Case Study: The With and For Girls Collective

September 24, 2018

The With and For Girls Collective (WFGC) is a group of organizations that share the common belief that girls are vital agents of change. The With and For Girls Award launched in 2014 and is convened by the U.K based Stars Foundation which collaboratively works alongside eight other strategic partners: MamaCash, Comic Relief, EMpower, FRIDA-The Young Feminist Fund, NoVo Foundation, Nike Foundation, Plan International UK and the Global Fund for Children. The Collective has a goal to ensure girl-led and girl-centered organizations around the world have the resources and platforms they lack and need to drive change.

The funders and grantees both believe that grassroots girl-led organizations are on the frontlines of responding to girls’ needs and driving change towards a more equitable world. They believe that core, unrestricted funding unlocks the greatest potential for local organizations to play a leading role in transforming societies and building gender equality. Organizations which are awarded work on a variety of thematic issues – from ending child marriage, realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights to refugee rights, trafficking and supporting LGBTQIA+ rights.

The WFGC funds 20 organizations a year as part of an awards package. Through the With and For Girls Awards, the Collective identifies strong organizations with girls at their center, and provides flexible funding, profile raising opportunities, capacity development support and opportunities to connect and collaborate with other girl-led and centered groups.

They support grassroots, girl-led and girl-centered organizations with annual incomes between $15,000 and $500,000. The Collective also works with funders to leverage additional resources for girl-led and girl-centered groups, amplifies the work of grassroots groups and girls voices in the media, and influences funding practices so organizations can receive more support to continue to take action and to thrive. To date, WFGC has provided a total of $1.95 million of flexible funding to 60 organizations working in 41 countries.

It is important to note that WFGC gives awards, not grants. MamaCash’s Director of Programs, Happy Mwende Kinyili, explains that this is a critical difference. “You get an award for having done great work, a proven track record, as opposed to a grant which is for what you want to do moving forward. The awards are core funding that honor and celebrate achievements.”

Kinyili sees the Stars Foundation’s networks, convening power, and energetic pitch as crucial to WFGC’s success. “People wanted to join. We were approached as a collective by various donors who wanted to join. There was interest in girls, and in using this approach of making awards. In fact, it was easier for larger foundations to put money on the table in a way they couldn’t do internally.” The nine WFGC members work with multiple other organizations and advisors around the world who act as referral partners so that organizations are able to be recognized even in the most hard to reach areas. The WFGC uses a four-page application form and a five-question reporting format, which is available in French, Spanish, English and Russian. It is very accessible to the type of organizations it wants to support.

The Stars Foundation has staff dedicated to keeping the collective moving. Stars currently underwrites the staffing costs—which is significant because WFGC members have different requirements for how their funding is spent. Not all the funds are pooled, and many members manage relationships (and award reporting) directly with award winners.

The WFGC believes that by cultivating a network of inspiring funders, organizations and individuals, they build a movement of girls’ rights supporters who can learn from one another, develop and grow. Kinyili notes, “We make sure girls have agency, platform space, and support to enjoy equality, justice and inclusion in their homes, community and societies. And we work with girl-led and girl-centered organizations specifically so they are able to create the systems change as defined by them in their own contexts. Self-determination is core. The girls may work with government departments, community leaders or schools. So often, when change is being proposed, girls are absent.”

The WFGC has only recently defined an overall theory of change and begun to look at broader M&E systems and processes to document the impact the awards have made. “We are trying to create change in the world through these Awards, but the data we are gathering doesn’t always offer us what we want to learn.”

The Collective is sure, however, that providing flexible funding has been key to its achievements. The initial desire was to do thematic funding, but there has since been a shift among partners towards funding movement building. Kinyili sees that WFGC is also becoming more efficient, in advocacy work around girl-led organizing and in moving more funds to small, community based organizations rather than large international organizations.

Since the award launched in 2015, and including figures from the 2017 process, 474 organizations have been nominated by a wide network of 103 referral partners, from UN agencies to women’s funds and previous award winners. The awards process has also engaged 80 adolescent girls aged 14 – 19 as panel judges from all over the world to pick the winners, and in 2017 each judging panel was made up of girls from past award-winning organizations.

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