Principle 3

Implementation

Select, train, manage, and monitor trainers in a manner that recognizes their essential contribution to the program.


Program outcomes depend above all on the trainer, the person who teaches members the policies, procedures, and values of SGs. Increasingly, facilitating agencies are recognizing the crucial role of trainers not only in the organization of SGs, but also in their ability to deliver ongoing support after the close of a program. The quality of service delivery, whether by program-paid trainers, by FFS trainers, or even by volunteers, depends on their motivation, commitment, skills, and management.

Elements of Principle 3

Guidance Notes

Careful selection of trainers

When selecting trainers, develop written criteria, and apply these criteria consistently and objectively throughout the trainer selection process. Screen candidates for their commitment to the mission and strategy of the organization, as well as for their interpersonal skills and technical ability. Integrated programs or projects that view SGs as platforms for the introduction of additional services might need to look for trainers with a profile that is versatile enough to deliver the multiple services. Programs that expect to engage mostly women in the SGs should recruit qualified women trainers and be aware of any local customs they may need to address. Experience has shown that, in some cases, existing staff underestimate the ability of other ethnic groups, age groups, and genders to do the work of a trainer, so it is prudent to gather multiple opinions, including those of women, in making staffing decisions.

Tested and effective training methods

Provide trainers with tools, manuals, and training curricula that have been tested and proven to give good results such as the VSL methodology, SILC, or Saving for Change (see a complete list of suggested manuals and tools here). Improve on existing tools as needed, but do not alter proven methodologies. Since some of the widely distributed Savings Group manuals concentrate on group procedures rather than on training techniques, do not assume that staff who master procedures are automatically effective trainers. Invest time in building staff training capacity; organize practice sessions, provide feedback and make teaching aids available. ((Some programs are introducing videos delivered on cell phones or by SMS messaging that hold the promise of increasing efficiency and consistency of training.))

Streamlined training structures

To reduce the risk of crucial messages getting lost before they reach SG members, avoid multi-step, cascade training structures. Ideally, SG trainers should be trained by a master trainer who has near-perfect understanding of principles and procedures and well-developed skills in transmitting this knowledge to the group members. While it will be a challenge for some programs to field adequate numbers of master trainers, consider that the alternative might mean repeated refresher trainings and, in many cases, poorly performing groups. In the long run, investing in top-quality initial training is best for the SGs and more cost-effective.

Appropriate incentives for trainer performance

Build trainers’ technical skills so that group members will recognize them as credible and competent facilitators. For trainers hired as full time staff, provide a fair and stable salary. Make sure that FFS trainers understand the opportunities, challenges, and skills required for the position. In FFS structures, establish a range of payment that is fair for the trainer and reasonable for the group, and specify the length of time that the trainer can expect to receive this fee and the services that are appropriate to sell to the group. Note that while groups are sometimes reluctant to pay training fees, trainers are also often reluctant to request them; by not doing so, they might distort the market for other trainers (learn more about setting and collecting training fees here). Finally, keep in mind that while financial incentives are essential (many trainers say they do not work for money, but they need money in order to work), intrinsic motivations are also important. Many trainers value the prestige, learning, opportunities to advance, and the chance to serve the community as their most important motivations.

Clear trainer monitoring criteria and responsive feedback

Evaluate trainers both on the number of groups they form and on the inclusiveness, performance, and sustainability of these groups. Clearly communicate expectations, and ensure that trainers understand the criteria used to assess their performance. Encourage program staff to carry out frequent monitoring visits to new trainers to observe how trainers interact with the groups and provide written feedback to correct errors in messaging, content, or training methodology. Ensure that staff talk to randomly selected groups in the absence of the trainer to understand their experience with the trainer, paying close attention not to create suspicion or imply incompetence on the part of the trainer. On the contrary, encourage them to use these conversations not only to gather valuable data on trainer performance, but also to build up the trainer’s credibility with group members.

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Principle 2: Know the populations you intend to serve, including the most vulnerable, and take deliberate actions to reach them.

Principle 4: Promote a tested Savings Group model and instill in members an understanding and respect for that model’s procedures.

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