The project to promote a culture of saving began in September 2008, when the Colombian government – represented by Acción Social, which manages the “Familias en Acción” conditional cash transfer (CCT) program; Banca de las Oportunidades, which implements the policy to include poor families in the financial system; and the Departamento Nacional de Planeación, the agency responsible for designing and evaluating poverty-reduction policies – signed a framework cooperation agreement with the Fundación Capital and the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP) to implement Proyecto Capital.
The Banco Agrario de Colombia, which won the bid for payment of the cash transfers, also joined the effort. The existence of the “Familias en Acción” CCT program, with approximately 2.4 million beneficiary mothers, offered an exceptional opportunity to promote the inclusion of these families in the financial system, because the program targets poor families with very limited access to formal financial services, and because the operational challenge of paying the subsidies through formal channels makes a financial institution’s participation necessary. In 2008, the Colombian government decided to pay the “Familias en Acción” CCT through a deposit to a savings account opened in the name of each beneficiary, accompanied by a card for withdrawing the transfers from automatic teller machines. The government went even further, and the Banca de Oportunidades, with technical assistance from Proyecto Capital, designed the Programa de Promoción de la Cultura del Ahorro (pilot program to promote a culture of saving) to support the process, offering financial education and cash incentives to encourage a culture of saving among the beneficiary families of “Familias en Acción.”
The first phase of the project began in July 2010 in 12 rural municipalities, reaching approximately 48,000 beneficiaries through three types of interventions (one offering only a cash incentive for saving, anothing offering only financial education, and a third offering both an incentive and education) and control areas (in which neither education nor an incentive was offered). The project currently operates in 12 rural municipalities: Villagarzón, Timaná, Yacuanquer, Linares, Necoclí, Ayapel, San Andrés de Sotavento, María la Baja, Puerto López, el Zulia, Samana and Tibú.
At the end of 2011, the project’s activities included:
- A base line study to evaluate impact.
- Six financial education workshops for the beneficiary population (complete program).
- Quarterly delivery of cash incentives.
- Monitoring visits to the area where the project operates.
- Analysis of results of the project’s first year of operation.
Based on the lessons learned from the phase that is under way, the original project design is being perfected in preparation for a second phase, which will reach an estimated 300,000 beneficiaries of the “Familias en Acción” program, while the results of the impact studies are processed and published.