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The Ladder

A Blog from New America's Asset Building Program

The YouthSave Initiative: Highlights from May 6 Launch Event

Published:  May 11, 2010

At last Thursday’s event “Youth Saving Accounts: the Youth Development and Financial Inclusion Nexus?”, the MasterCard Foundation officially announced its support of the YouthSave Initiative: $12.5 million for 5-year learning project -- of Save the Children, the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St Louis, the Global Assets Project at the New America Foundation and CGAP – aimed at testing how to sustainably deliver savings services to low-income youth in the developing world. The project will reach 170,000 youth in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya and Nepal through partnership with local financial institutions as well as measure impact of this pilot through extensive quantitative and qualitative research.

But the event not only marked the launch of the initiative, but also of a major report “Youth Saving in Developing Countries: Trends in Practice, Gaps in Knowledge,” produced by the consortium after a year-long study assessing the potential for the 5-year program.  The report presents the state of practice in this field, analyzing products, programs, policies and research; in more than 25 countries around the globe as well as the gaps of knowledge that currently exist in this field.

At the event, more than 150 participants gathered for a forum to explore the “dual potential” of youth savings accounts.  Reeta Roy, the President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, announced funding for YouthSave in her keynote remarks. But more interestingly, Reeta described her enthusiasm for this nexus, explaining that to bring about financial inclusion and help youth participate in a vibrant global economy requires fresh thinking and collaboration with multi-disciplinary teams such as the YouthSave consortium. Click on the link below to hear an excerpt.

Michael Sherraden, who had just spent an evening in New York City at a gala celebrating his and others’ nominations into the Time 100 list (of most influential people in the world), explained what we know about the potential of savings accounts to influence social and economic opportunities for low-income individuals, particularly youth.Click on the link below to listen to an excerpt.

Kate McKee led her panel through, in her usual style, a thoughtful and visual exploration of how youth savings might accelerate the pace of financial inclusion through 10 possible dimensions of a business case for such accounts.Click on the link below to listen to the excerpt.

The panels that followed the featured speakers – and the audience questions that followed those – demonstrated the swell of excitement around a potential tool to provide young people with new economic opportunities.  More than anything, however, they revealed the hunger for new information and underscored YouthSave’s core objective: working to fill in the many gaps in knowledge. 

For anyone interested in the report or the event, you can access it here and here.  In the coming week, The Global Assets Project will produce a 10-minute podcast summarizing the event’s highlight remarks and questions.  In the meantime, however, I leave you with an audio clip of my personal favorite moment from the entire day’s program: at the end of a long day full of substantive remarks and technical questions, Rani Deshpande of Save the Children closed the event with a brief yet powerful exercise that revealed why any of this, in the grand scheme of things, matters in the first place. You can listen to it by clicking on the link below.


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