NEW UPDATE: Completed trials may now upload and register supplementary documents (e.g. null results reports, populated pre-analysis plans, or post-trial results reports) in the Post Trial section under Reports, Papers, & Other Materials.
Initial registration date
Not yet registered
November 13, 2013 5:39 PM EST
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Yale University, Innovations for Poverty Action
Additional Trial Information
Savings groups are part of a micro-savings movement quickly expanding across most of the developing world. Most often organized by NGOs, members of these groups save together, generating funds they then lend out to group members, generating interest on their savings. This study is a randomized evaluation of one prominent program, Saving for Change (SfC) by Oxfam America, Freedom from Hunger, and the Strømme Foundation (OA/FFH) in Mali. We find little evidence that these groups expand business activities, investments in agriculture, or increase expenditures at endline. However, households in treatment villages report improved food security and high frequency surveys demonstrate that consumption variability across seasons is reduced in villages offered SfC. We find no evidence of improvements in health, increased enrollment of children in school, or in women’s social capital, community involvement and intra-household decision-making power.
Saving for Change (SfC), is a community-based savings group program developed by Oxfam America/Freedom From Hunger. The SfC program builds on the accumulating savings and credit association (ASCA) model, enabling women to organize themselves into simple savings and credit groups. The group members, with technical support from the NGO, are fully responsible for managing funds in the group, making decisions on who receives a loan and the loan amount, and setting the terms and conditions of the loans- including rules on weekly contributions, interest rates and penalties for delayed contributions or repayments. Each group consists of approximately 20 women.
At meetings, each woman contributes a savings amount (previously established by the members) to a communal pool, which grows in aggregate size each time the group meets. When a woman needs a loan, she proposes the desired amount to the group. Once all demand has been voiced, the group collectively discusses whether there are enough funds and how to divide funds, and prioritizes requests if there is more demand than funds. Loans must be repaid with interest, at a rate set ex ante by the members. Each group manages its own funds which are entirely internally generated (with no matching or external loans provided), and all transactions occur in front of the group for full transparency. At a predetermined date, the cycle ends and the group divides the entire fund among members, which is referred to as a share-out. In order to address the problem of low literacy rates in Mali, SfC uses an oral accounting system to keep track of savings amounts and outstanding loans.
The SfC-promoting NGOs offer significant technical support to SfC groups. The SfC groups are formed and supported by two types of agents: “hired agents” (paid employees of a local NGO and trained formally), and “replicating agents” (local women from a village in which a hired agent formed a group, and trained more informally by the hired agents). The program aims to generate many replicating agents, thus giving the program independence from the activities of the NGO.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Business activities, Investments in agriculture, Expenditures, Food security, Health, Education (Enrollment of children in school), Women's social capital, Community involvement, Intra-household decision making power
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
The experiment was implemented as SfC expanded into new geographic territory. The study sample was comprised of 500 villages in the Segou region. Study villages were divided into 209 treatment villages and 291 control villages. We stratified the randomization by commune and used a re-randomization procedure to ensure balance on a number of village characteristics. Treatment villages were divided into catchment areas of about 15 villages each by OA/FFH and local partner NGOs. In the study area, each hired agent was assigned a catchment area and was instructed to target 10 villages in the first year of implementation (May 2009-April 2010). In the following year (May 2010-April 2011), hired agents continued to support villages targeted the first year and also introduced SfC in the remaining villages in their zone. During the third year (May 2011-April 2012), the number of hired agents decreased and the territories expanded somewhat. Hired agents continued to support existing replicating agents, added extra groups in neighborhoods of big villages/towns, and implemented follow-up to strengthen older groups.
In order to investigate the way in which the training method of the replicating agent affects program impacts, treatment villages within each catchment were randomly assigned to one of two replication types. Replicating agents in structured replication villages participated in a formal, three-day training. As part of the training, replicators received a pictorial guide and a certificate stating they are certified to form SfC groups. In organic replication villages, replicating agents were not provided with the formal training and material resources. Hired agents provided support (answering questions and giving advice) to replicating agents, whether in the structured or organic villages. Hired agents were instructed to target an equal number of villages from each replication type within the first year.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization was done using stata
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
209 treatment villages
291 control villages
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
Yale University Human Subjects Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Innovations for Poverty Action IRB - USA
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
June 01, 2012, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms