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Mastercard Foundation’s Savings Learning Lab

The Savings Learning Lab supported learning among the Foundation’s savings sector portfolio programmes and the wider sector through the generation, synthesis, curation and dissemination of knowledge on savings focused financial inclusion.


The Savings Learning Lab was led by Itad in partnership with the SEEP Network. It supported learning among the Foundation’s savings sector portfolio programmes and the wider sector through a range of activities.

Itad led activities included the generation of targeted learning briefs, synthesising evidence from across the savings portfolio, facilitating peer-learning, hosting webinars, curating a Savings Evidence Map and carrying our project evaluations.

The SEEP Network led the learning agenda with the wider sector, hosting webinars, leading ‘Peer Learning Groups’ and organising Savings Groups Conferences with sponsorship from the Savings Learning Lab.

About the Savings Learning Lab

Savings are critical for poor people’s resilience, consumption smoothing, risk management and financing of important life goals such as education and starting a business. However, poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to rely predominantly on informal savings and therefore do not benefit from formal financial services and products. Access to formal savings products is growing but many barriers remain and there is a need to build the global evidence base on what works and what doesn’t in expanding access and usage of both formal and informal savings mechanisms for the poor.

The Mastercard Foundation’s savings portfolio addressed the overarching challenge of financial exclusion of low-income customers, with a focus on formal and informal savings. These approaches evolved from an earlier focus on optimizing savings groups facilitation models, to supporting savings group linkage to a later focus on testing and proving scalable business models on the supply side.

The Mastercard Foundation Savings Learning Lab is a six-year initiative that supported learning among the Foundation’s savings sector portfolio programmes: Promoting Opportunities for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Rural Africa (POWER Africa) implemented by Care, Expanding Financial Inclusion (EFI) in Africa implemented by CRS, MicroLead implemented by UNCDF, Scale2Save, implemented by WSBI and Savings at the Frontier, implemented by OPM.

In addition, we also synthesised performance monitoring data and knowledge outputs across the portfolio of projects and facilitates cross-portfolio learning dialogue.

At the sector level, we developed the online Savings Evidence Map. This enables practitioners, researchers and policymakers to find existing evidence, see how the evidence is clustered as well as identify existing gaps. The Learning Lab also hosted webinars, supported the SEEP led Savings Group conferences and facilitated local stakeholder events convened around particular topics of interest of challenge to the sector.

Partner resources

Check out our partner websites for the latest resources from their programmes:


The SLL generated learning on a wide range of topics related to savings focused financial inclusion. Broadly, these fit into the categories of: Business models for serving low income clients; Financial health and resilience; Evidence Mapping; Informal savings and Project Evaluations.

Please explore the resources within the categories below.

Business models for serving low income clients

Financial health and resilience

Evidence mapping

Informal savings

Project evaluations


Contact James Robinson if you would like to discuss this project.

Team members
Helen Bailey James Robinson Talar Bogosyan Jessica Rust-Smith Rachel Eager Zoë Sutherland Edward Hedley