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Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings

Kim Wilson, Malcolm Harper, and Matthew Griffith, editors
Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings
ISBN: 978-1-56549-340-7
ISBN: 978-1-56549-339-1
ISBN: 978-1-56549-391-9
2010/242 pages/LC: 2010011068
A Kumarian Press Book
"A useful overview of the current state of practice in an expanding field of approaches that is promoting the savings-led model."—Enterprise Development and Microfinance

"Savings groups are the core engine of financial assets for the poor, and this book gives us a rare view of them that cuts across geography, structures, and degrees of institutionalization. It provides an honest view of savings groups—what they are and what they are not—and thus offers readers a perspective of how these important mechanisms fit within the financial lives of the poor."—Daryl Collins, Bankable Frontier Associates

"Rich in interesting examples of both traditional and NGO facilitated savings groups.... The editors remind us that there is no magic bullet to resolving poverty, and that we as practitioners must remain sober about our role and the effects of our interventions. A most welcome contribution to the field!"—Moira Eknes, CARE Norway

"Microfinance started with a common vision to improve economic opportunity for the poor, but that vision has become blurred in recent years.... This book takes a refreshing look at how local systems of savings and lending, though extremely simple, bring the industry back on track."—Chuck Waterfield, MFTransparency


Development scholars, policymakers, and practitioners have begun sorting through the hype of microfinance to identify where and how top-down loans might fit into broader development efforts. To many, the answer involves shifting focus to another financial service: savings. Serving as a strong and perhaps more effective tool than microcredit, microsavings is quickly becoming a lauded poverty-alleviation tool.

The authors of Financial Promise for the Poor cover current innovations in microsavings around the world, describing how savings-group members are avoiding many of the financial liabilities of other microfinance programs while gaining skills and finding opportunities in collective enterprise.


Kim Wilson teaches at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, and is also a fellow at the university's Center for Emerging Market Enterprises and Feinstein International Center. Malcolm Harper is professor emeritus at Cranfield University's School of Management. Matthew Griffith is an independent consultant focusing on community finance and livelihoods.


  • Introduction.
  • Teacups and Hand Hoes: Home-Grown Savings Groups in East Africa—E. Jahns.
  • Dhukuti—A Real Treasure: The Growth of a Savings Group Idea in Nepal—S. Pradhan.
  • From Self-Help Groups to Village Financial Institutions in Bali: How Culture Determines Finance and Finance Determines Culture—H.D. Siebel.
  • On an Informal Frontier: The ASCAs of Lower Assam—A. Sharma and B.H. Matthews.
  • Revisiting the Early Days of CARE's Savings Groups: Interview with Moira Kristin Eknes, Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) Program Originator—Interview Conducted by K. Helmore.
  • The Savings Experience: Catholic Relief Services El Salvador—M. Guevara and B. Bucardo Rivera.
  • Saving Cash and Saving the Herd: The Role of Savings Groups in the Livelihoods of East African Pastoralists—M. Griffith.
  • Informal Group-Based Savings Services: The Indian Experience—G. Srinivasan and N. Srinivasan.
  • Jipange Sasa: A Little Heaven of Local Savings, Hot Technologies, and Formal Finance—K. Wilson.
  • Retrofitting an Agricultural Program with Savings-Led Microfinance: The Oxfam Experience in Cambodia—V. Parmeshwar and Y.S. Koma.
  • Virtual Staff: Exploring a Franchise and Incentive Model for Group Replication—A. Murathi, N. Otieno, and P. Rippey.
  • Market-Led Expansion through Fee-for-Service Agents—J. Zollmann and G. Vanmeenen.
  • The Green Box: The Savings System of Smallholder Farmers in Southern Haiti—K. Wilson and G. Burpee.
  • Adapting the Bachat Committee: Helping Pakistan's Urban and Rural Poor Save Better—W. Ahmed.
  • Women's Empowerment through Literacy, Banking, and Business: The WORTH Program in Nepal—Post-Program Research Findings—M.L. Odell.
  • Savings Groups and Village Development in Pakastan’s Karakoram Mountain Range—W. Ahmed and J. Ledgerwood.
  • A Snapshot of Oxfam’s Saving for Change Program in El Salvador—E. Devietti and J. Matuszeski.
  • An Alternative, or Something Altogether Different? The Savings-Led Revolution: Mass-Scale, Group-managed Microfinance for the Rural Poor—J. Ashe.
  • Pushing the Rich World’s Debt Crisis onto the Poorest: Why Savings Groups Should Not Rush to Borrow from Banks—H. Allen.
  • More! Better! Cheaper!: Savings Groups as Commodities—P. Rippey.
  • The Box and the Ark—the Editors.
  • Conclusion.