Saving for Change: Financial inclusion and resilience for the world’s poorest people
This research conducted in Mali by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA) at the University of Arizona examines the impacts of Saving for Change, a Savings Group program developed by Freedom from Hunger, Oxfam America and the Strómme Foundation. IPA conducted a randomized control trial (RCT) with 500 villages (6000 households) as well as high frequency surveys with a subset of 600 households over a three-year period between 2009-2012. BARA conducted an ethnographic case study with a purposive sample of 19 villages including those in the RCT area with a baseline in 2009 and an endline in 2012.
BARA and IPA concluded that Saving for Change is an effective program providing real socioeconomic benefits to its intended populations. The study found that 40% of women in treatment villages and 12% of women in control villages joined Saving for Change. While those who joined Saving for Change were on average slightly older, more socially connected and wealthier than non-members, the program reached remote and poor villages where the majority of the households were living on $1 per day. The study also concluded that Saving for Change led to small, but positive and statistically significant economic effects when compared to control villages including increases in savings, loans and household livestock holdings, as well as improvements in food security and malaria knowledge, but not behavior. There was no measurable impact of Saving for Change on how households deal with health expenses, and small or no significant impacts on school enrollment, business development or expansion, agricultural inputs, or household and agricultural assets. The ethnographic research found an increase in social capital in terms of village-level solidarity and contact with other women, but the RCT did not see increases in social capital or female empowerment. Structured replication, in which replicators participate in a three-day NGO-sponsored training, are given a pictorial manual, and receive a certificate upon completion, led to higher take up of the program and larger impacts for outcomes such as savings, food security, livestock holdings and poverty.