Theophile Twahirwa from CARE Rwanda talks about what the team has learned in more than a decade of programming on Women's Economic Empowerment and savings groups. What did they find out? Savings is not enough; economic empowerment is not enough; investing in women is not enough. The team learned that true change comes from investing in equality--working with women, and also with the men in their lives and the systems of power they all face and replicate. Looking over a decade of learning, including the Indashyikirwa project, the team sees transformational change, and talks about where to go next.
Melch Natukunda from CARE Uganda talks about trying to build the first ever financial services app that linked poor rural women to banks. What's the biggest lesson? "it’s not just financial services. Anything we do should be trying to lighten women’s burden and help her with the other challenges she’s dealing with.” It's also about remembering that, "at a bank, someone is looking at this project and saying, 'is this giving me profit?' That will never happen in 6 months." You need at least 5 years to build something that will really work, but once you've got it, it can work for millions of people.
Zegeye Bante from CARE Ethiopia talks about working with youth VSLA, and what changes that requires from our traditional models. Youth are visionary and impatient, and want to meet their goals fast, so we have to accelerate our programming. At the same time, making sure that young people really understand the model, and that their parents and teachers accept and support the work we are doing takes a lot longer than it does with adult groups. So we have to find ways to build in more time at the beginning, and then get faster results so youth keep coming back.
Grace Majara and Takara Morgan talk about starting savings groups in Uganda's cities in 2008, with no experience, and no one on the team who had ever done it before. We assumed that the city VSLAs would be exactly the same as rural ones, and we were wrong. Differences in financial literacy, poor access to services, and the need to bring in people who understood the context are all key lessons from Grace's decade of experience in the space.
Camille Davis and Barack Kinanga talk about the challenges of creating savings groups (VSLAs) in emergency settings. Barack works in Yemen, where they have been able to create savings groups, but only by making a lot of adjustments to our traditional model. Not every context works for VSLAs, and it takes longer for people in crisis to build up savings than in development settings. We also have to think about what happens if the people have to move again, and what they need to build resilience.
Mark Malhotra from CARE’s Innovation team talks about the process of designing digital solutions, and the danger of trusting experts when it seems like they aren’t delivering what you need. Human centered design, frequent check ins, and setting clear expectations with consultants all feature as tips to make your next digital experience easier. Tip: just because someone else in an expert, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong.