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April 13, 2021

Disruption required

When the dust settles after the May elections and the talk of building back better has to be acted upon, there will be many calls for a change of direction. One organisation, WEvolution, as well as building on the experience of their own network have been drawing inspiration from a series of conversations with leaders from the global south. This fusion of perspectives has led them to call for a new development model, based on disruption – not just more innovation. Their report offers six key insights into what they now believe is required. 


A Scottish charity is calling for scaling a development model based on trust, savings and strengths to support those struggling economically and socially.

In a new report issued today, WEvolution is proposing six principles and practices learnt from the Global South that focus on the assets which people struggling against poverty already have, in order to encourage sustainable long-term development.

The Self-Reliant Group (SRG) model – currently being lived out by women in some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the UK – challenges the prevailing norms which consistently hold people back. WEvolution helps bring together groups of people who uncover their entrepreneurial potential through peer connections. They raise their own capital by saving small amounts weekly and progress to developing small business ideas into products and services. WEvolution, who have championed this practice in Scotland since 2011, are using the learnings from their Global South speaker series to continue unearthing hidden entrepreneurs and help form stronger communities. Speakers for the series came from as far as Columbia, Kenya and India.

Former Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government and Chair of David Hume Institute, who part-funded the speaker series,  Sir John Elvidge, said: “The David Hume Institute has found it of great value to be able to partner with WEvolution in raising awareness of the opportunities for learning from the Southern Hemisphere. We are committed now to taking the learning into our own work, as I hope are others. As ever, WEvolution are at the heart of a call to action.”

These six recommendations offer vital insights for those committed to positive social change.

  1. A need to focus on the collective, not the individual
  2. Listen to the affected communities
  3. Encourage long-term savings
  4. Consider the complexity of modern life
  5. Rebuild civic institutions
  6. Be patient.

Author of the report, Martin Johnstone, produced the findings in partnership with the David Hume Institute. He said: “The six lessons learnt from our teachers in the Global South offer vital insights for those committed to change. We need disruption, not just innovation.”

“Although the pandemic has affected us all, the implications have been experienced by some disproportionately. If we were already struggling – economically, socially and in terms of health – prior to lockdown, the gap between us and the rest of society has widened further. Self-Reliant Groups offer an opportunity to empower people and communities.”

Over the last ten years, WEvolution has supported a growing network of over 130 Self Reliant Groups (SRGs) across Scotland, England, Wales and the Netherlands. The use of the SRG model has allowed groups in struggling communities to start up new businesses. Noel Mathias, founder and Managing Director of WEvolution, said: “The work we are carrying out with SRGs offers them an alternative route to pursuing entrepreneurial dreams while also strengthening their communities.”

“The speakers from the Global South Series highlight the positive, long-term impact their efforts have had in their respective regions. We can use their examples as a feasible method to help rebuild communities following the pandemic.”

WEvolution, who recently appointed the CEO of Carnegie UK Trust, Sarah Davidson, as its Head of Trustees, is spearheading the Self-Reliant Group model to provide communities with a method that encourages savings while also pursuing business opportunities. Sarah said, “The evidence here in Scotland, as well as from these pioneers in the global south, supports the belief that SRGs are vehicles that can promote individual and community wellbeing.”