More! Better! Cheaper! Savings Groups as Commodities
Leading savings group implementers are taking significant steps to bring costs down. Organizations are simplifying systems and encouraging independent replication – existing group members themselves forming new groups. Implementers are also beginning to compare costs between programs. Still, most people would agree that as an industry, we can do better.
While the variations among groups in terms of memory-based systems, written records, variable and fixed savings contributions, insurance funds, savings-to-loan ratios, gender inclusion, platforms for other services, and so on are fascinating, they are of trivial importance compared to the core value of the groups: providing people an opportunity to save and borrow transparently and at little or no cost. As far as I am concerned, savings groups are commodities; who the supplier is, or, in this case, the promoter, is less important, as long as we can get out the product affordably and on time. Let us not forget that these groups all work. All the intriguing details that I enjoy discussing as much as anyone else are, fundamentally, just icing on the cake. Let us first be sure to get the biggest cake possible into the oven, so that everyone will be served.
And so the question: what would it take to get community-based savings groups everywhere? There is convincing evidence that, once established in an area, savings groups will continue. But how can we get them into every village and neighborhood where they would be useful? To obtain this kind of scale we will have to face some hard facts about outreach and efficiency.