Pact's community banking program, WORTH, is a critical tool for building financial access and incomes around the world.
Since it began in the 1990s, Pact's WORTH program has reached more than 1 million people in 16 countries, helping them build skills in literacy, entrepreneurship and more to start and grow businesses to earn income of their own – a critical foundation for eliminating poverty.
WORTH takes a holistic approach that builds equitable access to capital and financial services and products. WORTH is a comprehensive economic strengthening package, grounded in village savings and loan practices layered with financial literacy, social cohesion and asset building activities. WORTH brings community members together, empowering them to overcome obstacles and achieve their vision.
In groups of 20 to 25, WORTH members cooperate to save money, access credit and start small businesses. Unlike micro-lending and many other development programs, our community banking model provides no capital or seed money. Members are required to make small savings deposits at weekly meetings, and when groups’ funds grow large enough, members may begin taking loans, which they may use to start small businesses or to support family needs. Groups elect officers, receive literacy and numeracy training, and learn the fundamentals of running a small business. With time, they receive additional training tailored to their needs. Pact has digitized WORTH through the myWORTH app.
Originally designed as a women's empowerment model, WORTH now serves as a critical tool across Pact's programming. We have employed WORTH to help caregivers of vulnerable children increase their savings, income and resilience to better support their families, to help people living with HIV be able to afford health care, and more.
For many WORTH members, the knowledge and income they gain are life-changing. Once groups have built a foundation, many continue for years after Pact’s support ends — a testament to WORTH’s sustainability. Some have helped start entirely new groups, training them on their own.
In addition to supporting WORTH groups around the world, we work with communities to identify and address societal norms that perpetuate financial discrimination, and we partner with the private sector to develop alternative financial mechanisms and responses to address identified needs.
What makes our community banking model unique?
- Curriculum — We focus on literacy skills, and our Women in Business self-instruction handbooks foster self-learning and the ability to replicate WORTH groups
- Low interest rates and low cost
- Emphasis on social networks and cohesion
- Stories — We use stories as a foundation for learning and to drive change
- Savings methodology — WORTH groups stay together between loan cycles, and instead of sharing out savings and revenue from loans distribute only dividends at the end of the cycle
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