Strengths, Weaknesses and Evolution of the Peace Corps 11 Year Old Program of Savings Groups in Ecuador
This study focused mainly on mature community banks in two of the four regions in which many Peace Corps community banks exist: the town of Bahía de Caráquez (Bahía) on the north-central coast, and the city of Loja in the southern Sierra. The data presented in this report is based on 30 focus-group discussions with community bank members, 51 household surveys and 1 structured interview as well as various discussions with Peace Corps staff. In addition, 23 community banks were visited and their meetings were observed when possible. Although the data in this report describes only the characteristics of the banks observed, the amount of variation captured provides the confidence that the characteristics described likely represent a fair percentage of characteristics present in most banks.
In conclusion, the strengths of PAC are the significant financial and social benefits that members receive through participation. They include disciplined savings, easy access to loans, and friendship and support from community bank members. The weaknesses of the PAC are the general lack of transparency and good management of the accounting, and the lack of structure in the meetings, particularly in replicated groups. The PAC has evolved over time and members are managing larger amounts of money, changing the original rules to better meet their needs and engaging in additional activities of their own volition.