The Impact of Digital Technology on Self Help Groups

This is the final videos in our series about Self Help Groups (SHGs) and the digital platform we’ve built to help them. Earlier, we explored how SHGs build resilience and social transformation as well as social and economic empowerment for women members.

We're so committed to helping scale the SHG model that our free and open-source Self Help Group app and online dashboard have been available to any organization who is programming with savings groups. Since our first East African pilots in 2014, our user community has grown to over 13 organizations across sub-Saharan Africa, India and the Caribbean. 

Prior to the SHG platform, facilitators either ran meetings from memory or from a series of binders that they carried around on meeting days. Now, facilitators have frequently updated, best-in-class facilitation materials, prompts and training materials available on the phones or tablets that they carry with them all the time.

We see serving facilitators and their coordinators with the SHG platform as a key support mechanism that will help SHGs scale with quality. Using digital technology in a Self Help Group comes with unique opportunities, but also challenges.

Facilitators enjoy asking group members to read from the handset in order to build their familiarity with new mobile technologies. They report that group members are motivated to attain smartphones and often download the Self Help Group app to review the business skills section on their own.

We take seriously the opportunity to be the very first point of contact that many of these women have with smartphones and apps. As our platform evolves to give facilitators a chance to track group level financial data, we will also be developing new curricular activities that help to prepare SHG members for the specific vulnerabilities and risks of using digital technologies: like loss or theft of data or currency, stalking, bullying and more.

Our global community of implementing partners are excited to help meet the appetite that people have for technology and also to help technology arrive responsibly and with the greatest chances of making a lasting impact. This year, our platform evolves to meet the need of program coordinators as well.

As Nathaniel Calhoun, a Principal at Code Innovation says, “With the latest developments of the Self Help Group Platform, we begin to enable a two-way flow of digital information between the facilitator and the coordinators."

"Coordinators now have the ability to review key information about their entire community of Self Help Groups at a glance. This is a chance to identify and act upon key information about group health and progress much faster than a coordinator could do if she was relying upon infrequent field visits or paper-based reporting.” 

We will continue to share our journey as we explore the impact our digital platform is having on SHG health and the ability of SHG programs to scale with quality.