Digitization can feel overwhelming — and even risky when considering inherent equity and access issues. Yet, with the right resources, organizations can go paper-free, or at least reduce that paper output, and save money in the process.
We chat with Global Communities’ Paulina Rudnicka, Senior Technical Advisor for Gender Integration, about the organization’s DSG Hub project and how it can help those starting and managing their own digital savings group projects.
Question: The savings group landscape is quickly evolving, with many foregoing traditional paper-based systems. How can the DSG Hub help those who are planning, implementing, studying and developing technology for DSGs?
Answer: In the past decade, stakeholders have implemented a range of digital solutions in savings group projects around the world, generating helpful tools and lessons learned. However, this information is not always easily available. The free DSG Hub is a dynamic learning and community platform where individuals can find high-quality resources, share candid insights, and learn from successes and shortcomings in the sector.
The intention is to inspire, but not push for, innovation. We want stakeholders to make informed decisions ensuring a safe, inclusive and truly valuable outcome for members by weighing the benefits against the potential risks and costs. If someone using the Hub discovers that digitization is not a right choice for their savings group at this time, we consider this a success, too.
Q: Is the Hub complicated to use for those new to digital resources?
A: The DSG Hub is very user-friendly, with information arranged in a cohesive and intuitive way. The resources are organized into three user journeys: “Get Started with Digital Technology;” “Implement Digital Savings Group Projects;” and “Examine Learning and Evidence.” Each subpage (Resources, Blog, and Community) features a prominent search bar, with carefully crafted filters and tags for ease of use. The Home page gives users easy access to our newest resources and updates.
Q: Three new resources have also been developed: the DSG Glossary explaining key concepts and terms; the DSG Toolkit; and a DSG Technology Solutions Overview. What will implementers find in the toolkit and how will it support gender-responsive digitization?
A: Our research shows that if not done right, digitization can have negative consequences for women’s ability to benefit from savings groups due to access constraints by rigid gender norms, unequal power dynamics and resource limitations. We have developed the DSG Toolkit with seven tools to support gender-responsive digitization. There is a tool for “Promoting Women’s Digital Capabilities,” a tool on “Addressing Risks of Gender-based Violence” and a series of “Digital User Dialogues” for use directly with savings group members. We strongly believe that the toolkit will help make DSGs more accessible to all; however, leveling the playing field will require intersectional, transformative approaches and significant investments in systemic change by a wide range of actors.
Q: You are hosting an event on June 23. It will feature a fireside chat with DSG experts from organizations including Women for Women International, Grameen Foundation, Mercy Corps and Catholic Relief Services. What will participants learn?
A: We are very excited about this discussion. The panelists will explore key benefits, costs and challenges of digitization, including gender constraints, and suggest steps that the savings group sector needs to take before embracing a widespread digital transformation. Participants can expect to learn how to digitize more effectively, how to weigh pros and cons, and how to avoid pitfalls along the way.
Q: The event will also include a virtual networking Hopin session where they can participate in a 3- to 6-minute individual conversation with other attendees. What’s the goal of this session?
A: One of our goals is to build a dynamic and enthusiastic community of practice around the DSG Hub. As we note in our DSG Glossary, DSGs lie at the intersection of savings groups, financial inclusion and technology. We want to provide a space for these stakeholders to connect, share knowledge, and perhaps even plant seeds for future collaboration. Having honest, one-on-one conversations will help all of us in the sector build relationships and common understanding of DSG concepts. A savings group implementer and a technology provider may begin exploring the feasibility of adopting a digital solution to a new project, while two researchers may discuss evidence emerging from DSG implementation.
Q: How will the DSG Hub move the sector forward in terms of the future of savings groups and their impact on women’s economic empowerment?
A: Knowledge is power.
Reinventing the wheel is costly, inefficient and risky. If implementers and developers keep piloting or scaling DSG solutions without learning from past projects and each other, they will repeat mistakes and make poor investments.
Smart and gender-intentional digitization can help accelerate the benefits of savings groups for women by expanding their digital identities, bridging the gap to formal financial services and facilitating their participation in the economy. There is no other central repository like this on the market right now, nor other initiatives offering a community space where actors from across the industry can connect, learn and network. We see the Hub as a connective tissue in this space, and we hope that it will serve as a global destination for anyone planning, implementing and studying DSGs for many years to come.
Global Communities is an international non-profit organization that brings together local ingenuity and global insights to create solutions that save lives, advance equity and secure strong futures.
The success of the DSG Hub will depend on support from our community members. I would like to encourage everyone to visit the Hub, register as members, contribute resources and share feedback. My team and I can be reached at info@DSGHub.org. We look forward to hearing from you!