Thursday, February 05, 2009

Reactions to savings groups

As we collect stories about our savings groups, members and their purchases, we also collect reactions to our programs within their communities. Here is a sampling of reactions so far:

  • Our training in record keeping and policy guidance has restored some of the trust and faith that were lacking in some traditional savings groups. Before people feared pooling their savings because some won't pay back loans, others leave the group early, and still others argue about pay-ins or pay-outs. The structure we give in training frees them to get the benefits of community saving and lending while also drawing people together in healthy relationships. It's all about the trust.
  • Some churches report that their cell groups had no objective. They meet, pray, and go home. Groups thrive on having purpose, and we have heard that saving together and participating in their personal and community-level economic development has given groups vision. Moreover, many have said they are encouraged by hearing testimonies and principles like starting small and growing big, and they are realizing the importance this has in their lives. Giving vision is giving hope.
  • One trainer said that our savings program has been different from all the other trainings he's been to. "Many go start something but don't go back to see what's happening at the grass roots level." The groups we visit really appreciate and feel encouraged that we go to see what they have done.
  • As we assess programs, our group leaders and trainers in the field are realizing that they too can go assess their programs. They have commented on the benefits of sharing stories and discovering groups' challenges, and our monitoring and evaluation trips are becoming a model for trainers to monitor and evaluate the groups they have created. That's an exciting by-product for the health of our programs!
  • Unfortunately, we have also learned that people have been burned before with savings and credit. Some MFIs (not us) have moved into the area, taken savings and given unsound loans, and then they have folded up shop and gone home without reimbursing people's money. Of course, SCAs are different in that we do not hold people's money, they do. Still, we deal with the repercussions of doubt left by unsound agencies in the past.
  • Some (in one particular area) have been reluctant to join savings groups because they are active in trading business in town. The ones who find savings more attractive are women, mainly widows. This system of savings is somewhat new in this area, so the advantages are not readily apparent to everyone, even though those same traders may be able to make better purchases and better profits with improved access to informal credit and social networking.

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