The Savings Box Program is the critical first step in building economic empowerment programs in the community. It is a simple community-owned savings and loan program where community members (the majority of whom are women) save together and borrow from their joint savings for personal and community development needs.
The Savings Box Program organizes the community around their shared needs and resources and provides members with leadership development opportunities – building critical leadership skills within the community. The Savings Box Program also supports the economic stability and sustainability of the community by providing access to loans that the community would not have access to through traditional banks.
As the Savings Box Program is community run, it provides a financing option that does not force the recipients into perpetual or unsustainable debt. The Savings Box Program provides a shared space for communities to collaborate to meet their needs, using their own resources. The program has been implemented successfully in multiple countries and is a critical first step in building financial literacy and economic security in developing communities.
This program enables the community to avoid relying on financial institutions for early development financing.
In the first six weeks, community members save money in a joint fund, and attend weekly trainings about financial security, best practices, and work on identifying their most pressing community needs. They also elect three individuals to leadership positions who oversee the funds use.
After this, funds are allocated as needed to promote the following developmental goals:
- Ensure basic needs are met (water cisterns, stoves, sanitation).
- Develop food production (family gardens, animal husbandry, and food conservation).
- Support economic development (micro-enterprises such as producing goat cheese, egg farming, or other locally crafted trade goods).
- Cover personal and family needs such as school fees, religious events, or medical expenses.
The assets from the Savings Box Program are organized through a cooperative system (monitored and supported by CHOICE Rural Development Facilitators) that includes most, if not all, villagers in the community. This ensures a more inclusive process for villager participation in the loan process, increases transparency and accountability, and supports a bias-free financial operation in the community.
All loans are determined by a cooperative committee of village leaders and the CHOICE Rural Development Facilitator (RDF) responsible for the area. This selection process gives local leaders control of fund management, with CHOICE leaders providing guidance and support.
As Savings Box Programs have been implemented around the world, we have found this program to be incredibly effective. Because the funds are managed and allocated locally, the benefits of the increased financial capital in the community are shared more equitably. The success of local businesses creates a trend of positive growth and returns funds to the Savings Box Program, empowering others in the community to start or grow their own small businesses, thus raising the capital available to the entire community over time.
Click here to learn more about a Savings Box Program in Mexico.