Case Study

Storytelling for Saving


The savings rate for health expenses in Kenya is very low. This can be quite devastating when medical emergencies happen. At this point, it is often too late to find enough money. To address this dilemma, there needs to be a shift in attitudes and norms towards saving more money in advance to health crises.


We hypothesized that some people hold inaccurate beliefs about savings. They underestimate the importance of saving for health. Previous research has shown that people perceive an event as more common or likely if it easily springs to mind. Thus, we predicted that subjects would reconsider the importance of saving for health by exposing them to stories of characters who experienced health emergencies and who were then relieved that they had signed up to save in advance. We partnered with M-TIBA, a mobile health savings wallet, to test this hypothesis via storytelling.

We created four different stories about fictional characters that were skeptical about health savings at first but were ultimately relieved that they had saved on M-Tiba. This allowed these characters to cope with the health emergencies. Scripts told stories from the point of view of a father or a mother and focused on the benefits of saving. There was also a control condition in which subjects were not told any story. After, we asked subjects questions about how much they value saving for health as well as their perceptions of how much others in their community do this. These questions were asked one day before the story-telling intervention, then three and 21 days after.

The research was sponsored by Joep Lange Institute and Pharmaccess. The Joep Lange Institute is an activist Global Health & Development Institute and PharmAccess is an international non-profit organization dedicated to connecting more people in sub-Saharan Africa to better healthcare.


Different stories worked to varying extents in changing attitudes and norms. The story of the father was most effective.

Why it matters

Saving for healthcare is only one example of the many ways people benefit from saving, both in the short and long term. It can be an incredibly important step towards financial stability. Over one million people have already started saving as a result of this program.

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