4 Ways to Have More Inclusive Projects
4 Ways to Be Inclusive
1. Defining and Targeting Poor and Disadvantaged Women and Men
It's important to have a clear definition of poor and disadvantaged women and men and to systematically ensure that they are at the center of the interventions. The selection of geographical working areas and sectors is crucial. Disadvantaged people often live in remote places. Thus, working in a remote area already gives a higher potential to reach them.
A thorough analysis can also identify sectors that have the potential to include poor and disadvantaged women and men, whether as producers, workers, or consumers. Under Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) project PRODERT, implemented by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (Helvetas), the project selected 3 of Guatemala’s 22 departments (because they had a high percentage of indigenous groups of Mayan origin, with an average economic poverty rate of 86% and extreme poverty of 50%). For the sector selection, the participation of indigenous women, and the potential to benefit from the sector's growth, were key criteria.
2. Making the ‘Extra Effort’
It's often assumed that if projects work with individuals who are not poor and disadvantaged, benefits will 'trickle down' to more disadvantaged women and men. However, the experiences of projects applying a systemic approach (such as Helvetas’ implemented projects Samriddhi in Bangladesh, EYE in Kosovo, and Risi in Albania) disprove this idea. Supplementary actions, at least initially, are necessary. These include subsidized skills improvement, supporting collective actions of target groups, physical infrastructure, and access to technical, as well as financial and business, services.
The supplementary actions of projects, however, should avoid creating dependency or establishing parallel structures; they need to be built on a clear vision of 'who will do and pay for such support and service' beyond a project's life span. Supplementary support needs to be used carefully, and projects should not continuously assume different functions of actors (e.g. coordination, training, etc.).
3. Identifying the Business Cases for Disadvantaged Groups
Reaching poor and disadvantaged women and men also require finding partners who share the goal of inclusiveness and identifying business cases for poor and disadvantaged women and men. As part of elaborating a business case for women, the Making Markets Work for Farmers in Meghri project in Armenia started a collaboration with a tea entrepreneur who shared the same goal of reaching poor women and also saw a business incentive. The women, who did not have fruit orchards, worked with fruit orchard owners to allow them to collect blossoms that fell from fruit trees. The women mixed these blossoms with other herbs and then sold them to the tea entrepreneur. The entrepreneur trained these women on how to collect blossoms and herbs to assure the required quality. Yet it's important to also ensure that such limited success is replicated (beyond an 'island of success') for reaching additional poor and disadvantaged women and men.
4. Using Practical Strategies
Better results can be achieved when strategies take into account the ability of poor and disadvantaged women and men to make their own effective choices and to transform these into desired outcomes. For example, recognizing the lack of sound career advice for young women and men in Albania, the project Risi works with public and private sector players. The project reached out to the media to strengthen their capacities to report on relevant and adequate labor market information. The project has also supported innovative recruitment services to close the gap between existing high-end headhunting companies and public employment services. This has included supporting the creation of mobile apps for employment application processes and job postings.
Economic Growth Isn’t Everything
Inclusiveness isn’t just about achieving economic growth or addressing economic inequality (in absolute or relative terms). It’s also about improving human capital and increasing the voice of poor and disadvantaged women and men to participate meaningfully in development initiatives and achieve social and political inclusion.
Make the Goal Clear
It's often thought that inclusiveness and growth can't go hand in hand. Many development projects choose or prioritize one over the other as their goal. However, the inclusiveness goal of any development project is fundamental. If a project fails to be inclusive, then it has a serious problem in its overall goal.
Get Partners on Board
Long-term and large-scale impacts require the participation of those who have the power and leverage to work with poor and disadvantaged women and men. This can include both the public and private sectors as well as civil society and community leaders. Partners have to share the vision of empowering disadvantaged women and men, as this has important implications for their selection at the outset, and subsequent outcomes regarding capacity building and incentives.
Monitoring What Matters
Most projects that apply a systemic approach have detailed monitoring and results measurement systems to track quantitative changes. However, we need to place greater focus on qualitative aspects and should track:
- Whether initial successes are linked to the long-term strategic thinking of lasting impacts beyond the targeted primary stakeholders (e.g. poor and disadvantaged women and men);
- Whether projects uphold the ‘do no harm approach’, ensuring that none of the projects’ interventions exacerbate conflict, or have a detrimental impact on (possibly other) poor and disadvantaged women and men.
To conclude, economic, political, and social inclusiveness is fundamental to the success of projects. Inclusiveness is primarily about poor and disadvantaged women and men, but projects must work with other partners who have the power and leverage to make a lasting difference. It's critical for projects to go beyond the moral imperative of 'doing good' and understand what the key barriers to inclusion are and design solutions based on the incentivizing and capacities of actors. This, in turn, requires a clear vision from the outset and practical strategies for ensuring long-term and large-scale impacts.