The world is changing at lightning speed. Addressing complex and highly interconnected human development challenges requires new points of view, fresh partnerships, innovative approaches, and questions about our assumptions.
Are we—grant makers and project implementers—working in the most effective and efficient ways? Are we responding to the real needs of women who are furthest behind? What alternative approaches can lead to truly transformative changes? Are women’s organizations tapping their full potential as change makers?
For the first time for the Fund, and as a rare experience in the development community, this initiative is investing in the innovation capabilities of women’s organizations and creating a safe space for experimentation and failure.
Using a beneficiary-centred design approach, grantees are gaining a deeper understanding of the needs of the most marginalized women—the “end users” of their projects. They are ideating, prototyping, and testing novel solutions, while learning to apply design thinking, systems thinking, and behavioural insights into their project design.
The objective is to come up with tested models that solve challenges to women’s empowerment and can catalyse substantial change. Some will succeed, and some will not. All participants—including the FGE—will learn from the experience and improve their roles as advocates and service providers for women and girls who are furthest behind.
The issues that grantees are trying to address include:
- How can rural women from disadvantaged communities transition from small-scale producers to profitable entrepreneurs?
- How can we find creative solutions to keep women’s rights on the political agenda in a conflict setting?
- How can we address specific cultural barriers that hinder women’s political participation?
- How can we engage migrant workers in learning activities that will support their successful return?
- How can we motivate more domestic workers to join associations to claim their labour rights?
In another initiative, the “Women’s Civil Society Organizations of the Future”, the Fund in collaboration with the Parsons School of Design, conducted a design-led exploration about how to better support women’s organizations amidst an ever-evolving environment and socio-economic and political constraints that sideline and de-prioritize them and their areas of work.
The experiment identified key challenges, needs and promising practices for women-led CSOs’ sustainability and resilience, including by exploring alternative financing and operational models and different programme approaches. It also tested three possible solutions co-created by UN Women field offices and CSO partners, namely:
- In Mexico, a feminist Mexican NGO reassessed its business model moving away from an exclusively donor-funded model towards a more sustainable and diversified funding base through service delivery and stronger alliances with members of the private sector.
- In Rwanda, the UN Women Country Office supported several East African women’s organizations and social entrepreneurs to test a mentorship model using their existing resources, knowledge and skills to maximize their resilience through mutual self-reliance and solidarity.
- In Viet Nam, the UN Women Country Office has tested different ways to make creativity the new norm in its operations as a way to foster more innovation and ultimately higher agility and effectiveness.