Learning Brief: Catalyzing Household Savings in Rwanda through Incentives



The Integrated Services for Vulnerable Populations (ISVP) program—known as Twiyubake locally— was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and PEPFAR in 2015 to improve the resiliency of 50,000 vulnerable households in Rwanda by reducing economic vulnerability and empowering parents to make the best investments to meet the needs of young children and adolescents. Global Communities utilized an integrated approach to address the needs of households including nutrition and growth monitoring; education in WASH, HIV prevention, parenting and gender equality; and economic strengthening support.

ISVP’s Graduation Model

The ultimate goal of ISVP’s support was to graduate households from extremely vulnerable status to nearly secure. Graduation in orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) programs refers to “a household’s successful completion of all program elements, which includes achievement of minimum outcomes related to health, education, economic stability, and child protection.” The ISVP program applied the Global Communities household vulnerability and graduation assessment (HVGA) framework to measure vulnerability in program-supported households in order to determine the household’s capacity to develop graduation plans and ultimately graduate.

A household reached graduation when it had enough capacity to manage its needs. Global Communities’ HVGA tool comprises multi-dimensional indicators across a series of thematic domains relevant to the program’s intervention areas that reflect the different facets (health, economic and social conditions, etc.) that affect vulnerability. HVGA analysis includes classification of households across three categories, based on overall household and child scores that are aggregated separately. The three household categories are extremely vulnerable, moderately vulnerable, and nearly secure. “Nearly secure” indicates a household that is ready to graduate.

Household Economic Strengthening: Savings Incentives

ISVP’s economic strengthening activities were designed to stabilize and empower families to increase their household purchasing power by protecting and growing household assets, strengthening income generating activities and improving capacity to participate in economic development activities. Global Communities used savings groups as one of its primary economic strengthening approaches. ISVP’s saving groups were made up of 15 to 25 members who voluntarily mobilized their own savings and provided loans to members at a low interest rate. The savings groups also created a social fund to assist members during emergencies and other important life events.

ISVP’s saving groups were designed to mobilize members to voluntarily gather their own savings and use them to provide short-term loans to constituent members at a low shared interest. At the beginning of a 12-month cycle, members decided the value of shares based on their financial capacity and saving goals.

Every member then set a savings goal which determined the number of shares they had to contribute to every weekly savings group meeting. The majority (75%) of saving goals focused on raising capital to buy household assets, rearing small livestock and starting small retail businesses. Other goals focused on covering household essentials including school fees, health insurance, and home renovation.

To motivate savings group members to improve savings practices, the ISVP program began implementing an incentives program in 2017. Savings groups were informed that their savings would be matched at a ratio of 1/1.5 if they met their minimum savings threshold of 12,000 Rwandan Francs per member in a six-month period. In order to be eligible, savings groups would also need to comply with their bylaws and maintain proper bookkeeping. In this way, households were encouraged to save more than they otherwise would, in order to meet and surpass the minimum amounts stated in their bylaws. In 2017, 212 savings groups 3 qualified to receive incentives based on the eligibility requirements set by the program. They were paid out in July or August of that year.