Proud to be part of this chorus of voices speaking out on the American election. Click on the link below to read the poems.
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Research on Women's Economic Empowerment
Leading a team through Universalia Management Group (Montreal) to assess GrOW research on women's economic empowerment funded by IDRC, DFID (UKAid) and Hewlett Foundation. Over 30 research institutions in 50 countries. WEE is broadly defined by Kabeer, Moyleneux and others to include unpaid care work, social protection, informal work and economy, the interplay between practical and strategic interests in decision-making, control over assets, such as land. The slippery as ever concept of agency and participation in decision-making at household, community, policy levels to name some of the elements. Most of the research entails a partnership between North-based and South-based universities or research institutions. There is a wide range from randomized control trials to mixed methods, participatory and feminist research. Three broad aims: quality research; policy uptake and capacity building of in-country researchers. Still very much in process but important questions are being raised about what quality evidence is and how it can best be used to influence thinking, policy and practice.
Building on what often works best informally- trust, learning, mentoring and play- we have created a social enterprise that challenges the tired and power-ridden divides between North-South as well as face-to-face and e-mentoring, between rigor and access. We play with solutions across boundaries, disciplines and polarities.
A global consulting firm for women from around the world, we team up in clusters to offer technical support, capacity building, evaluation and e-learning. We have diverse experience in terms of context, language, nature of expertise and focus on academe, practice, policy work. This is a social business that brings independent consultants from around the world to work on contracts related to capacity building, gender equity and economic
empowerment/entrepreneurship. The aim is to partly address the imbalances that exist in consulting and research that have too-often favored Northern or established candidates. Building a mix within our teams allows us to bring high levels of competence and diversity while also providing our team members with opportunities to further develop their experience, research capacities and skills. We are at work on a peer coaching platform and collective blog to provide e-learning and e-coaching possibilities. We aim to make the best of what's out there in resources as widely accessible as possible.
We are currently working on a contract for FHI360 reviewing financial education programs and studies for vulnerable youth, especially those with HIV-Aids. Our team is comprised of Meryem F, a Moroccan gender specialist, Sabrina S, a Swiss economics professor, Ida M, a Zambian HIV-Aids organizer and specialist, Patricia R, a Bolivian economist and me.
Just back from a Social Innovation/Entrepreneurship festival in Finland. So exciting! It was a bit of a Dragon's den format where I was both a judge and a mentor. Invited by Momal Mustaq, an inspiring friend and social entrepreneur. She started a platform for women around the world to share new freedoms in mobility. It's called Freedom Traveller. See below.
Some of the start-ups at the festival included:
- a mobile phone app that turns it into a hearing aid
- a platform to connect Syrians to volunteers and agencies in Germany
- a platform that connects foodies to informal kitchens
- building materials made from plant cellulose
- a gaming type of app that allows people with bi-polar to detect their own early warning signs for depression
Important to ask what types of social problems businesses can really address. The limits of this frame and approach. There is a "New Public" where citizens and social businesses have stepped in to fill gaps where private sector or government have failed. At best, we find creative paths and new roles. At worst, it is offloading what should be a public function. Business will never be the best tool for ensuring justice and accountability. We still need activism for that.
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Food Systems and Networks
Completed a contract with the Public Health Agency of Canada- Innovation Strategy to help them develop a framework for assessing the system or sectoral level readiness of programs. I did a literature review on mental health, healthy weights, systems change. Then transformational scenario planning with the Food Action Team at Ecology Action Centre to test the a draft assessment tool.
Further testing of the assessment tool across the projects revealed a number of findings. Reach goals may need to be tempered against the establishment of a strong vested network of partners that lay a foundation for governance, sustainable funding, learning and adaptation. Those projects that scored well formed intentional networks that were home-grown, context-specific and highly based on the relationships and aligned incentives of the partners involved. Sophisticated networks had partners that acted in concert to push learning, change practice and affect behaviours and policy. They were able to act on multiple levels, often multiple determinants of health, multiple sites, multiple issues. This included creative leverage of community-based private sector partners such as retail stores and health stores. Each project (set of partnerships) has a “sweet spot” for determining how much and what types of multiplicity is most strategic for the broader influence.
One highly rated project was a self-declared food network- a mix of partners: schools, non-profits, stores and health food stores. Though led by a non-profit they were able to be very savvy in assessing the market for local foods. This business savvy also supported sustained funding and a governance base. They were able to identify specifically where smart subsidy could be used (address financial barriers of First Nations hunters). Community infrastructure (ovens, freezer, gardens, community tables) provided critical points of connection as did events and festivals that supported social networks, belonging and connecting cultural practices past and present. Policy dialogue and influence was intentional and elaborated based on learning and evidence.