September 10, 2015
Action Evaluation Collaborative is partnering with WomenStrong International (WSI) to design and facilitate an innovative Action Learning process for the WSI Consortium.
In this vein, AEC is working with WomenStrong to achieve the following goals:
– To support Consortium members in building a participatory practice that will allow them to hear and learn from the girls, women and communities with whom they work, as the members strengthen and deepen their strategies of accompaniment through transformative processes. We understand Transformative Change as different ways of thinking and working across cultural and social contexts to address systems-level changes, focusing simultaneously on individual and community-wide development capable of bringing about critical shifts – or transformation – within society, to support and sustain the rights and dignity of all people.
– To elicit and document learning around effective practices and strategies supporting the development of women’s leadership that will in turn be shared more broadly.
– To strengthen the work of women’s empowerment and of transformational approaches to development and social change.
– To support learning using a range of participatory approaches, meaning ways of working together, collecting information and reflecting on work, such that everyone – including program participants and community members – plays an active and influential part in the decisions affecting their lives.
– To support the Consortium staff and members in articulating their shared values and vision, and to provide critical perspectives and feedback that can help the ongoing alignment of these values and vision with appropriate strategies of implementation.
AEC’s approach draws from diverse disciplines including Developmental and Empowerment evaluation, and is deeply grounded in the theory, practice and value of social justice and feminist approaches to social change, encompassing both women’s individual struggles for dignity and equity, as well as shared leadership and the building of collective power.
AEC’s Work to-date with WomenStrong International
AEC initiated its collaboration with WSI by facilitating a 2-day meeting with member organizations in New York City in April 2015. The Consortium members worked through an initial Theory of Change for WSI, focused on identifying key collective values, outcomes and strategies that would undergird and drive the work of the Consortium.
Over the late spring and summer, AEC has spent nearly a week with each Consortium member, in Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya and Washington, D.C.
The goals of the visits were to:
– Gain a deeper understanding of members’ work, specifically, of how it is aligned with the Consortium’s core values, strategies, and outcomes.
– Identify the key learning questions for each member’s context that will guide the Action Learning process.
– Assess each Consortium member’s needs and capacities for implementing the Action Learning process, to inform decision-making moving forward.
– Initiate some basic training, when possible, on the use of participatory methods for group discussion, reflection and learning, both with community members and with WSI Consortium member staff.
AEC’s Work with WomenStrong International in the Upcoming Year
– Implementing the first cycle of Action Learning by WomenStrong Consortium members with women, their families and other key actors in the communities in which they work. This cycle involves exploration to better understand the current context of women’s lives in their communities. The collected insights will support the engagement of women, community members, staff, and WSI members in collective analysis, reflection and decision-making, ultimately to support program improvements. AEC will be supporting Consortium members individually and collectively through email, phone calls and group forum discussions.
– Sharing key stories collected from women and girls to highlight common challenges faced by women, girls and communities across diverse cultural contexts, to begin capturing personal and community shifts and changes, and to inform learning about women’s empowerment that can be relevant Consortium-wide and beyond.
– Facilitating sense-making – collective analysis and reflection – workshops in early 2016 in each of the five countries, to review findings from the use of the participatory exercises designed for the first cycle of the Action Learning process.
– Facilitating an annual Consortium-wide knowledge-sharing and learning session in the spring of 2016.