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Innovation Fund for Women Saving for Resilience

The Innovation Fund for Women Saving for Resilience will support innovations that serve Savings Groups in Africa.

Women Saving for Resilience


Savings Groups are the primary safety net for millions of women in Africa, especially in rural areas. As such, they have a critical role to play in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts implemented by governments, funders, civil society organizations and the private sector.

Women are disproportionately affected by disease outbreaks. COVID will be no different, with gendered primary secondary effects across multiple dimensions:


One of the strengths of Savings Groups is that they are decentralized and are adapting to challenging realities more rapidly than formal institutions can. Savings Groups are well positioned to address the gendered effects of COVID-19 across health, social, economic dimensions.

For example, they have proven to be an effective delivery channel for health, risk mitigation and emergency response messaging. Light-touch messaging from a trusted source can have a significant effect on health-seeking behaviors, and increase the efficiency and effectives of health messaging. And for remote communities with limited connectivity, Savings Groups, can be a vital source of news and information that otherwise might not reach them. Furthermore, participation in Savings Groups can help women mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic, through access to resources and market networks. In the social dimension, women consistently identify the mutual support they receive from their group as one the things they most value about Savings Groups, often above access to financial services. The maintenance of these support networks, in the context of physical distancing, is fundamentally important for Savings Groups and their female members.

Sector stakeholders have begun to document the COVID responses by Savings Groups with regards to their rules and procedures, communications and decision-making processes, technology, and use of digital financial services. These group-initiated innovations need to be better understood, such that effective adaptations can be systematically presented as viable options to large numbers of groups. Collaboration between Savings Groups and response and recovery efforts, by development and market actors, can support women to mitigate the effects of the crisis and enhance the effectiveness of initiatives.

About the Program

Women Saving for Resilience (WS4R) – a two-year program, implemented by the SEEP Network and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – aims to improve the technical, adaptive, and collaborative capacity of Savings Groups, and organizations that work with them, to respond to and recover from the gendered effects of COVID-19.

Globally, eighty percent of Savings Group members are women. In order for the COVID response and recovery efforts of Savings Groups and their partners to effectively mitigate the disproportionate and multi-dimensional effects of the pandemic on women, they must be gender intentional.

About the Innovation Fund

Within the program, SEEP is delighted to launch a challenge fund to support innovations in gender intentional COVID response and recovery efforts related to Savings Groups. SEEP will award four to six 18-month grants, worth a total of $600,000.

The fund will be responsive to promising innovations of diverse types and scope. This may include communications and training materials, program models, policy development, technology, new partnerships, or disruptive collaboration. Activities and interventions the fund might support include: ​

  • Technologies or adaptations in Savings Group methodologies that better meet the needs of women to mitigate the effects of health, economic, and social shocks;
  • Technologies or approaches that enable Savings Groups to effectively adapt to physical distancing requirements; and
  • Partnerships and disruptive collaboration between Savings Groups and market actors (government, civil society and private sector) as part of gender intentional COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Successful projects will increase the resilience of Savings Groups and their members in times of crisis by reducing gender gaps and barriers in access to resources and improve the capacity of sector stakeholders to engage them in emergency response efforts.

Proposed interventions must include a strong, practical learning component to document the innovation, track progress, consolidate and assess experience, and communicate results (both internally and externally).

Advocacy and Communications

The learning and assets generated by the Innovation Fund will be used to influence decisions in program design, community engagement and policymaking. SEEP will:

1) provide skill-building support to innovation fund grantees in gender intentional civic mobilization; and

2) leverage its convening capabilities, particularly as it relates to key stakeholders and policy-making processes, to influence practice at the global and local levels.

In addition, Innovation Fund grantees will have the opportunity to engage with and access the learnings from a SEEP Network Peer Learning Group (PLG) on “Savings Groups, Women and COVID-19, composed of diverse sector stakeholders representing governments, civil society, and private sector organizations across Africa. Over a period of about 18 months, the PLG will consolidate the collective experience of its members, draw upon the expertise of technical experts, test and assess hypotheses, and document and disseminate the group’s learning for the benefit of the wider sector.

Are You Ready to Apply?

Be sure to review the Selection Criteria before submitting your proposal.

To apply, complete the online application


Questions? If you have questions regarding the application process or the relevance of your innovation, please contact the Women Saving for Resilience team at

SEEP will address and respond to questions, in the FAQs, up to and including December 16.