Learning Series Kickoff Recap: How Can We Increase Women’s Empowerment Through Co-creation and Private Sector Engagement?
How can USAID missions and practitioners work to increase women’s empowerment through co-creation and private sector engagement? On November 3, 2022, the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) program held a webinar to launch a new online learning series focused on answering this question.
The AWE Learning Series was initially developed to meet the needs and interests of USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS) and Mission staff for advancing women’s empowerment and inclusion outcomes in agriculture and market systems program. The design of the Learning Series was informed by a needs assessment that identified a strong interest in resources and practices for inclusive capture and shared lessons learned and best practices on how to advance inclusion outcomes in programs through co-creation and private sector engagement. In 2021 and 2022, AWE piloted the Learning Series Mission Learning Seminar focused on USAID Missions in Latin America and the Caribbean. Facilitated as a participatory workshop with opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, the Missions shared learning and resources on how to intentionally integrate women’s empowerment and social inclusion as part of private sector engagement and co-creation across the project life cycle of agricultural and market systems programming.
AWE is excited to bring this Learning Series to a broader platform, offering similar opportunities for a wider number of Mission staff and USAID stakeholders around the world. The Learning Series has been expanded to offer more Missions and stakeholders the opportunity to learn from each other in innovative ways that are easy to access across a variety geographic locations and time zones and accommodate differing workloads and schedules. The webinar served to introduce the global Virtual Learning Series and its key themes as well as announce the activities that will unfold through the spring.
What Key Themes Were Identified to Engage the Private Sector?
AWE introduced our new global Virtual Learning Series, sharing the three key themes that will be explored in subsequent activities. Each of the three themes offers a different, complementary approach for how USAID missions can engage the private sector to increase women’s empowerment.
Theme 1: Creating Alignment with the Private Sector to Achieve Inclusive Development Results
This theme will cover how Missions and stakeholders can set the stage for working effectively with the private sector in agriculture and market systems programming that engages, benefits and empowers women and youth. It will address how to find alignment with the private sector by collaboratively identifying inclusive agriculture systems goals and results, working with private-sector partners to co-define shared value and economic incentives for inclusion and empowerment, and articulating how alignment supports and achieves both USAID and private-sector goals.
Theme 2: Conducting and Using Inclusive Market Research
This theme will cover how to develop an evidence-based vision for better performing sectors and markets that offer more opportunities for women and youth. It will focus on resources and discussions of approaches for understanding how gender inequality and social exclusion affect market outcomes as well as identifying market actors capable of influencing change.
Theme 3: Engaging the Private Sector to Capture and Apply Evidence
This theme will cover how to work with the private sector to go beyond standard project performance indicators and co-create to improve measurement and data collection processes that advance inclusion efforts. It will include discussions on indicators, the practical value of measuring women’s empowerment and inclusion and approaches and resources for better measuring women’s empowerment in private sector engagement programs.
Six Mission Insights
As a preview of learning that participants can expect from this Learning Series, Dr. Jenn Williamson, Vice President, Gender and Social Inclusion, ACDI/VOCA, shared that the pilot Learning Series with Missions in the Latin America and Caribbean regions successfully produced vital insights for working effectively with the private sector. These insights were under the three themes/seminars:
Theme 1: Getting to Shared Value: Creating Alignment with the Private Sector to Achieve Inclusive Development Results
- Engage the private sector early and actively collaborate to identify goals, develop activities and build trust.
- Start with a focus on what’s good for business and show how gender is essential to good business.
“USAID/Colombia found that sharing the one-pager, Value Proposition on What USAID and the Private Sector Bring When We Work Together, based on the USAID Private Sector Engagement Policy, helped communicate how it wanted to engage with the private sector.” – Jenn Williamson, ACDI/VOCA
Theme 2: Designing a Strategy for Private Sector Engagement: Conducting and Using Inclusive Market Research
- Inclusive market research shows how markets affect vulnerable groups and key sectors/ partnerships with potential; partners with interest in win-win opportunities.
- Inclusive market research can help uncover new and innovative opportunities in nontraditional sectors and roles for disadvantaged groups.
“The USAID/Honduras TMS activity was able to identify opportunities sectors outside of agriculture for traditionally excluded groups by looking at industries like tourism, creative industries and entrepreneurship because of market research looking at needs and opportunities for women, youth, and other groups…” – Jenn Williamson, ACDI/VOCA
Theme 3: Measuring Transformational Results: Engaging the Private Sector to Capture and Apply Evidence
- Measure what (also) matters to the private sector, expanding the type of data.
- Inclusion data are a public sector value-add for the private sector when systems and goals align.
“There are lots of different ways to collect data and measure data.” – Jenn Williamson, ACDI/VOCA
After introducing the learning burst themes and Mission insights, the kickoff then moved to a fireside chat session, taking questions from participants that included staff from different Missions and partners.
Fireside Chat: Building strong relationships with the private sector that advance women’s empowerment
Joyce Mndambi, USAID/Tanzania’s Project Management Specialist for Private Sector Engagement, is the primary lead for the Feed the Future Private Sector Strengthening activity. Responding to a question about why trust is important for private sector engagement, she explained trust is needed for development to move forward and there are key players who make this happen. The government sets the business-enabling environment, while the private sector creates jobs and academia conducts evidence-based research.
“What are the private sector needs? And what are our priorities in USAID? And how can we bring the government onboard?” –
Joyce Mndambi, USAID Tanzania
Asked how to build trust between the private section and the Mission, she described it as a “co-creation” process. As part of the trust-building process for promoting women’s empowerment and youth inclusion in agriculture and market systems programming, USAID Tanzania engaged the private sector through workshops and interviews, including and women and youth as their beneficiaries, when they designed the country development strategy.
USAID/Honduras’ Mission had unique insights as well. Jorge Reyes Reina, Project Management Specialist with USAID/Honduras, supports the mission’s Feed the Future portfolio. Participants asked, what are some of the most important steps to understanding what motivates the private sector to invest in women’s empowerment? How does USAID Honduras gain this understanding?
Reyes explained that sometimes it takes months and years to see the benefit from a partnership. Effective private sector partnership for the benefit of women and youth has to consider tangible benefits for the private sector rather than external funding. It’s more sustainable to focus on partners with an interest in the populations that the mission serves. Reyes gave an example of a bank in Latin America that was interested in women entrepreneurs, which led to an investment of $7 million in a credit program.
The participatory session followed the fireside chat and offered audience members the opportunity to contribute their own insights to the discussion through interactive questions and live responses. Melissa Matlock, Associate Director of Gender and Social Inclusion at ACDI/VOCA, led the session.
Participants were asked to respond to questions using Menti, an interactive forum, such as what are some examples of methods or approaches for identifying private sector partners? A total of 34 participants responded, with many overlapping examples focused on research, formal application for funding, and networking. Some participants gave examples, however, where the private sector sought out engagement.
- Research: Some participants’ responses focused on research, such as conducting stakeholder network analysis; private sector landscape assessments; gender responsive labor market assessments; ecomapping; perception surveys, and market assessments;
- Proposals: Other responses highlighted the value of formal applications from private sector organizations through Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Annual Program Statements (APS);
- Networking: Networking was another way mission and partner staff engaged with the private sector, by attending conferences, tapping into existing networks; speaking with local organizations (women, youth, etc.) or word of mouth;
- Private sector led engagement: In other instances, private sector organizations did their own engagement though growth industries looking for qualified employees or by looking at their corporate social responsibilities (CSR).
When asked by the facilitator if anyone had additional input to share, one participant said that private sector incentives and interests were more important than the tools to identify them.
What’s Ahead for the Global Virtual Learning Series?
Over the next several months, participants will be able to access and share information through three interactive, online Learning Bursts. Each Learning Burst will start with a Newsletter to introduce each topic and will include additional learning elements such as Mission profiles to highlight a learning example from a specific Mission, a set of targeted resources and interactive activities where our global audience can participate in sharing learning.
What is a Learning Burst? Learning Bursts offer a dynamic and flexible learning process through short “bursts” of learning and mixed-learning methods. This means that each session in the series will offer a mixture of informational formats and participatory options.
Learning Burst 1 will be shared in January 2023 while Learning Burst 2 will be held in April 2023. Learning Burst 3 will occur in June 2023. AWE will share a wrap-up for the series in July 2023.
Interested in Learning More? Check out the LAC Key Takeaways and Learning Summaries
AWE’s first virtual Learning Seminar Series for USAID Mission staff in the Latin America and the Caribbean region was facilitated in 2021. You can access an overview of the LAC Learning Series and key takeaways for each seminar through the linked Learning Briefs below:
- Women’s Economic Empowerment: Mission Learning Seminar Series (2021);
- Learning Brief Seminar 1: Getting to Shared Value: Creating Alignment with the Private Sector to Achieve Inclusive Development Results. In this seminar, AWE explored ways for USAID to find alignment with the private sector to co-define shared value and to find economic incentives for inclusion and empowerment;
- Learning Brief Seminar 2: Designing a strategy for private sector engagement: Conducting and using inclusive market research. This Learning Series aimed to provide guidance to USAID missions and practitioners on how to intentionally integrate inclusion across the project life cycle of agricultural growth and MSD programs.
- Learning Brief Seminar 3: Measuring transformational results: Engaging the private sector to capture and apply evidence. In the third seminar, AWE provided actionable insights for USAID missions to capture and apply evidence from engaging with the private sector.
AWE Learning Series Kickoff Webinar - PowerPoint Presentation (Nov. 3, 2022)
USAID Feed the Future Women’s Economic Empowerment: Virtual Learning Series - Overview 2-pager