SAVINGS GROUPS (SGs)—voluntary associations whose members meet regularly to save and borrow from group funds—have become well known across the development sector. Proponents point to a variety of benefits beyond savings and credit, such as improved resilience, mutual support, asset accumulation, and access to a variety of products and services offered through the groups.
The growing popularity of SGs has brought with it much excitement but has also highlighted some inherent challenges. As the benefits of SGs become increasingly apparent, new and diverse organizations are entering the field and adopting the methodology with a variety of goals and varying degrees of rigor. At the same time, organizations that have traditionally facilitated SGs are innovating with new approaches and technologies. While most of these innovations are assumed to bring efficiency, sustainability, and greater choices to SG members, their long-term impacts are still unknown.
To ensure that SG members are not harmed by this unprecedented growth and innovation, The SEEP Network’s Savings-Led Financial Services Working Group (SLWG) brought together SG practitioners to define minimum standards for quality programming. Quality programs are understood as those programs that prioritize members’ welfare while meeting member interests, provide members with lasting and measurable benefits, promote group sustainability and minimize risk. Additionally, practitioners stress the importance of programs serving large numbers of disadvantaged people in diverse contexts.
The Program Quality Guidelines (PQGs) begin with the conviction that facilitating agencies have a responsibility to implement quality SGs that safeguard the well-being of members and the security of their assets. They represent a sector-wide effort to build quality from the onset as a guarantee for consumer protection, rather than waiting for problems to emerge before taking steps to address them.