Case of Self-Help Group (SHG) and Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies (MACS) Does Federating Enable Remote Outreach?
This paper examines a federation of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Andhra Pradesh, India that grew out of a local trade union and Dalit movement. Ankuram Sangamam Poram (ASP) is a three-tier system with nearly 6,000 SHG groups at its base. In an SHG federation, every tier within the system is owned directly by its members and member groups. Federation characteristics include:
- Apex serves as a wholesale system financier and supervisor;
- Centralized and standardized human resource management, capacity building, operational management and internal controls;
- Decentralized decision-making and governance;
- Opportunities for members to gain leadership skills, and work their way up through the federation.
In practice, it is difficult to balance member-ownership and decentralization with the demands of running an efficient organization at scale, especially in remote areas. The paper demonstrates ASP's ability to reach the unreached in large numbers. However, faced with increasing competition from new entrants, ASP will thrive only if the systems and governance successfully put business first, and demonstrate clear gains for member-owners.