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Digital Transformation Digitization Benefits Digitization Planning Digitization Risks & Barriers Innovation Project Implementation

Taking Stock: How the DSG Hub is Serving the Savings Group Community

Published by
Dietlind Lerner & Paulina Rudnicka
April 27, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • DSG projects implemented across the globe generate a wealth of information about different aspects of digitization, but this knowledge is not always easily available.
  • The DSG Hub plays an important role in filling knowledge gaps and facilitating thoughtful, safe, and inclusive digitization of savings groups.
  • There is significant interest in DSG community building (especially through events, networking opportunities and social media) and short-form practical information about user experiences on the ground.

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How the Journey Began

Across the globe, savings groups are increasingly using digital solutions – such as digital ledgers and wallets – to manage group records and conduct financial transactions. This leads to the emergence of digital savings groups (DSGs), i.e., groups whose procedures, records or transactions are digitized in some way, typically by using mobile phones and applications. Global Communities began digitizing savings groups in 2019 in Tanzania using DreamSave—a digital ledger designed by DreamStart Labs. The evaluation of this pilot project revealed that digitization brings many benefits to savings groups, but also comes with significant risks and barriers. The pilot also taught us that digital transformation requires much more preparation and planning than we initially anticipated, and we wondered how others handled the various challenges we faced.  We knew that all DSG projects implemented across the globe generate a wealth of information about different aspects of digitization, but at that time this knowledge was not easily available. To fill this vacuum, we partnered with the FAHU Foundation to gauge DSG practitioners’ and vendors’ appetite for establishing a DSG learning and community platform.

Our 2021 landscape and feasibility assessment revealed a widespread agreement that digitization was accelerating rapidly, and a consensus that a DSG community of practice would provide much-needed support and guidance. There was a great interest in digitizing savings groups, yet many respondents said they lacked the knowledge and resources to do it effectively. Organizations already involved in digitizing savings groups were eager to share their experiences and wanted to learn from others. While some resources already existed – including toolkits, manuals, and online courses – they were scattered across different platforms, and often difficult to find. There was also a large demand for the creation of practical, “real-world” guides and tools.  

Based on the overwhelming proof of interest in a centralized platform for the exchange of knowledge, resources and best practices related to the digitization of savings groups, Global Communities – supported by the FAHU Foundation – embarked on a nearly two-year journey to create and facilitate the DSG Hub, which was officially launched in June 2022.

In addition to facilitating the Hub, Global Communities led the creation of many of its anchor resources, including:

We also hosted several events showcasing the Hub and our resources to the broader development community:

A Year in Review: Where We Are Now

We designed the DSG Hub as an online learning and community platform aimed at facilitating thoughtful, safe and inclusive digitization of savings groups. So how are doing? To find out, we began by reviewing user engagement metrics on the DSG Hub website and newsletter, with encouraging results* as of February 28, 2023:

We then investigated file download metrics and were excited to learn that our anchor tools were among the most popular resources.

Next, we wanted to dig deeper to unearth more qualitative data, so in February 2023 we conducted a user engagement survey, complemented by several peer group conversations. Here are some of the outcomes:

  • Nearly 80% of survey respondents agreed that the DSG Hub facilitates sharing useful information and provides an important service to the DSG community.
  • Once a user visits the DSG Hub, they are very likely to return.
  • Nearly half of the survey respondents told their friends or colleagues about the DSG Hub, underscoring its value within the DSG community.
  • Respondents were very likely to recommend the DSG Hub to colleagues or networks.
  • Nearly all respondents were likely to use the Hub in the future and most were likely to contribute to the Hub.

Our Vision, Mission & Theory of Change

The DSG Hub is guided by the following vision, mission, and objectives:

  • Vision: A world with financial and digital inclusion for all, especially women, youth, and marginalized populations in underserved markets.
  • Overarching goal: To inspire innovation, build a community of practice, and create a destination for anyone who is planning, implementing, developing technology for, or studying DSGs.
  • Mission: To help savings group members and practitioners make sound decisions about whether and how to effectively digitize savings groups.
  • Theory of change: If savings groups members and practitioners have access to high-quality resources about digitization and can easily connect with each other to share insights, experiences, and ideas, then digital transformation will be more effective and inclusive, accelerating the benefits of savings groups for their members, including greater digital and financial inclusion.
  • Key objectives: 1) Share high-quality resources so that we can all learn from successes and shortcomings in the sector, and 2) Build a dynamic and enthusiastic community of practice around the DSG Hub, where diverse stakeholders can connect, exchange knowledge and ideas, and plant seeds for future collaboration.

A Path Forward

Moving forward there is significant interest in more:

  • Community interaction, especially through events, networking opportunities, and social media.
  • Practical information about user experiences on the ground, funding opportunities, and news.
  • Short-form content, including videos, blogs, and simple “how-to” tools.
  • Geographic diversity, including content and participation from Latin America and Asia.
  • Critical analysis of DSG technology products offered on the market.

Developing the DSG Hub – and growing the community around it – is an on-going and rewarding process. We are very excited for what the future holds! Email us at info@DSGHub.org to share any thoughts or ideas you may have. Thank you for being a part of the DSG Hub community.

* During the first month of operation, DSG Hub metrics were affected by traffic associated with the public launch, continued development, and testing of the site.

Photo credits: Tony Tseng

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