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Technical Tracks


For over 25 years, Savings Groups (SGs) have driven financial and economic inclusion for marginalized communities. There is strong evidence to support their role in stimulating household savings, providing access to capital through credit and share-outs, fostering both consumption and business investment, and building social capital benefiting individuals and communities. 

While Savings Groups provide basic financial services in underserved markets, attempts to work with more vulnerable populations – including the extreme poor, people affected by HIV/AIDSsmallholder farmers, people with disabilities, and refugees and internally displaced people – have had mixed results. Challenges include mobilization, messaging, self-exclusion, heightened levels of economic and social vulnerability, security, mobility, physical impairment, limited support and social networks, increased targeting and operating costs, and prejudices among targeted communities and program staff. 

Since the first Global Savings Groups Conference nearly a decade ago, SG outreach has more than doubled. Yet, while development organizations increase efficiencies and scale, and Savings Groups reach even further, the critical task to leave no one behind remains undone. Recent years, however, have brought along more deliberate efforts to reach and better serve vulnerable populations through adaptations in Smethodologies, program design, targeting, and policies. 

This SG2020 track aims to build upon prior experience, catalyzfurther experimentation, delineate gaps in knowledge for future research, present improved program and business models, and strengthen partnerships and alliances – all to ensure access to a quality Savings Group for everyone, everywhere.

  • What are effective and efficient methods to identify and reach more vulnerable populations?
  • What adaptations have been made, or may be required, to increase the relevance and impact of SGs for more vulnerable populations?
  • Do spontaneous replication and post-project expansion affect the inclusiveness of SGs? If so, how?
  • How can SGs be integrated into national social protection policies and programs?
  • How can SGs be used to help vulnerable populations deal with emerging risks and adapt to climate change? 


There are more young people in the world than ever before – 3.1 billion under the age of 25, making up 43% of the global population. Nine out of ten young people live in developing countries, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, 63% of the population is under 25. This presents an unparalleled opportunity for social and economic transformation, as more than one billion children and youth transition through adolescence into adulthood. At the same time, achieving economic security, access to labor markets, and skill development remain a challenge for young people.

Youth Savings Groups (YSGs) have been promoted at scale inducing thousands of youth to save regularly, adopt financial management skills, and invest. Savings Groups (SGs) are excellent platforms for foundational life skills, financial education, and entrepreneurship training, allowing young people to build networks, share knowledge and experiences, and establish safety nets.

This track will explore how YSGs can respond to the needs of youth and promote entrepreneurship and workforce development skills that help young people secure a prosperous future as they move into wage employment and entrepreneurship.

  • Why is there a need for youth specific SGs at all? Or, what it is about regular SGs that does not fit the needs of youth? What modifications have and should be made to respond to the needs of youth?
  • What combinations of services added to YSGs have been effective in leading youth towards employment?
  • What is the evidence for YSGs as enablers and catalysts for youth to become entrepreneurs or to move towards wage-based employment?
  • Is there also a case for mixed-age SGs, with diversity bringing strengths to groups that, in turn, increase opportunities for youth and other members?
  • How can the application of gender equality principles make YSGs more effective?
  • How does YSG promotion, entrepreneurship development and workforce development differ between in-school and out-of-school youth? What have been the results?
  • Are there examples of YSGs, financial and life skills education and enterprise training being integrated into school curriculums?
  • What has been the experience of promoting YSGs and related services amongst vulnerable groups such as orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs), young people with disabilities, etc.?
  • Given the fact that youth are, by definition, in a transitory stage, does this present a sustainability issue that should concern practitioners?
  • What are examples of technology being used in YSG programs for employment and entrepreneurship? To what extent have these been effective?
  • How has use of the Positive Youth Development (PYD) framework improved the effectiveness of youth-focused financial and economic-strengthening programs and enhanced their impact?


The power of Savings Groups (SGs) to increase incomes and financial capabilities of members at low costs and at scale is well recognized. Most SG members are women, leading to the assumption that groups are also an effective tool to advance women’s economic empowerment. There is, however, little evidence to demonstrate the extent to which Savings Groups facilitate women’s empowerment.

While some believe in the inherent power of groups to advance empowerment, others think that fundamental change requires a stronger gender-transformative approach. Such approaches use SGs to change harmful social norms, including gender and power relations, both within groups and with others in communities outside SGs. However, even minor shifts in social norms can pose a threat to those exposed to existing norms, calling for ‘do no harm’ mechanisms to protect women at risk from harm and exploitation. Accordingly, there is a growing body of experience that employs complementary interventions to foster male support for women´s participation in SGs and household dialogues that encourage shared financial household decision-making, promote positive attitudes toward gender equality, create safe spaces for cross-gender dialogue, and understand the root-causes of gender-based violence to eliminate it.

This track will focus on women’s empowerment in the context of Savings Groups and explore how SGs can impact women’s economic independence, confidence and self-worth, decision making power in the household, voice and leadership outside the household, control over the allocation of time, mobility, and access to health services.

  • What evidence suggests that SGs can bring about women’s economic empowerment? In what dimensions has this empowerment been documented?
  • What combination of complementary activities linked to SGs has brought about significant changes in women´s economic empowerment? What monitoring tools and methods have been used to document and measure these changes?
  • How has the social capital formed through SG membership contributed to women’s civic participation and leadership?
  • How have attempts to digitize financial services in SGs impacted the social capital built in these groups?
  • Where have SGs alone been successful in changing harmful social norms?
  • What evidence exists that a Savings Groups ‘plus’ approach to change harmful social norms at the community level has been successful? How was this success determined?
  • What is the experience in successfully combatting gender-based violence through SGs?
  • Are there examples of attempts to change social norms having unintended consequences and producing harmful effects for women?
  • Are there examples of higher-level combinations of SGs (i.e. federations, apexes) that have produced transformative changes in social norms?


Is the future of Savings Groups digital? There is much promise and interest in innovative applications that digitize group procedures, records and transactions –  collectively referred to as Digital Savings Groups (DSGs). DSGs increase the viability of low-cost group mobilization by market actors and communities, enhancing the potential to scale. Technology supporting digital communications enables information sharing between SGs, development organizations, public institutions and amongst groups themselves. The combination of electronic payments, digital records and a centralized credit score can further serve as a runway for bank linkages.

However, uptake of DSGs remains limited. Current offerings are not easily accessible by potential users, technology service providers have limited ability to reach target users, and a lack of understanding of the potential benefits, risks and requirements of designed technologies restricts effective adoption and deployment.

At the first Global Savings Groups Conference in 2011, policy discussions around technology for Savings Groups were largely theoretical. At SG2018, several emerging technologies were featured at the Savings Groups Technology Fair. Today, market offerings are more numerous and diverse, illustrating the promising potential of Digital Savings Groups.

This track will delve into the implications of digitizing Savings Groups and explore how effective technologies and automated processes can promote transparency, group efficiency and, ultimately, scale and sustainability.

  • What are the key design decisions and functional and technical specifications of effective technologies for Savings Groups?
  • What are the main constraints to the effective design, adoption and deployment of Digital Savings Groups? How can they be overcome?
  • What are the key elements of successful business models and partnerships for SG technologies?
  • What are the key roles and responsibilities for the effective design and deployment of SG technologies – Who does what? Who pays?
  • To what extent should development organizations and funders promote competition, cooperation or convergence?
  • What is the impact of digitization on group dynamics, inclusion, and social and market networks?
  • What are the implications of digitization on consumer protection and data privacy for Savings Groups and their members?



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