Fastenopfer Solidarity Groups Approaches


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How to fix a leaky bucket: Fastenopfer's Solidarity Groups approaches

Solidarity Groups are an approach for community empowerment that is supported by the Swiss NGO Fastenopfer. Unlike other group-based savings schemes, in which groups are only vehicles for delivering financial services, Solidarity Groups focus on building strong cohesive communities. They use internal savings and lending as starting point for a community-led empowerment process that leaves no one behind. Working together in a spirit of solidarity enables extremely poor and marginalised people to build more resilient livelihoods, reduce their structural vulnerability to debt and exploitation, and gain greater control over their own destiny.

Programmes in Madagascar and Senegal were evaluated with a focus on understanding Solidarity Groups' Impacts using a rigorous mixed methods approach; India was evaluated separately focusing on understanding the importance of certain programme elements. 

The calabash is covered with white cloth, symbolising peace of the heart

The 'leaky bucket' analogy

The shared fundamental principle on which Solidarity Groups build is that the poorest and most marginal people themselves should drive processes of change. In order to empower this target group, Solidarity Groups focus on tackling what keeps them poor and marginalised. They are often trapped in debt and exploitative relationships, and have no safety net to fall back on. This makes them vulnerable to losses, setbacks and further exploitation.

The holes in the bucket represent the sources of vulnerability. Even if poor households or communities gain resources, such as more money, new physical assets, or greater political power (water into the bucket), they are likely to lose them again unless losses are reduced, setbacks prevented, and further exploitation avoided. The Solidarity Group helps its members to tackle these problems, so that any economic, political or social gains can be kept by the members and the community. 

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