Announcing the 5 Scale X Design NYC Challenge Finalists!

Congratulations to all our Scale X Design Accelerator teams on their inspiring pitches at last night’s Pitch Practice in Atlanta! And thanks to everyone who came out to Atlanta Tech Village to join us for our first-ever pitch event. We are thrilled to announce the 5 Scale X Design Challenge finalists who will compete in NYC on Thursday, January 26 at 7pm. Join us on Facebook Live next week!

CHAT!- Cambodia

Worldwide, young people are leaving their families and migrating to urban areas to seek work. While these workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, traditional NGO programs are ill-equipped to reach them. CHAT! harnesses the reality of young urban factory workers in Cambodia, integrating both entertainment and technology to provide cost-effective and high-impact heath education through a unique combination of hands-on training, relatable video dramas and mobile games.

Chomoka: Digitizing Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs)- Tanzania

For the 2 billion adults without a bank account, Chomoka aims to take traditional village Savings and loans groups and bring them into the digital age with a user-friendly mobile application that provides a pathway to formal financial services by documenting users’ credit histories while streamlining and simplifying the transactions of informal savings groups.

Journeys of Transformation- Rwanda 

When women gain the means to contribute financially to their household, it can upset long-held power dynamics within the family, often leading to conflict and even violence. Journeys of Transformation is a training program that empowers couples to improve communication, positively transform the balance of power between husbands and wives, and reduce the incidents of intimate partner violence.

Krishi Utsho- Bangladesh

While small family farms and plots feed the majority of the world’s population, there are few businesses that cater to their needs and constraints. Krishi Utsho (KU) is a micro-franchise network of small kiosks that sell agriculture inputs, supplies and services to these farmers, particularly women, in rural Bangladesh.

Mobile Application to Secure Tenure (MAST)- Tanzania

For the millions of Tanzanians who don’t have documentation proving they own their land, MAST is a mobile application that shortens the time, reduces the cost and simplifies the process for individuals to claim their land rights.


VSLA at 25

The global humanitarian aid and development industry has a problem: innovation is everywhere, but examples of successfully scaled solutions are far less common. Even when we achieve impact at scale, the process can take decades. For example, it took 17 years for CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) to go from idea to widespread impact, economically empowering millions. CARE’s Scale X Design (SXD) Accelerator was created to bridge that gap between innovation and impact. Two of the SXD teams’ innovations, Chomoka (Digital VSLA) and Journeys of Transformation, contain a VSLA component. Here is a story about VSLA at 25 that appeared in CARE’s latest edition of Impact Magazine.

MMD cash boxes hold the contributed savings for the community in Genki, Niger.

CARE Village Savings & Loan Associations: A Transformative Innovation Then — and Now by Shawn Reeves

For 25 years, CARE Village Savings and Loan Associations have powered change through innovative economics. It all started with a few women, a lot of ingenuity and a lockbox in remote Niger. They engineered their own financial independence by saving pennies a week, then loaning one another money to start businesses such as making and selling peanut oil, doughnuts or home remedies. The interest they paid on their loans came back to them as profit. They had become their own bankers.

A quarter-century later, some 15,000 CARE savings groups operate in all reaches of Niger, their 500,000 members, mostly women, meeting regularly, depositing, saving, lending.

Some of that expansion happened strategically. Some of it happened organically, as people saw the success of CARE savings groups and wanted to share in that. The program may have started in Niger, but it didn’t end there. Further investment from CARE and word-of-mouth from passionate group members soon extended the concept to places like Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.

Today, more than 200,000 CARE VSLAs operate in 26 African countries and in parts of Asia and Latin America, having engaged more than 5 million people. Enterprising members have found through those groups the financial freedom to improve life for their families, whether through better health and more nutritious food, expanded access to education or even savings-based safety nets that help families withstand and overcome disaster.

CARE now looks to the next frontier for its VSLA initiative, aiming in the next 25 years to help VSLA members more closely guard their assets — chiefly by linking them to formal banks, where their accounts are safe and accessible through smart phones and money-transferring apps. CARE already has begun linking VSLA groups to formal banks in places like Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana and Uganda. And by fall 2016, CARE had announced plans to link a half-million more people to banks by 2020.

But the benefits of formal banking don’t end with added security. Access to banks yields more sophisticated financial services that groups inevitably need as their resources, skills and confidence grow. It means larger loans, which groups demand as they mature. One report shows that linking members to banks can double both their savings and their profit.

As the next generation of VSLA members reaches for and seizes its own financial independence, some of them will still meet regularly under shade trees in Africa’s most distant villages. Others will convene in urban centers. They’ll adapt the model to ever-changing contexts. And they’ll continue to use the power of saving and lending to transform their lives and communities.

Meet the Teams: Journeys of Transformation

Globally, women have lower literacy and numeracy rates than men, less access to financial services, lower rates of school completion and less access to current information or technology about banking or financial entrepreneurship. A growing “digital divide” reflects how women also have lower adoption rates for digital technology, including mobile banking. In Rwanda, the mobile phone penetration is relatively high, with 77.8 % of the total population owning mobile cellular telephones. But despite the fact that women’s main work is done inside their household contexts, the majority of women’s financial empowerment approaches (including VSLA) typically take place outside of the household. This does not recognize that many women operate and need to negotiate relationships within the household and can result in interventions that may not support women’s economic empowerment or improve their low status in households.

The intervention proposed is based on experience of adapting and adding to classic VSLA methodology to specifically address household power dynamics, domestic violence and division of unpaid workload issues that are often at the core of inequitable gender norms. This “Journeys of Transformation” approach has been tested in one country (Rwanda) and shows promise. The families of men who participated in these group sessions saw significantly higher income gains compared to those families who did not participate.

CARE Rwanda is experienced in engaging men for gender equality and women’s empowerment program. Research on CARE’s engaging men interventions has shown that if they are effectively engaged with an appropriate model, men can support their wives to fully enjoy their rights in a broader sense and challenge inequitable gender norms that prevent women from reaching their development potential.

Meet the Team


Doris Bartel | Senior Director, Gender and Empowerment Unit | CARE USA

Doris Bartel leads CARE USA’s Gender and Empowerment unit which works to achieve meaningful progress on women’s rights and gender equality in CARE’s programmatic strategies.  She works with teams around the world to apply innovation and best practice for more targeted gender transformative strategies in addressing root causes of poverty and injustice.  She has led qualitative and participatory action research to explore sensitive topics such as intimate partner violence, expression of sexuality, and child marriage as well as issues affecting children and their families at the end of life.  She leads CARE USA’s representation in gender related consortia, including co-chairing the Interagency Gender Working Group’s Gender-Based Violence Task Force led by USAID’s office of Population and Reproductive Health.

Janvier Kubwimana | Project Manager | CARE Rwanda

Janvier Kubwimana is the Project Manager of a NORAD-funded Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Project, Janvier joined CARE Rwanda in 2011with 6 years of experience working in Development and Health sector in Rwanda where he specifically worked for UNFPA coordinating its Gender, Sexual & Reproductive Health, Population, and HIV/AIDS interventions in different districts of Rwanda. He holds a Master of Arts in Development Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health.

Bena Musembi | Country Director | CARE Rwanda

Bena Musembi is a results-oriented development professional with 20 years of experience in international development. Currently as CARE Rwanda’s Country Director since September 2015, and previously as CARE Burundi’s CD, she has successfully lead organizational change management processes, and overseen diverse development and humanitarian interventions in roles as Chief of Party, Deputy Chief of Party, Head of Programming and Learning, Senior Program Officer and Market Researcher in multi-country contexts.

Lea Liliane Niyibizi | Project Manager | CARE Rwanda

Lea Liliane Niyibizi is the Project Manager for Indashyikirwa Project, a GBV prevention project funded by DFID, Lea joined CARE Rwanda in November 2014 with 12 years’ experience working in Gender, GBV prevention and GBV response in Rwandan Health Sector; She has worked especially with Ministry of Health to develop Health providers training manual for management of GBV cases and she has worked on integrating GBV OSC (One Stop Center) in District Hospitals. She holds a Master of Arts in Project Planning and Management.

Sidonie Uwimpuhwe | Program Coordinator | CARE Rwanda

Sidonie Uwimpuhwe is the Coordinator of Vulnerable Women Program in Rwanda since 2012, she has joined CARE Rwanda with 10 years of experience working in the public health sector as a senior civil servant. Sidonie is a seasoned senior professional with a wider range of experience in gender equality and women empowerment that includes women economic empowerment; prevention and response to violence against women and girls; women’s leadership and political participation; engaging men and boys for gender equality; grassroots activism and women collective action, advocacy, civil society strengthening, etc. She holds a Master degree in Public Health and a Master of Science in Gender and Development.