Thanks for your questions. In terms of the idea, we have piloted it in a preliminary trial (which was actually a fairly good sized pilot). We worked with 141 ROSCAs and 3,105 respondents. Preliminary take-up results looked good: 96% of GSRA ROSCAs took up the product, and the average ROSCA is storing 260 kilograms of maize, an amount worth about $57 per ROSCA at post-harvest prices and $108 if held until later. At the individual level, we find that about 40% of farmers set aside some maize in the GSRA; the average amount held by these individuals was 32 kilograms, which is equivalent to roughly 5% of reported harvest output (609 kg). Five percent of farm income is a relatively substantial sum, especially given that much of maize people typically hold is for consumption but the maize held in the GSRA is intended to be illiquid.
In terms of our relationship with IPA-Kenya, we have worked closely with them for many years. I have been working on research projects in Western Kenya since 2001, and most of that time has been with IPA. IPA is a research organization that works with researchers (usually at universities, as in my case) to implement projects and to evaluate them (I am a research affiliate of IPA though my actual position is an economics professor at UCSC). The real strength of IPA is in designing randomized controlled trials to carefully measure the impacts of programs. This is really the core strength of IPA, and also of the project - I've been doing randomized evaluations of a number of related savings, agriculture, and finance projects for quite a while. The results of these have been published in academic articles, as well as in policy briefs and similar documents from places like the MIT Poverty Action Lab. A main strength of our project is that we have a lot of experience doing high-quality evaluations like this. You can see more of these sorts of evaluations (and of mine specifically as well) at http://www.poverty-action.org/ and https://www.povertyactionlab.org/.
The collaboration is essentially that IPA (in close, essentially daily collaboration with our research team) will manage the field work in Kenya. The UC Santa Cruz / Indian School of Business research time will be voluntary. But we will make trips to Kenya, oversee project development, survey design, etc.
We are 100% open to partnerships. I had not heard of the organization you mention but we will look more into it. In general though, we would be extremely happy to collaborate with others.
As for the financial model, and keeping people engaged/interested, we actually are very excited about our pilot results. People seemed to really see a direct benefit in this for themselves - ROSCA members seemed to like the idea of setting aside some cash where they felt that it would be safe (physically, but also safe from temptations to spend or pressure from others). This is evident in the near-universal take-up of the technology. We don't yet know if this excitement lasts or not (part of what we'd love to learn from this grant process!), but it does look like people like the idea!
Thanks for your comment. We do think this is a first-order issue for the farmers in the area, and in a lot of rural areas generally. The evidence we have on the proposed intervention is indeed still very preliminary - we hope to learn a lot more with further field testing and refinement.