The Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) model, designed by CARE in 1991, involves the creation of a common fund for members to save and borrow to finance a business or pay for life expenses. The team travelled to Jordan, where CARE recently adapted VSLA to urban and humanitarian contexts - both of which are new for the model. Research focused on the impacts of VSLA on gender equality, economic empowerment, decision-making power, mental health, and the relationship between refugees and host communities.

During five days in Jordan, the team interviewed CARE Jordan and Regional Office staff as well as Syrian and Jordanian women participating in VSLA programs. Women took out loans to support their businesses, finance their children’s education, or pay their bills. VSLAs proved to be beneficial financial and social support mechanisms for Syrian and Jordanian women. Participation in VSLA generated feelings of community and solidarity while creating stronger bonds between Syrians and Jordanians. It also contributed to increased decision-making power for women within their households and more confident personalities.

The Capstone team’s research identified some challenges to VSLAs: Not all women took out loans because they were unsure about their ability to pay them back or because they were unable to save enough to reach the minimum loan threshold. Transportation, location, and familial circumstances were other challenges. The report recommended that VSLAs include complementary programming; clearer definitions of “success;” more standardized selection criteria; communication with non-participants around objectives; investment in knowledge management; and donor advocacy for flexible funding.