “Linking savings and CCTs has been just like putting wheels on suitcases—a powerful combination.”

The speakers agreed that health insurance, mobile phones, identification cards, social protection, and bank accounts, working in tandem, greatly help to supplement financial inclusion initiatives and create pathways out of poverty.

Syed Hashemi,  CS Ghosh, and Nelly Otieno

Syed Hashemi, CS Ghosh, and Nelly Otieno

Syed Hashemi of BRAC Development Institute (Bangladesh) spoke about incorporating governments into exit strategies that allow clients to protect their assets and take advantage of new opportunities. He emphasized that, “through national governments, we can come up with an integrated, holistic, national social protection system that combines CCTs with graduation programs so we can collectively achieve this commitment of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.”

Hashemi also touched on the cost-effectiveness of social protection policies that include safety nets and offer self-employment because, although graduation programs that include extremely intense monitoring and coaching have been seen to have an initially higher cost, they require a shorter timeline.

Innovative methods of providing health services to the poor are equally crucial to comprehensively reducing the amount of individuals living in extreme poverty. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh of Bandhan (India) stated, “Poverty is a complex syndrome. It is not only possible to eliminate poverty through credit support to the poor.”

23_plenary_audience(4)_MarciaMetcalfe+CarmenVelasco+JohnHatch_400x300_photo credit - Vikash Kumar

(Photo credit: Vikash Kumar Photography)

Organizations and government institutions working toward eliminating poverty must implement additional services beyond credit, including social, health, and educational programs that target the underlying causes of poverty beyond financial inclusion.

Overall, the plenary constructively critiqued the current successes, challenges, and future opportunities in the effort to create the pathways the extreme poor can take advantage of to lift themselves out of poverty.

However, the speakers recognized that the road ahead is difficult. As Secretary Soliman stated, “We hesitate to say graduation or exit because poverty is very complex. The notion of graduation gives the impression that we are done. But with poverty you can never be done, and that’s why we call it transition.

Watch the full video of this plenary

News Round-up for Friday, July 5

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This week’s round-up includes the wrap-up of Chris Dunford’s Evidence Project blog. A must read!
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Institutional Action Plan Raffle Winner: GBSSL in Nepal

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Congratulations to this week’s winner of the Raffle for Institutional Action Plan submitters, Global Bahumukhi Sahakari Sanstha Limited of Nepal! EspañolFrançais Continue reading

Kudos and Lessons from One Movement to Another, Part 2

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I want to encourage you [the Savings Group movement] to continue to experiment with ways that will allow Savings Groups to start and spread without external subsidy. If you can do that, then the growth of your movement will not be dependent on donors but will instead depend on your ability to communicate your message and get others to spread it for you. Continue reading

Kudos and Lessons from One Movement to Another, Part 1

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Setting ambitious targets is important for a global movement. It helps everyone who participates see how their work fits into a much bigger whole. While each individual person or institution may only be able to contribute a small portion of the whole, the sum of all these activities depicts an international force that makes it possible for us to believe that we will see the end of severe poverty in our lifetimes. Continue reading