What we heard report – Shaping the Partnership for Gender Equality
On May 25, 2018, the Government of Canada announced its commitment to contribute up to $300 million to establish a unique and innovative partnership – the Partnership for Gender Equality – with the philanthropic community, private sector and civil society to catalyse new investments and unprecedented levels of financial resources to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in developing countries. The Government of Canada recognizes the funding gap that exists for women’s rights organizations and women’s movements internationally. We also are aware of the need to establish cross-sector partnerships to advance Agenda 2030 to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Thank you for taking part in a series of targeted roundtable discussions held by Global Affairs Canada in four cities across the country to assist in the design and development of the Partnership for Gender Equality (“the Partnership”). Find out below what you – our partners in Canada – had to say about this new Partnership in this “What We Heard” report.
Priorities and issues
Global Affairs Canada produced a Framework Discussion Paper outlining a number of key elements to help guide the roundtable discussions around the design and development of the Partnership. Roundtable participants were asked to focus on key questions related to the Partnership’s potential programming elements, institutional arrangements and governance and investment functions. Participants had much to share and Global Affairs Canada welcomed their perspectives, including messages of support for the overall platform, as well as advice on how to make it work.
Here are the main highlights
We heard eight themes during our discussions with you:
- Innovation & practicality. Overall, participants were enthusiastic about the Partnership’s innovative approach and cross-sector collaboration; however, participants also expressed concern about the challenges faced by housing the proposed functions of the Partnership within a single platform.
- Focus on enabling outcomes. Participants emphasized the need for the Partnership to always hold at the forefront the ultimate goal of supporting the transformation of systems and structures of power in order to advance true gender equality.
- Engage local-level actors in grant-making decisions. Participants affirmed that one of the key principles or values of the Partnership should be local-level empowerment, with grant-making decisions devolved as close to local partners as possible. The Partnership should not itself engage in operational delivery but rather fund existing organizations, funds and movements operating in an inclusive and collaborative manner.
- Build and leverage capacity. Participants called for the Partnership to build and leverage existing capacity and programs using grant and non-grant instruments aimed at advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in developing countries, while also including support for advocacy efforts and mutual learning opportunities.
- Apply a feminist approach to governance functions. Participants expressed strong support for the Partnership to be governed by and operated on feminist principles with participatory and flexible governance structures as well as decentralized decision-making.
- Ensure financial self-sustainability. Participants noted that the ideal investment mechanism of the Partnership should be able to attract donors and social impact investors, preferably gender-smart investors, and able to lead fund-sustaining investment strategies.
- Targeted Donor Management. Participants made it clear that the Partnership should avoid competing with other donor-seeking organizations and create net-new donor funding for the Partnership, in ways that resonate with potential partners, including the philanthropic community.
- “Canadian Window”. Participants emphasized a strong interest in including a Canadian window as part of the Partnership, in response to the broader Sustainable Development Goals.
How we reached out and how you responded
We conducted four targeted stakeholder roundtable discussions in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, engaging more than eighty stakeholders. All targeted stakeholder discussions were informed by the Government of Canada’s Framework Discussion Paper on Establishing Canada’s New Partnership for Gender Equality. Each roundtable discussion was organized into small discussion groups to tackle one of the three key question areas outlined in the paper.
We also asked our stakeholders to tell us what is most positively energizing about the Partnership and to give us their top three pieces of advice for its success. This information was captured on individual forms we handed out to participants at the discussions. Global Affairs Canada was encouraged by the discussions and level of engagement of stakeholders.
Programming and grant-making functions
As noted in the Framework Discussion Paper, in 2014, only 8% (USD836 million) of gender equality focused aid earmarked for civil society went directly to civil society organizations in developing countries. In addition, only 2% (USD192 million) of this went directly to women’s rights organizations in the global North and South combined. Participants agreed that the Partnership’s grant-making function should specifically help address the funding gap faced by women’s rights organizations, funds and movements in developing countries. Participants also recommended that the Partnership build on existing research, data and analysis concerning gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, specifically that which enables a systems-view of socio-economic determinants of gender inequality. Global Affairs Canada heard strong messaging about the need to not ‘reinvent the wheel’ but build on existing successes at the local level, and aim to support advocacy efforts and partnerships across and between the local, regional and national levels. Additionally, participants strongly encouraged that results measurement requirements not cripple movement and that the indicators are placed on a properly balanced set of enabling and ultimate outcomes.
Details of what we heard
On the issue of grant-making, Global Affairs Canada heard that the Partnership should:
- Take a feminist approach, which is responsive to the needs and realities of women’s organizations. This includes, for example, placing trust with local organizations and local leaders, and embracing the challenges of working with grassroots organizations.
- Consider enabling programming options beyond grant-making e.g. technical assistance and capacity-building for recipient organizations, including non-grant instruments.
- Maintain flexibility so that programming and grant-making can adapt to the evolving needs of women’s organizations and the development landscape.
On the topic of programming decisions, Global Affairs Canada heard that the Partnership should:
- Adopt a participatory and flexible governance structure which is critical to ensure that programming will deliver real results for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
- Not be a delivery provider but a delivery enabler where its funding/grant-making is consistently targeted towards real systems change.
- Inform its programming decisions with rigorous research, data and expertise on gender equality and women’s empowerment so as to better ensure viability and sustainability of programming and their local/regional impacts over the long term.
- Fill the gaps and refrain from competing with other organizations.
- Take a world-view in its approach to delivering programming, leveraging multiple levels of local, regional, national and international movements as a well as an inter-sectoral focus including, for example, LGBTQI movements.
- Support efforts by recipients focused on advocacy, mentorship, local/regional/South-South partnerships and mutual learning opportunities.
Institutional arrangements and governance functions
In the Framework Document, Global Affairs Canada considers that the Partnership should have an oversight mechanism that would include monitoring, reporting and evaluation functions, including the tracking of Official Development Assistance (ODA)-eligible funding by the Partnership, impact assessments of results achieved, and the use of gender-sensitive or feminist approaches to evaluation. Its governance structure would have as a central component due diligence and fiduciary risk-monitoring and management of investments and funding. Participants recognized the very real challenges in balancing the innovative nature of the Partnership with existing legal and legislative restrictions and raised the importance of ensuring that there would be minimal barriers to opening up truly innovative partnership opportunities. Partners also expressed a preference for the Partnership to be at arm’s length from the Government of Canada.
Details of what we heard
On the institutional structure of the Partnership, Global Affairs Canada heard that the Partnership should:
- Not reside as an entity under the umbrella of the federal government as this would have less appeal to philanthropists.
- Carefully consider its legal form – whether an NGO structure, a charitable organization, a Foundation, etc. – in light of the impact a given form would have on who we attract as investors and how we attract them.
- Be clear about whether it requires new legislation to be established. For example, exploring a Partnership that contains multiple economic entities could be helpful such as a hospital structure which includes a research arm, an investment arm, and a financing arm.
- Be nimble.
- Be established within a clear regulatory framework to enable certainty, sustainability and long-term planning for investors, donors and recipients alike.
On the topic of governance, leadership, management and culture, Global Affairs Canada heard that:
- The Partnership, and those delivering its mandate, must take a feminist approach to programming, governance, leadership, management and culture. This feminist approach must also be clearly defined and adaptable to local contexts.
- The early years (start-up period) of the Partnership should have the right profile of people for the challenges of building and lifting up the platform. This profile for the start-up years could be different from that required for the on-going operations of the Partnership. This could be explored with carefully crafted leadership and governance profiles.
- Advisory and oversight committees should be reflective and inclusive of all partners.
Participants expressed strong support for the unique and innovative vision of the Partnership. Some participants noted that community foundations across Canada are embracing the Sustainable Development Goals and are ready to establish new partnerships to achieve them. Participants recognized that new financial investments are required to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in developing countries. Participants also recognized the importance of the Partnership being set up in a way that would make it financially self-sustaining. Some participants expressed concern about the challenges faced by housing all of the proposed functions of the Partnership in one platform. Another common theme was that the ideal investment mechanism should attract donors and social impact investors, preferably gender-smart investors, and be able to lead fund-sustaining investment strategies.
Details of what we heard
On the issue of how to attract new money, Global Affairs Canada heard that:
- Canadian philanthropists want to understand and engage with the Partnership’s approach, philosophy, and its desired social impact.
- Bringing new people, new partners, new allies in to do this work will, as a matter of course, lead to new approaches in development assistance. This will, in turn, also lead to new money. In this context, there was strong interest in exploring the establishment of a “Canadian window” as part of the Partnership, both to advance gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals in Canada as well as support Canadian philanthropists to increase their engagement in international development work outside of Canada.
- We heard about interesting models to attract funding:
- The investment and endowment model uses the public markets to generate funds for use in pursuit of charitable purposes. Certain Canadian foundations have charitable status in the United States, which enables Americans who donate to that Canadian charity to receive a tax receipt from the United States Government.
- It is important to remain abreast of trends and themes shaping the market and influencing impact-investing – diversification of investors and investments, financial inclusion, climate, renewable energy, clean technologies, agriculture, education, etc.
On the topic of risk appetite and risk management, Global Affairs Canada heard that:
- There needs to be a strategy to engage various categories of funders based on their risk appetite and the Partnership’s risk profile over time. For example, Government or philanthropic funding could work well for higher-risk investments, especially at the early stages of the Partnership, while impact investors might be a second or third wave of investors.
- A key challenge to overcome will be the fact that many investors might not make investments at the start-up phase of the Partnership as they normally like to see a full investment cycle performance record before doing so.
- For sustainability, the Partnership must take a multi-pronged, risk-diversified strategy to growth, which can include:
- attracting philanthropic organizations;
- providing investment loss guarantees relating to certain types of funding programs;
- investing in local investment programs to generate local returns for in-situ re-investment in programming;
- attracting private investors through retail instruments such as government bonds to generate new and more donations per capita and involve new generations of donors;
- attracting large impact investors for scale; and
- investing to generate returns and maintain an endowment.
We were pleased and encouraged by the high level of engagement during this exercise and will continue to engage leading up to the Women Deliver 2019 conference.
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