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Since 2004, we have supported more than 1.3 million members in 59,000 savings groups in 28 countries. Of these, 82% are women, which is higher than the estimated global average.

Many factors have led to the growing popularity of savings groups as a development approach at Plan International. They provide clear benefits for their members such as increasing individual savings and income generating potential and generating a high annual returns on assets (average 30%).

They are also relatively easy to implement and do not require any levels of literacy. Once developed, they can also be managed and replicated by community members themselves.

Saving groups can also be effectively tailored to the needs of varying groups of vulnerable community members who do not have access to other financial services and support. By emphasising savings, they are particularly appealing to those who are generally more risk-averse, such as poor women.

Case study: Barclays Banking on Change

The Banking on Change (BoC) programme (Phase I), a three-year partnership with Barclays Bank, Care UK and Plan International UK (2009-2012) focused on introducing and expanding the savings groups methodology in Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Peru, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.  Assessed against its two main objectives, the programme’s achievements were substantial.

In terms of outreach, the programme directly benefitted over half a million people worldwide, 34% beyond its target. It also performed very well in terms of group quality, such as attendance (on average 91% of group members attend meetings) and group retention rates (on average 97% of group-members stay in the group throughout the first cycle). In terms of outreach to special underserved groups, the programme has been able to successfully reach out to women. In most of the countries, 80% of the group members are women. The programme has also successfully included unschooled individuals, specifically women, as well as people of all ages.

The programme has created a direct impact on people’s access to savings and loans. The accumulated savings of savings group members ranged from US $20-$100 per cycle of nine to 12 months, with an average return on savings of between 35% - 60% in the sub-Saharan African countries. This is substantially higher than the interest rates offered on savings by deposit taking institutions. Despite the short duration between endline and baseline (maximum just two years), the programme has seen modest successes in improving the socioeconomic situation of group members. Examples of these changes include slight increases in educational expenses (these went up from 63.9% of the respondents having education expenses to 67.5%) and decreases in beneficiaries failing to access healthcare due to the lack of funds (down from 17.5% to 14.5%). This is impressive, as such impacts are usually only measurable after five to eight years.

Ghana BOC Savings Groups
Displayed wares of VSL beneficiary.