Course Descriptions

Week One: April 15-192019

Savings Groups: Programme Design and Implementation Management

Facilitator – Hugh Allen of VSL Associates
Five full-day sessions, including a field visit to World Relief Rwanda VSL groups

It is becoming generally accepted that conventional microfinance approaches are best suited to assisting emerging micro-entrepreneurs who are usually already in business and who live in or close to urban settlements.  For the most part, however they have been unable to reach the majority of the rural poor (particularly in Africa) with a suite of appropriate financial services. This is owing to cost of reaching them and the relatively limited debt capacity of the poorest. In addition, there is an increasing awareness of the primary importance of savings services, which most MFIs do not provide, and when they do, cannot provide an attractive return.  By contrast Savings Groups (SGs) can operate profitably in the most remote areas; are immediately sustainable and provide very high average returns on savings as well as flexible, convenient and accessible loans.  Their self-management and self-capitalizing capabilities provide them with decisive cost advantages compared to more conventional approaches that depend on the creation and survival of formal institutions

SGs are community-based, self-managed groups, in which members mobilize and manage their own savings, investing this money in a loan fund from which they can borrow in amounts as small as $1. This approach is proving to be low cost, highly sustainable, and extremely profitable for the member-owners and achieving significant massive scale.  It is estimated that SGs are now established in more than 75 countries worldwide, reaching more than 13 million members in about 600,000 groups.

The SG methodology is also promoted by most of the major international development agencies, including CARE, CRS, Oxfam, World Vision, Plan International and the Aga Khan Foundation. 

The objectives of the course are to:

  • Present the theoretical background to savings groups
  • Visit a savings group and witness a savings and credit meeting, evaluating the quality of the group
  • Be exposed to the methodological approaches and training tools employed by the major implementing organizations.  This includes a series of simulated meetings that mimic the normal training cycle
  • Introduction to two new VSL Associates training tools:
  • Simplified training guide that is also suited to use by groups that want to be Sharia-compliant
  • Selection, Planning and Management of Income-generating activities.  SPM is a course that is offered to SGs as they approach the share-out at the end of an annual cycle and prepares them to think about how to profitably invest
  • Be introduced to an MS Excel based SG Programme Design Tool developed by VSL Associates in cooperation with Chuck Waterfield

Week Two:  April 22-26, 2019

Savings Groups: Introduction to the SAVIX Management Information System

Facilitators - Hugh Allen, VSL Associates Founder
Five full-day sessions

The VSL Associates SAVIX MIS ( is a web-server based MIS, developed by VSL Associates and Software Group, created through support from the Gates Foundation and the MasterCard Foundation.  It is hosted on the SAVIX ( website. At the present time it is used by more than 1,300 institutions in more than 75 countries, to track the performance of more than 3,300 projects, covering just over 9 million SG members in about 450,000 SGs.  The SAVIX MIS has historically been supported by contributions form 5 INGOS but is now supported by subscriptions from project users.

The SAVIX MIS has the following characteristics:

  • It is web-server based, meaning that data can be entered at any internet enabled computer in any location worldwide and will accept simultaneous data entry from multiple locations and users. It will also accept data from mobile devices, allowing offline data entry
  • New upgrades to the MIS are automatic and no longer require importation of old data
  • Data and software are unaffected by viruses
  • It allows projects to post directly to the SAVIX website (, without being part of a facilitating agency network (one of the major limitations of the Excel-based version)
  • Error correction takes place in real time and illogical data cannot be entered into the system, while questionable data is automatically flagged for review
  • The system is built on a relational database, meaning that sophisticated analysis is now possible at the project level
  • At the users’ discretion, the data is automatically posted to the SAVIX, thus relieving programmes of the need to create data files and manually upload to the SAVIX
  • It allows project metrics to be compared to national, sub-regional. regional and worldwide norms, derived from the SAVIX website
  • It allows MIS administrators to create networks of projects in which aggregation of results or project comparisons can be conducted

The course is comprised of the following elements:

  • Architecture of the MIS
  • MIS setup and the creation of multiple projects in a single MIS
  • Creation of MIS user-defined fields
  • Data entry (including on Android and iOS)
  • Report preparation and printing
  • Report analysis and application to management
  • Creation of national and international networks of projects, across different MIS instances
  • Payment model and costs

The course is a companion to the first week’s course but is designed principally for practitioners who are already implementing an SG programme or who intend to do so.

Participants must come with a reasonably capable laptop, with wireless internet capability and with the registry recently defragmented. Please do NOT bring along an older computer that has a slow processor or one that has not recently been defragmented, since this may slow down the process of configuration and data entry. The system runs equally well on a PC or a Mac. Please be aware that Rwanda has a European 2-pin electrical plug standard and adaptors will be necessary if coming from the USA or countries that use British plugs, so be sure to bring an appropriate adaptor.