TRACK 1: LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND
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/AIDS, smallholder 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 SG methodologies, program design, targeting, and policies.
This SG2020 track aims to build upon prior experience, catalyze further 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.
TRACK 2: SPRINGBOARDS FOR YOUTH TO EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
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.
TRACK 3: GENDER-TRANSFORMATIVE APPROACHES FOR WOMEN'S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
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.
TRACK 4: ACHIEVING SCALE AND SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH DIGITAL SAVINGS GROUPS
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.