In this introductory blog, Ellie Regan reflects on her first two months as Development Worker working alongside Community Savers affiliates (including Brinnington Savers, with Julie and Heather above).

I first came to hear about Community Savers and their work whilst studying for my Masters degree in International Development. Naturally I was intrigued to find out that there was an organisation on my doorstep putting into practice and experimenting with those development models I was spending my time researching. I immediately wanted to know more and identified an opportunity to volunteer supporting Hopton Hopefuls (now Aquarius Community Savers) carry out a block-wide survey for their ‘Ageing Well in Place’ project in Hulme. I was so enthused by the progress that these powerful local leaders had achieved driving change against the odds. Cut to 6 months later and I am very excited to be working at CLASS as the new Development Worker!

I have spent most of my first few months working on the CLASS-Community Savers 2022 Impact Evaluation which has been an excellent way to immerse myself within the network. Conducting surveys with savers, affiliates and partners across the network has revealed the wide reach of the work being done; as well as the diverse pool of amazing but often ‘forgotten’ community members who are both contributing and benefiting from their local groups and networks; and the positive impacts Community Savers leaders are having within their communities and beyond. 

I love the ethos here at Community Savers. The fact that the organisation is women-led really resonates with me. Being able to work in an environment that encourages shared learning is really positive, I’ve got to know many inspiring figures, some involved in community activism for years, others who are only just discovering it now into their 80’s! In October we had a visit from our partners at the Muungano Alliance and got to hear about the way the savings model has been adapted for those living in informal settlements in Nairobi. I have already learnt a lot from the pooled expertise of many of these activists. Being in the presence of so many intelligent, resilient and fun women has been such a joy & really inspired me. 

Looking forward to 2023, I am really excited to see some new savings groups set up as the network expands as well as seeing the direction some of the more established groups begin to take as they build new alliances across the UK & beyond.