Upscaling empowerment: from thousands to millions

Based on presentation and follow up to the IFAD Household Methodology Forum Rome June 2016.

Upscaling Household Methodologies: Presentation for IFAD Rome June 2016

From thousands to millions: Ways forward for Gender Action Learning for Sustainability at Scale Blogpost July 2016

PALS has been shown to be an effective methodology for enabling women, youth and men to vision and also achieve significant increases in income, food security, asset ownership and participation in civil society and higher level value chains. In some members of this network they have been delivered on a fully financially sustainable basis for thousands of people in rural and urban areas.

GALS methodologies in particular, through the focus on gender,  have potential to empower not only women, but also men and youth to improve their lives, significantly increasing happiness and wellbeing as well as incomes. With spread effects then for communities and ultimately national economies. Conversely research has shown that gender and generational inequalities within households are a key cause of poverty, leading to violence, food insecurity and wastage of productive resources that ultimately benefit no one. The failure to address these inequalities undermines the effectiveness (and profitability) of financial services, agricultural and nutrition training and value chain development, leading to significant wastage of time and resources by financial service providers, cooperatives, private sector and government as well as NGOs and donor agencies. It is clear therefore that HHM are   not an optional add-on to other interventions, but a cost-effective methodology for empowering women and men as a core business strategy making other interventions more effective and cost-efficient or even profitable. As such they should be an integral part of longer term business investment or any ‘mainstream’ development intervention.

Toolkits exist for integration into value chain development, good agricultural practices in cooperatives and private sector companies, responsible finance and have also been adapted for food security and climate change management and projects with youth.

There are also locally run web-based networks linking farmers to exchange experiences and dissemination through radio and other media.

But fully sustainable models still need to be developed and proven to gain global adoption. There is still a need for further community-led innovation to further increase ability of women, men and youth to significantly increase incomes and change intra-household and other inequalities in the longer term, accelerate community-level upscaling and contribute to community-led monitoring for action research.

Sustainable upscaling to millions and gender empowerment mainstreaming in business models will require more than just rolling out a few tools in a series of ‘expert-led’ TOTs. Capacity-building needs to be based on:

  • Training and certification of thousands of Community Empowerment Advisers (CEAs) proven community-level champions with a proven record of personal change and voluntary upscaling for more than 1 year who will convince local, national and international stakeholders that community-led empowerment methodologies can really change lives of their target populations on a financially sustainable and even profitable basis. These CEAs will play a significant paid role not only in local and national replication for upscaling, but also innovation and advocacy.
  • Training and certification of national, regional and global Empowerment Mainstreaming Advisers (EMAs) experienced in empowerment tools, but also high levels of participatory and gender expertise and qualification across a range of livelihood interventions, proficiency in adult education good practice including visual communication and ‘fun’ training activities, IT, multimedia and documentation skills.
  • Credible and inspiring documentation developed as action learning to improve and disseminate practice at all levels and firmly establish ‘the business case’ for mainstreaming, rather than mechanical policing just for donors.
  • Development of on-line resources and IT skills at all levels from mobile phones of people at community levek to engaging websites for an international audience. Internet services are now cheap in many countries and Facebook and local equivalents are used by increasing numbers of farmers. Effective use and development of social networking and local and international language blogs can significantly increase upscaling and reduce costs of sharing information. This offers a particular role for youth involvement and contribution.
  • Dynamic and sustainable innovation and advocacy networks at all local through to global levels that use their existing activities and opportunities for gender empowerment advocacy and fundraising. These networks need to strongly encourage independent thinking and creativity, and also sharing, reaching out to as many other organisations and forums as possible to promote the core empowerment  and rights agenda.