Gender at Work (www.genderatwork.org) is an international non-profit (501c3) incorporated in
the Washington DC and in Toronto, Canada. Gender at Work was founded in 2003 by the
Association of Women’s Rights in Development, UNIFEM, CIVICUS, and Women’s Learning
Partnership. As a virtual network with no central office, our Associates and Facilitators are
located in different parts of the world. We currently have strong teams of Associates and
Facilitators in India (3 Associates, 4 Facilitators) and South Africa (1 Associate, one Program
Associate and 3 Facilitators). These teams along with our Global Associates carry out national,
regional and international programs. Programs are currently being carried out in South
Africa, India, Morocco, Albania, Nepal and Rwanda. We recently completed a program in
Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda and another in Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Sudan.
Gender at Work is governed by a small international Board of Directors and a small staff
in Toronto support Associates and Facilitators to carry out their work and international efforts.
With an annual budget of approximately USD 1 million, our work focuses on partnering with
other organizations to improve their ability to achieve women’s empowerment and contribute
to gender equality. With the aim of creating new norms and cultures of equality, we take on
complex organizational change processes in challenging environments. We support local,
national and international social change organizations to change their structures, culture,
processes and programs in order to be able to negotiate new meanings and values, support the
empowerment of women and facilitate progress toward gender equality goals within the
sphere of public action. Gender at Work’s experience to date is that, with the right tools and
support, organizations can create transformative change internally and within the communities
Gender at Work’s Strategic Plan 2011-2013 builds upon and largely continues the directions set
in our earlier strategic plan (2008-2011). This plan endorses the mission and goals delineated in
Gender at Work is an international collaborative that strengthens organizations to build
cultures of equality and social justice, with a particular focus on gender equality.
We will achieve our mission through pursuing the following goals:
1. To advance gender equality and transform power relations by supporting both local and
global social change organizations to change their structures, processes, and programs.
2. To spotlight and change the overt and covert rules and exclusionary practices of social
institutions and organizations that maintain inequalities, through new analytical tools,
ways of thinking, and practices.
3. To grow, strengthen and sustain Gender at Work and its partnerships in a way that
reflects our values: equality, accountability and work-life balance.
What Have We Accomplished?
From 2001 when Gender at Work began program work, to the beginning of our current plan,
our primary accomplishments have been to:
1. Develop our thinking regarding institutions and organizations and the role they play in
maintaining gender inequality. Our writing and presentations on this have resonated
with a variety of people in the field, and have been widely applied and adapted1.
2. Develop a holistic view of the “what” of change – that is, what needs to change based on the integral framework of Ken Wilber2.
3. Develop a program methodology which reflects that analysis .
1 Gender at Work’s framework is used by several development agencies in their programmatic and organizational
change work --_ For example, Oxfam Canada at headquarters and in the Pace Program in the Horn of Africa and in
Mozambique; AWID’s “ Towards A Feminist Meta Framework For Monitoring & Evaluation” developed by Srilatha
Batliwala; CREA’s South Asia Movement Building and Human Rights Institute
(http://web.creaworld.org/home.asp); Justice and Women (JAW) in South Africa is using the G@W integral
framework as the basis for the internal and external system of planning, monitoring and evaluation; they are
developing an evaluation tool based on the framework and the G@W approach; AWID’s Feminist Movement
Building Program is translating segments of Change is a Slow Dance into French and Spanish to distribute to
members; the document has been included as part of AWID’s updated library; Numerous requests from academic
institutions to develop a module presentation for use in an academic setting – for example, three-hour seminar
for adult education diploma students in South Africa, mostly from community organizations, schools,
corporations, etc., on gender and organizational change, especially with regards to power relations; Earthscan
reader in NGO Management re-published an article that was first published in Gender and Development entitled
"Is there life after gender mainstreaming?" by Aruna Rao and David Kelleher; In Southern Africa, SAfAIDS, in
partnership with Seke Rural, implemented a pilot project in Zimbabwe in which Community Dialogues were used
to address harmful cultural practices, profiling G@W’s methodology on page 30 of their training handbook on
gender, violence and HIV/AIDS. They have also created the poster (clearly drawing on the G@W framework).
2 Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything, Shambhala, 1996.
3David Kelleher, Action Learning for Gender Equality, Gender at Work, 2009
(http://www.genderatwork.org/learning-centre); Michel Friedman and Ray Gordezky, A Holistic Approach to Social
Justice, Presentation to the International Organization Development Association, 2010, (www.genderatwork.org)
In the last plan period we have:
4. Implemented our program methodology in a wide range of organizations and settings
around the world: we have successfully completed organizational strengthening
programs with 8 organizations in South Africa, 8 organizations in East Africa; 5
organizations in India and 6 organizations in the Horn of Africa
5. Developed and have begun implementing the Dalit Women’s Accountability Initiative
(2010-2011) in India in partnership with Dalit Stree Shakti, a Dalit women’s union in
South India, and with funding from the UNIFEM Gender Equality Fund
6. Applied our understandings of gender and institutional change in designing programs
and assessing institutional features of global organizations such as UNIFEM in their
Gender & Democratic Governance Program, the Swiss Development Corporation, the
United Nations Development Group, and a set of development finance institutions
including CDC, FMO, IFC and Norfund. In addition, several international and national
organizations (e.g. Oxfam Novib’s GMLT Program, Oxfam Canada, The Global Fund for
Women, SAfAIDS in South Africa and SPARC in Mumbai) are using the Gender at Work
framework for program design, training of gender and organizational change
facilitators, and program evaluation.
7. Expanded our pool of Associates and Facilitators and held an Associates and
Facilitators Capacity Building & Reflection Workshop in Canada in April 2009
8. Developed and disseminated several new publications through our website; this
includes analytical papers and several short stories.
9. Re-vamped our web site; daily visits to the site have since doubled and monthly visits
have increased by at least 160% since Oct 2009 - on average 16,000 to 28,000 hits per
month. Recently, we have added social media - Facebook and Twitter - to the site as
well as member’s space.
10. Implemented a new organizational and staff structure by hiring an Executive Director
and a part-time financial manager; we have also formed an Executive Committee of
senior Associates who regularly meet by telephone to guide the management and
work of the organization.
As elaborated in our last Strategic Plan, our niche is defined by “our commitment to tackling the
hardest part of transforming power: changing the rules of society – especially unwritten norms,
values and behaviors that are complicit in prolonging inequalities, by working through
organizations.” Our partners report that we are asking the key questions about cultural norms
and root causes of inequalities. Because our work is done over time and is rigorous but nonprescriptive, our processes encourage partners to find out for themselves what they have to do
and allow transformational process to take root. In trying to understand each organization in
its own terms, we allow recognition of their virtues and values and surface what is not fully
explicit in the organizations and what is seldom considered by external resource providers.
There are strong indications that the Civil Society Strengthening Program is working well -participant evaluations, Gender at Work’s own evaluation of the South Africa program, Oxfam
Canada’s evaluation of the Horn program all point to good results in changing persons,
organizations and communities. The work with bilateral and multilateral organizations has also
been rated positively though in those settings tangible results are less obvious and the
sustainability of effects is unclear.
Our work is rooted in a theory of change4; the Gender at Work framework is seen as an
extremely powerful analytical tool and the processes we facilitate draw on complex systems
thinking and practice. We weave different strands of theory and practice together - feminist
theory, organizational development and change, and energy practices such as T’ai Chi – and our
mind, body, spirit approach is viewed as central for shifting power. Gender at Work has had a
significant impact in the personal lives of participants and we have strengthened the ability of
individuals to contribute to the collective. Our choice of partners and our approach reflects our
values and our politics – we invest in organizations that are key players in building just and
equitable cultures and societies; we invest in a feminist journey with mixed organizations as
well as women’s organizations; we advocate for global change but partner with local level
organizations to actually make change happen; and are able to visualize micro level changes
and link them to macro perspectives, arguments and mechanisms at the level of regional
commissions, the World Bank and the UN. Our Associates are viewed as top-notch; each with
long and varied experience and our publications are compelling as they reflect knowledge
based on practice. Thus, as we look toward the next three years, we do so from a strong
foundation, confident that we have a product and a process that works and is in much demand.
See for example, “Gender at Work’s Approach to Change” (www.genderatwork.org) and Aruna Rao and
David Kelleher, Is there Life After Mainstreaming? Gender and Development: Mainstreaming A Critical Review,
Volume 13, Number 2, Oxfam UKI, July 2005
Where Are We Now?
Our work, framework and tools highlight gender equality. But at the same time, in our work,
we deal with exclusion based on multiple dimensions of identity: for example, race, ethnicity,
religion, economic poverty and age. We want to develop our ability to deal with these
intersectionalities in a way that is more dynamic and realistic than conventional approaches
have been to date. Currently, an individual is often asked to privilege one form of exclusion
over another (e.g. Dalit issues rather than gender issues) or a person’s identity is seen as static
rather than fluid, and there is limited capacity to transfer solidarity or learning from one
dimension of identity to another. While most development organizations (and many
governments) now recognize the reality of multiple and intersecting oppressions and
exclusions, there is as yet no consensus on how to address them. The conceptual framework is
still evolving. Methodologies and tools need to be developed and tested for their applicability
across a range of local contexts. We feel that with practices and tools to deal with intersecting
oppressions we can make our work more relevant and contribute to the thinking and practice
of a broader set of organizations and change practitioners.
Our gender action learning processes draw on various strains of theory and practice from
organizational development, adult and popular education, holistic wellness practices, antioppression work and feminism. Many other organizations have drawn on these different
theories and techniques in different contexts but we believe that Gender at Work combines
them in a unique way. Our approach cannot be reduced to a limited number of elements but its
power may lie in the creative tensions it generates by combining diverse principles. The skills,
knowledge, experience, confidence and motivation of our Associates and Facilitators thus, are
the key elements which enable us to create and carry out gender action learning processes. So
far, we have operated with a very small group of part time, local practitioners in both India and
South Africa. In order to undertake more such work in India, South Africa or the region, we
would need to expand our human resources. But given the high levels of competence our work
requires in both theory and practice, identifying and mentoring new facilitators will be a key
challenge in strengthening Gender at Work’s capacity in the coming years.
We acknowledge that what we do in each situation – the Gender at Work approach – differs
depending to some extent on who is doing it. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. To
be able to adapt the ideas driving our work and apply the framework in different contexts, in
different organizational sites from local organizations to multilateral development agencies,
and for different purposes is necessary. But any diminution of the quality of the approach and a
dilution of its key elements is a drawback. As we expand our facilitator pool, we will also pay
close attention to the quality of our practices. This will require a critical assessment of our own
work; developing a competency framework which delineates the key elements of working with
mind/body/spirit or the soft and hard skills of gender and institutional change; and then
applying that standard as a litmus test for ‘good’ work.
As an organization devoted to changing organizational culture and practices to transform
power relations between women and men, Gender at Work confronts significant challenges
when describing, tracking and communicating the results of our work, particularly because
changes in gender relations or organizational cultures are often complex, long term, and
context specific. There is an increasing tension between an external concern with “managing
for results” and the evaluation community’s concern with “embracing complexity” in evaluation
by engaging (rigorously) with complexity and accepting that results are often emergent rather
than predictable and easily measurable. Despite the difficulties, we believe that measuring and
communicating results more effectively can help us better understand how to bring about
change and make better decisions about where to focus our efforts. To become more
successful, we both need and want to improve our monitoring and learning practices. Over the
next few years, in partnership with research institutes and implementing partners, we will
invest in this important area of work.
While Gender at Work’s global work constitutes a significant portion of work and will continue
to do so, we have also grown organically in South Africa and India. Building on pre-Gender at
Work linkages with feminist organizations, organizational development agencies, researchers,
transformative leaders and change practitioners, Gender at Work began in 2004 in South Africa
to create a robust network of national actors who are transforming practices and organizations
for gender equality. Our partners are actively and strategically challenging the root causes of
inequality (deep within informal culture) and establishing new equitable norms at the
organizational and individual level. In this past plan period, we have worked to deepen four of
these partners’ work for gender justice: The South African Commercial, Catering and Allied
Workers Union, Treatment Action Campaign, Justice and Women, Women on Farms – focused
on building women’s leadership and an organizational culture to support women’s leadership.
These innovative change projects challenged power and power hierarchies from a feminist
perspective (although not always articulated in this way by partners) and developed alternative
structures, ways of organizing and support for staff/member development and leadership.
More recently we have worked with community-based organizations with predominantly
female memberships that focus on different areas (anti-privatization, skills for people with
developmental disabilities, unionizing women in precarious employment and creating
opportunities and social networks for under and unemployed people). These CBOs from
Gauteng have forged a powerful alliance of support, learning and collaborative community
effort. Writings by these community activists and change practitioners have been interwoven
into the landscape of knowledge on transformational change in South Africa.
Similarly in India, with efforts beginning in 2004, Gender at Work has worked to build the
capacity and commitment to gender equality in mixed organizations, that is, organizations that
include both women and men. These include organizations focused on child rights, inclusive
education, women’s rights and indigenous rights. Men in traditional roles within traditional
development organizational structures become increasingly willing to take risks and act in new
ways in response to their G@W-supported analysis. For instance, MASVAW was able to make
significant shifts in gender awareness among the men in their networks (some coming from
areas of India with deeply entrenched patriarchal views), who now role model gender-sensitive
masculinity within their communities.
In both places, we have strong Gender at Work teams of thought leaders and facilitators. As
the programs gain traction and success, increasing demands are being made to expand our
partnerships and programs. Thus, both teams feel the need to consolidate and fertilize the
growth in those contexts.
We have applied our frameworks and action learning processes in civil society organizations, in
large development agencies such as Oxfam Canada, as well as in United Nations agencies. In
India, we are focusing more and more on socially excluded/marginalized groups such as Dalits
and religious minorities; in South Africa based on our track record, we are poised to work more
intensively with trade unions and with groupings of organizations in particular sectors such as
those working in HIV/Aids and on employment issues. Our work with international agencies will
expand as the demand for our approach increases. Similarly with the UN, given our success in
energizing and focusing the work of Gender Theme Groups, an area that will get increased
attention by the new UN Women agency, we are well positioned to expand this work.
Where Are We Going?
The world in which Gender at Work is now operating has changed in fundamental ways. The
financial crisis that has been unfolding over the last three years is considered by economists to
be the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It contributed to the failure of key
businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in the trillions of U.S. dollars, substantial
financial commitments incurred by governments, and a significant decline in economic activity.
The ripple effects are being felt all over the world. While the impact of the financial crisis on
foreign aid in general is a subject of continuous debate, we are already seeing signs of cuts in
some development aid budgets (such as the Netherlands) and a reduction of recipient
countries. As the Netherlands has been an active supporter of gender equality efforts globally,
this is a troubling sign as others are likely to follow suit. Thus, Gender at Work and
organizations like us will be facing a diminishing resource landscape. At the same time, there is
a renewed enthusiasm for growing the next generation of gender equality strategies, for
holistically addressing social exclusion in the public and private sectors and in civil society, for
social movement building, and knowledge building in partnership with diverse actors.
In the last decade, there has been an important shift in development economics from an
emphasis on growth in output toward a reduction of poverty, generation of employment, more
equitable distribution of income and wealth, institutional development, and sustainable
development strategies. The emphasis now is on the reduction of inequalities and poverty
through direct provision of facilities to meet basic needs. The MDGs, which were widely
criticized some years ago as watered down development targets which leave unchanged
structural inequalities that perpetuate poverty, now seem like distant goals. Many countries are
unlikely to reach their MDG targets for 2015 because of poverty. Equally if not more relevant
for our work, there is a far greater emphasis now on examining, understanding and changing
social structures, cultural norms, values and attitude systems and organizational inefficiencies
that limit growth and equity. Our best successes have been in changing informal norms and
relationships of power. We focus on the power relationships between individuals within
organizations, households and communities on the assumption that both individuals and
organizations can change if the relationships between them change. Methodologically, the
shift in development economics has also given more importance to the interplay between
experimentation and theoretical thinking and the importance of field based research and
practices of change as a tool in elaborating our understanding of economic and social issues
relevant to poverty and inequality.
These challenging times present significant opportunities for our work. Gender at Work has a
proven product and process that works, that is in much demand, and that can be adapted to
various issues and local situations. We also have a dedicated set of highly reputable Associates
and Facilitators. Over the next three years, we intend to grow our impact and become a more
relevant and effective resource on gender equality to a wider range of development actors in
the north and south. We will do this by:
· Building and testing a new conceptual framework and action-learning practices and
tools for organizational transformation on gender and social inclusion;
· Developing and implementing more systematic measures for tracking progress on
gender and institutional change;
· Expanding our Facilitator pool;
· Honing our action-learning practices through partnerships with existing partners and
new kinds of organizations such as trade unions, women’s organizations, social
movements, and international organizations, including UN agencies;
· Actively disseminating our new frameworks, tools and learning;
· Consolidating our institutional roots in India and South Africa; and
· Re-organizing our organizational core to support our growth strategies in ways that
build on proven strengths and competencies.
Our Key Result Areas
1. Conceptual Framework and Practice - Gender and Social Exclusion: By 2013 Gender at
Work will have developed a conceptual framework, and piloted approaches that will
bring other fault lines of social exclusion (such as race, caste, class, sexuality) together
with gender inequality into the foreground in our work with organizations. To
accomplish this, Gender at Work will build a 2-year program in partnership with 3-4 likeminded organizations which have experience in addressing issues of gender and social
inclusion in different regions of the world. This program will: (i) seek a broad range of
examples of ‘building cultures of social justice and gender equality’ at the individual,
organizational and community levels; (ii) bring partners together to collectively analyze
their experiences and draw out essential principles and (iii) apply these insights and
lessons to propose a conceptual framework on gender and social inclusion that can be
used as a starting point for organizational change. This work will also draw on relevant
theoretical and empirical work on organizational learning, gender equality, social
inclusion, and human rights.
2. Expanding the Facilitator pool: By 2013 Gender at Work will have increased the Gender
at Work facilitator pool. All the new Gender at Work facilitators will have a clear
understanding of G@W concepts, and the required competency to work with partner
organizations to apply and implement them. Also, we will have developed a set of web10
based materials, workshops and apprenticeship experiences to support and ensure the
highest level of practice. In addition, by 2013, Gender at Work will create supportive
structures under which those involved in addressing gender equality can meet, share
learning and develop new approaches to societal change.
3. Tracking and Understanding Results: By 2013, in collaboration with the Participation,
Power and Social Change (PPSC) Team at IDS Sussex and together with other
researchers and implementing partners, Gender at Work will convene an ‘Initiative for
Measuring Gender Equality’ which will: (i) develop an approach to understanding impact
and results that marries a need for tracking results with the understandings that come
from rigorous analysis of systemic and emergent factors in change; and (ii) develop
ways of understanding change in organizations and social movements looking at such
difficult to measure areas as organizational culture. These methods will be also used to
understand the impacts of each of our programs. We will share our learning using the
appropriate messages and communication mediums to reach a diverse audience of
researchers, community-based change agents, and policy makers. We will produce a
document on frameworks and approaches and several case studies which highlight key
insights and learnings from specific organizations, which will be available electronically.
Lessons from our work on intersectionality will also inform and enrich this exercise.
4. Growing our Impact: Gender at Work will continue to contribute to global efforts
toward gender equality through action learning and institutional change. Over the
period 2011 to 2013, we will work with 25 additional CBOs, regional and national NGOs;
5 additional international NGOs, and also with mult5ilateral and bilateral agencies using
both the action-learning methodology with a diverse set of actors in one country as well
as other approaches to organizational change (such as a ‘community of change’
approach involving a group of actors working in the same sector/issue such as HIV/AIDS
or employment in a country or working on action learning with a set of organizations in
a region such as the Horn of Africa to assist those organizations to enhance women’s
empowerment and gender equality and to build cultures of equality and peace. Central
to this result area is a commitment to learning from each of these projects so that we
can both improve our own capacity and also to be able to speak to the field about what
works and what does not work. We will build strong organizational mechanisms to
ensure we can do this with authority.
5. Dissemination: To date we have utilized a “broadcast” strategy by posting our writing
on our website. We will now explore more consciously strategic dissemination of our
work, including, if resources permit, through face to face meetings in regions where we
are working to engage local practitioners in a discussion of what we are finding, and
developing. By 2013, Gender at Work will consolidate its contributions to the field,
stories of change and learning in a book. Gender at Work will share our contributions
locally and regionally where we work with research institutes, gender activists and
organizational development practitioners; and at international meetings and
conferences such as the 2012 AWID conference in Istanbul.
6. Institutional Growth and Development in South Africa and India: Over the plan period
we will develop organizational structures in these two countries which will allow us to
deepen our roots, be more closely engaged with local social change actors, and to align
our work with the currents of change in these countries. This work will also closely
inform our global knowledge building efforts. By 2013, Gender at Work will register as a
local NGO in both India and South Africa with a Director and a small complement of staff
in each country.
7. Our own Institutional Development: Over the next three years we will work on three
inter-related strands of development: we will carry out a re-organization of the senior
management team; we will define the relationship between the existing organization
and emerging Gender at Work entities in India and South Africa; and we will continue to
develop the board governance function. The re-organization of our leadership functions
will strengthen the core leadership structure and will retain important aspects of our
structure. One of which is that we are a “collaborative” and espouse a set of values
related to co-responsibility and accountability. We function as a professional
organization which recognizes that Associates will develop and lead projects while
managers will support and link them. The collaborative, non-hierarchical approach is
working and is an important part of our functioning. To manage the collaborative, we
are developing a co-management structure. The key leadership functions will be shared
between Director responsible for strategy and external relations and a Senior Manager,
International Programs and Operations responsible for the day to day internal and
programmatic functioning of the organization. Both positions will report to the Board.
A third role, the Associate for Program Development and Donor Relations will support
both the senior leaders.