By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)
From 23-29 November 2014 the SA SDI Alliance and SDI affiliates from Malawi, Zambia & Zimbabwe gathered for a weeklong savings symposium in Cape Town to strengthen the Alliance’s savings practices. The group of 80 community and youth leaders discussed the power of savings for organising communities, leveraging municipal resources and opening a space to address individual, group and community needs.
Symposium overview: field visits and discussions
Discussions assessed the Alliance’s current savings patterns, locally and nationally. They clarified what roles and responsibilities exist within savings groups, identified existing challenges and developed solutions for these. Visiting affiliates shared their savings practices, systems and strategies, supporting the SA alliance through the exchange of alternatives ideas and opportunities.
Throughout the week the group based these discussions on field visits to savings groups and upgraded informal settlement communities like Flamingo Crescent, who contributed 20% of the cost of each upgraded structure. These visits enabled a hands-on space for the symposium members to accompany local treasurers and collectors and learn how to complete saving record forms during door-to-door savings collections in Khayelitsha, Philippi and Samora. During other visits symposium members supported network meetings in Samora and Mfuleni in Cape Town, where four or five savings groups in a particular area regularly report back to each other on a network level.
Understanding savings in the SA Alliance
FEDUP national co-ordinators, Rose Molokoane and Marlene Don, opened the savings symposium by exploring the purpose for the gathering, revisiting the history of savings in the SA Alliance and its significance as a core methodology of the broader SDI network. Rose therefore reminded the gathering of the SA alliance’s history as rooted in its first exchange in the early 1990s with urban poor federations in India who were practicing daily savings.
Rose and Marlene revisited the main aims of FEDUP and ISN, namely
- Encourage self reliance
- Organising communities
- Use savings and other methodologies as a tool to leverage external resources
These are underpinned by FEDUP and ISN’s 5 core principles:
Examining Alliance savings and looking forward
The purpose of the symposium was therefore to retrospect and understand the foundation on which the Alliance has built its savings, examine current savings patterns and look forward in terms of how these can be strengthened and developed. Based on impressions from the field, symposium members split into six groups, discussing questions, documenting suggestions and opinions in order to reach tangible outcomes. The questions under discussion were:
- What is a saver?
- Who is a collector?
- Who is a treasurer?
- What kind of savings do we have?
- Which kind is best for our organisation?
- How do we collect savings?
- How often do we collect savings?
- How do we record?
- How do we do reconciliation & savings?
- How & when do we do audits of our savings?
- How did you become a collector / treasurer?
- How do we run savings meetings?
- How should we deal with inconsistencies?
Each group presented its responses to the larger gathering, thereby mapping out a foundation on which to continue building the SA Alliance’s savings. The responses and group discussions will be used to develop a guiding framework for savings patterns in the Alliance. Communities thereby use savings not only as a tool to meet identified needs but to enable constructive negotiation with governmental tiers for resources and participatory development.
As members of each province reflected on the experiences gained during the week, it became evident that it was indeed a rich time of learning, exchange and building strong savings patterns.
“I learnt how to record in savings books, and I learnt the strength of being part of a group like this. I realised we can do it together. You made me feel so welcome” (Wendy, FEDUP Youth, Free State)
“I learnt the purpose of savings and how to motivate my community to save when I return home” (Sifiso, KwaZulu-Natal)
“Our federation belongs to us and we are the ones who will make it alive through strong savings!” (Rose Molokoane, FEDUP National Co-ordinator)