It’s fair to say that since the financial crisis began in 2007 ‘The Banks’ have been getting an almost exclusively negative press. Gone are the days when admitting to being a policeman or working for the Tax Office was to be avoided – nowadays ‘Bankers’ are society’s personae non gratae.
It hasn’t always been that way. In the 18th century, famous Quaker Elizabeth Fry used the influence of her family’s financial institution (later to become Barclays Bank) to fund numerous philanthropic ventures and bring about lasting social change. Since then the vast majority of financial companies have also been quietly involved in charitable work that would make Ms Fry proud. It is an accepted media truth that ‘bad news sells’ which has sadly left too many worthwhile charitable schemes with little or no publicity.
One such scheme is the Banking on Change partnership. Launched in 2009 by Barclays and global charities Plan International and CARE International it provides key banking services to poorer Third World communities. The scheme has implemented a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) initiative in some of the poorest areas, replicating basic banking services of larger financial institutions but on a local scale. Each member pays into a fund that is deposited into a bank account in order to gain interest. Each fund is flexible – members can deposit and withdraw funds as well as ask for additional financial support with emergencies such as sudden illness or property damage from environmental disasters. It allows remote communities to access financial benefits formerly reserved for those living in larger towns and cities. Most importantly, it has given people the financial means to take the knowledge Plan & CARE provide and bring it to fruition.
Banking on Change’s two charitable partners use different fundraising models. Plan uses child sponsorship, where a named child is sponsored for a set monthly donation whereas CARE uses the more traditional fundraising model but both charities pool their donations to support poor communities in countries including Egypt, South Sudan, India and Malawi. Each community is educated and supported in matters of education, health, human rights, business and construction. So far the VSALs have enabled over half a million individuals across 11 countries to manage their finances and apply their newly acquired skills. It has been so well received that in 2013 Barclays committed another £10m to the scheme in order to focus more on supporting younger people to budget effectively.
By combining the different skills of each of its three partners the scheme has succeeded in going back to basics – using basic banking facilities for the good of local schemes on a global scale. It has received awards for ‘Best Overseas Project’ and ‘Most Effective Long-term Philanthropic Scheme’ and has become an essential tool in fighting poverty in the developing world.
For more information on each of the Banking on Change partners see the contact details below.
CARE International: http://www.careinternational.org.uk
+44 (0) 20 7091 6000
PLAN International: http://plan-international.org
+44 (0) 1483 755 155
photo credit: HowardLake