These 10 tips are a product of the SEEP Network’s peer learning group on Savings Groups for Refugees – composed of representatives from the Danish Refugee Council, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University, FSD Africa, Mercy Corps, Trickle Up, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and VisionFund International.
Savings Groups can overcome some of the barriers to expand access to finance for refugees. They do not require legal identification, collateral, or investments in infrastructure. They can be integrated with formal financial services and digital payment systems – but can operate independently as well. And they appeal to refugees as many are already familiar with informal savings and lending. In fact, informal savings mechanisms are the most prominent financial service provider in refugee communities; and emerging evidence suggests that Savings Groups perform just as well in refugee communities as in host communities.
Several challenges remain, however, before these efforts can reach scale. The mobility of refugees challenges some of the basic principles and operational norms of Savings Groups; legal barriers to employment and the isolation of refugee camps constrain livelihoods opportunities; increased levels of theft and insecurity can place members and group assets at risk; traditional group mobilization and training practices may not be sufficient to develop group solidarity amongst target populations comprised of multiple nationalities, ethnicities and languages, and without permanent residency; and evidence remains thin regarding the complex interactions between Savings Groups and humanitarian aid, including cash transfers, food aid and other in-kind support.
The experience and lessons learned of the Peer Learning Group is consolidated in these 10 tips for development, humanitarian and market actors that promote or work with Savings Groups for refugees.