‘Promotoras’ Spread the Microfinancing Word

Benjamin Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs. He writes a weekly (schedule permitting) blog post about microfinancing in Guatemala.

Once promotoras help form the initial savings groups within a community, others see the benefits and want to start more groups. In most cases, members of the already-formed savings groups promote the approach and help organize new groups within their communities. Over time, savings groups may develop in neighboring communities, creating a ripple effect that can dramatically increase savings-led microfinance initiatives. The replication process usually does not require any heavy financial investment from external organizations, but it does entail a careful calculation regarding the pace of expansion and the potential burdens on existing groups.

In the case of our savings pilot program in San Marcos, CRS wanted to test the idea of a no-cost replication phase. Volunteers within the initial savings groups will be identified based on interest and knowledge of the program. They will receive additional training and will then help organize new savings groups among interested community members.

Why would someone want to volunteer her time to help other groups form? I’m always amazed at the commitment of the volunteers in CRS’ projects. They are motivated by a desire to improve their communities and often work long hours without receiving any tangible personal benefit. The savings group approach emphasizes solidarity among members, so perhaps it’s only natural that this solidarity would extend to other people in the community.

But I also think that personal reasons may explain some volunteers’ motivation. During my interactions with the women participating in the savings groups, I’ve noticed that they enjoy demonstrating their knowledge of the approach and sharing their savings goals. Those in leadership roles express pride at the members’ trust in them and the valuable management skills they’ve developed. Above all, the ability to “give back”—which motivates us to volunteer in our own communities—is an important source of inspiration for the group members.

– Ben Hess

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