Can Innovation Benefit the Ultra-poor? UNDP’s #TawidCOVID challenge gives community savings groups a much needed boost

“We will die of hunger first before COVID,” was the common statement we heard in our communities during the pandemic. They couldn’t go out and earn for their daily wage because of the community quarantines. What little savings they had in their savings group also dried up. Things were looking pretty bleak. 

Studies made by global institutions such as the World Bank have shown that this is also true worldwide. An estimated additional 88 to 115 million people will fall into poverty this year (over 1.4% of the world’s population) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While we know that the pandemic and community quarantines won’t last, we also know the ultra-poor needed help to get through the crisis. 

“We recognize that when macro-economic issues are happening across the country, it’s going to affect our old communities too. Even if they were pretty successful, they’re still going to be affected,” Daniel Mayhugh, ICM’s Chief Operating Officer, shared. This is why we created the Refresh and Renew programs. They are refresher programs to help Transform graduates hit hard by the pandemic get back on their feet and to revive old savings groups depleted by the pandemic much-needed grants, training, and encouragement to keep on going.  

Enter the #TawidCOVID Innovation Challenge

In October 2020, the Accelerator Labs, UNDP Philippines opened applications for the #TawidCOVID Innovation Challenge. UNDP Philippines set the challenge to find novel solutions for socio-economic recovery that could be improved, tested, and scaled up. ICM is one of the four winners chosen for the grant.

Through the #TawidCOVID Challenge grant, ICM worked with 36 partner communities in Iloilo and Aklan to revitalize their community savings groups. More than the much-needed financial infusion, we gave the savings groups more training to develop new businesses and financial management through the Prevail program. This is to assist in the growth of the savings groups and to also build economic resilience for the communities’ livelihood activities. 

The assistance also included an exploratory study on savings groups’ readiness and perceptions of digital financial services. This is in line with ICM’s plans to increasingly course community grants through digital channels and ensure their financial inclusion.

Here are just a few of the savings groups in Iloilo who pursued livelihood initiatives through the savings group grants funded by the #TawidCOVID Challenge:

The Calumpang Savings Group’s businesses are rice retailing and selling cleaning products. The grant they get from UNDP’s #TawidCOVID Challenge will give their business capital a welcome boost. 


The Lucmayan Savings Group has an RTW business and they make custom jersey uniforms. With the #TawidCOVID grant, they have set up a business selling chicken and meat products. 


The Sikap Savings Group Leader says, “Thanks, UNDP, for the additional capital for our upcoming sari-sari store, as well as additional capital for loans!”



The Ilaya Savings Group previously only had a water refilling station as their business. The #TawidCOVID grant has now enabled them to invest in the rice retailing business. 

We are all excited to see how these savings group can grow and expand their businesses!

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