Girls, the Agents of Change: Lessons from a Collaborative Approach to Funding With and For Girls

Feb 19, 2019 · 5 min read
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Rock Girl, South Africa

The With and For Girls Awards identify organisations with girls at their centre and provides them with flexible funding, profile raising opportunities, global networks and training. We also work with funders to leverage additional resources for girl-led and girl-centred groups, and to shift funding practices so that these organisations can receive more of the support they need to take action and to thrive.

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Despite the critical role that women and girls play in sustainable development, the World Bank estimates that less than 2 cents of every $1 spent on international aid is directed towards adolescent girls. As a Collective, we believe funders can, and must, play a leadership role in addressing the lack of resources available to grassroots girl-centred and girl-led organisations who we know are still under-recognised, under-represented and under-funded. To further our learning as a Collective we embarked on an independent evaluation to improve, not only our own processes, but also to encourage other donors to take similar steps in centering powerful girl-led groups and understand why grassroots girl-led and girl-centred organisations need to be supported by flexible funding to propel transformational change towards a more equitable world.

Involving girls, in decision-making is at the core of the Collective’s philosophy, and such we ensured that girls’ voices were a fundamental part of this process. Twelve girls from Kenya and Nepal, from previous winning organisations, participated in the research by interviewing the past award winners, and providing us with valuable insights on how the Collective can continue to improve itself while keeping grassroots groups’ and girls’ voices at the fore.

We’re excited to share our learnings, key findings and recommendations that include:

Selecting girl-led groups and what they receive:

We work directly with grassroots, girl-led and girl-centred organisations with annual incomes between $20,000 and $500,000. The With and For Girls Awards identify strong organisations with girls at their centre and provides them with flexible funding, profile raising opportunities and training.

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The research confirms the Collective has made significant strides to achieve increased recognition and resources available to strong girl-led and girl-centered organisations through involving and amplifying the voices and perspectives of girls.

In terms of the collective approach to funding, the research has recommended that:

More time considerations be given to the complexities of working collaboratively, as this takes more time and planning than working alone.

  • Clearly articulate, as part of the criteria for bringing on new Strategic Partners, the element of shared principles, values and ways of working
  • As a Collective, build and generate knowledge and evidence on the resource needs of girls, and on the available financing for girl-led groups as well as other information linked to the work of girl-led organisations.

Girls to the Front:

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Cynthia Steele, Executive Vice President, EMpower

Building on our Strategic Partners Mama Cash and FRIDA’s report ‘Girls To the Front’, this research highlights the value and insistence of the Collective in the participation and agency of girls throughout the process where a group of adolescent girls provide meaningful input throughout the selection process. Girls from our network have final decision-making power on which organisations receive funding, which demonstrates our belief that they are best placed to understand which organisations best support the advancement of girls in the face of extremely challenging circumstances and pervasive discrimination.

By elevating these organisations in spaces of influence, the With and For Girls Collective aims that donors will recognise the critical insight of grassroots development initiatives that prioritise girls’ participation, and that more donors might join forces to support similar efforts in ways that unlock the power and potential of local organisations and the girls they work with.

From the research recommendations the Collective should consider increasing the participation of award winners and girl panellists, including creating a girl-led advisory panel to increase girls’ participation in governance of the Collective.

What funders can/must do to support groups beyond funding:

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Roles for Social Change Association — ADWAR, Palestine

The research highlighted the increased recognition and resources available through the award package and the efforts of the Collective to ensure girls and representatives of Winners spoke at key sector events and accessed additional funds, ensuring increased visibility and collaboration.

It also highlighted the need to share with the broader community on how the Collective applies feminist principles and a rights based approach to philanthropy, such as:

  • innovative sourcing to find and fund lesser known and new organisations;
  • success of the flexible and pooled funds structure;
  • creating mechanisms to allow the Collective to give awards to groups that each of the individual donors might consider too risky;
  • working solidly as a learning Collective.

It is through cultivating a network of inspiring funders with the same unifying ethos and drive that the Collective has been able to be effective in responding to adolescent girls needs. Through building the capacity of funders to give flexible, unrestricted funding in all regions of the world, we look forward to a future where girls live and thrive in enabling environments where they are heard, respected and see equality and justice in their communities.

Download the Executive Summary

Download the Full Report

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Productive Organization for Women in Action, Belize

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