This paper describes the community savings groups that are the foundation of many federations of slum/shack dwellers/homeless people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It reports on discussions with federation members in Kenya, Namibia, Malawi, the Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe on how savings groups are set up (mostly by women living in informal settlements) and managed (including the care taken in recording changes in each saver’s account). It also describes how these groups support their members working together to address difficult issues such as getting tenure of the land their homes occupy or getting land plots on which to build and access to services. For each of the six national federations described, details are also given of how the savings groups help change relations for the better with local and often national governments as they demonstrate to government their capacities. This includes undertaking projects and the community-driven mapping and enumerations of informal settlements. The paper also discusses the challenges that savings groups face – for instance when they lose momentum or when households cease to be active savers – and how these are addressed.
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