The emerging post-pandemic world demands both reflection and imagination. Changemakers in the private sector should consider this a strategic moment to transform the way business engages with local communities in their global supply chains, and to advance new solutions to the pressing need for gender equality, health, and economic resilience.
The UN Foundation’s Universal Access Project, BSR, and Women Win/Win-Win Strategies took that leap with corporate partners the Gap Foundation and PVH Foundation last year to imagine how to break new ground in cross-sector collaboration and funding mechanisms, challenge traditional models of corporate philanthropy, and tackle the deeper systemic problems underlying the health, safety, and economic needs of women, exposed and exacerbated by Covid-19. We were joined by H&M Foundation, The VF Foundation and the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation as founding partners and investors in launching the Resilience Fund for Women in Global Value Chains in May. We hope to chart a new path for business social investment in women.
Because women are the backbone of global supply chains, economic resilience must start with their needs—in and outside of the workplace. They work in factories, farms, and packing houses that supply the world’s clothing, goods, and food, and are repeatedly exposed to sexual harassment, violence, unequal pay, and power imbalances. These were the circumstances prior to the pandemic, which disproportionately harmed women.
The Fund aims to build on emerging practices in philanthropy by investing in local women-led organizations, adopting democratized and participatory processes, and shifting the power dynamics between funders and grantees. In doing so, we will redefine what is possible through pooled corporate giving and community-led engagement.
Here’s what you can expect from the Resilience Fund for Women in Global Value Chains:
The Fund invests in local, women-led change
The Generation Equality Forum convening this month in Paris invites us to implement ambitious investments and policies that will dramatically accelerate equality, well-being, leadership, and opportunity for women and girls worldwide. Our Fund aims to help businesses do just that.
The Fund will drive new, unrestricted resources to local, women-led organizations and women’s funds that are doing essential and innovative work on sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence—fundamental factors in women’s resilience and long-term participation in the global economy. By investing in feminist approaches, the Fund places trust in local women leaders to know what solutions works best in their communities and local context.
“Locally led women’s organizations and feminist leaders are key to building resilience,” says Latanya Mapp Frett, President and CEO, Global Fund for Women, and Resilience Fund advisory board member. “They have their finger on the pulse of what is needed in their communities.”
The Fund learns from a more comprehensive set of stakeholders in global supply chains
The vision of the Fund goes beyond just giving money; it’s about learning, partnering, and real-time, democratized engagement with local communities. The Fund will connect corporations and foundations with a more inclusive set of stakeholders in the value chain and will initiate a Learning Hub to act as the primary vehicle for building community and networks among all Fund stakeholders.
The Learning Hub provides a technology-rich learning environment for members to come together with peers, funders, grantees, and other experts; shifting from a “monitoring and evaluation” model to real-time, two-way learning amongst investors, feminist leaders, and other stakeholders to discuss local successes, challenges, and emerging issues.
This marks an important pivot away from conventional funder-driven data collection and towards robust qualitative and quantitative information that captures the realities in communities.
The Fund expands your impact
The Fund will pool resources from global corporations, corporate foundations, and other investors into a collaborative fund that provides unrestricted funding to organizations in countries that are key to global value chains. “Building the Resilience Fund collaboratively with other corporate foundations and NGO partners enables us to maximize our investment while supporting new, locally-driven approaches to creating strong community resilience—allowing us to drive meaningful and systemic change,” says Sally Gilligan, Chair of the Gap Foundation.
The goal is to raise at least $10 million in collective funding from corporate and other investors from diverse business sectors, including apparel, to support women-led organizations in up to five regions globally over three years. The Fund expects to complete its first round of grants later this year in South Asia, primarily in India and Bangladesh.
“If you really want to see change, it is through mechanisms like the Resilience Fund,” Kalyani Subramanyam, Chief Operating Officer from The Naz Foundation (India Trust) and Fund board member. “It’s a really effective way of distributing resources.”
Maria Bobenreith, Executive Director of Women-Win added, “This perfect storm of a moment that is bringing us so much grief is also bringing us the opportunity to make some great corrections.”