The initial stages focus on establishing SHGs/CIGs where members receive basic training in subjects that include group dynamics and the importance of savings and financial discipline. The formation of strong groups is one of the keys in the HiH model as our experience shows that strong groups are powerful building blocks for success, especially for women as they find a voice through sharing problems and responsibilities. Many of the members are illiterate so Hand in Hand trainers facilitate learning through pictures, parables, activities and role play. Social mobilization is the starting point for all HiH Af operations.
Groups are formed from existing structures and based on common demographics, social cohesion and income generation opportunities. Groups develop a constitution outlining group rules, behaviours and goals; elected leadership and regular attendance by the majority of the group members are required. The SHGs effectively become the savings and credit access vehicles for HiH Af’s support. Community Development Councils (CDCs) act as entry points to the community while mobilizing groups, to secure local ownership and coordination.
A group typically consists of 10-20 members, either exclusively women or exclusively men. Trainers regularly meet their groups to enable group support and individual coaching. Savings is an integral part of the model, and a culture of group saving and lending is a pre-requisite to moving forward in the program. Joint, internal savings is often the first step in group formation and allows members to pool regular and discretionary savings and use the funds to make short-term loans to individual members, thereby allowing them to immediately put their skills into practice through savings-based borrowing that is used for economic activities.