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Women’s Voice and Leadership Program Formative Evaluation - Evaluation Report, May 2022

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Executive Summary

The formative evaluation of the Women’s Voice Leadership (WVL) Program covered the period from its announcement in June 2017 to March 2021. The evaluation had three objectives: to determine if and to what extent Global Affairs Canada was “fit for purpose” to support WVL as a feminist program; to determine if WVL’s design features and implementation modalities were relevant and appropriate to address the needs of women’s rights organizations (WROs); and to determine WVL’s progress toward results.

The evaluation found that WVL’s ambitious program approach was successful in making WVL’s feminist vision a reality and in ensuring the cohesiveness of a highly decentralized initiative. The divisions responsible for coordinating WVL were able to set up the “scaffolding” needed to deliver the program and several solutions and adaptations to corporate processes and tools were developed for WVL to realize its innovative aspects. WVL’s program approach was, however, hard to implement for all actors involved, and in particular for the Gender Equality Division (MGS), which, for WVL, took on a new role, with only marginal adjustments to structures, resources and capacities.

The evaluation also found that, when WVL was launched, departmental processes and systems were not sufficiently “fit for purpose” for feminist programming and direct support to local WROs. The department’s overall approach to risk management did not change significantly for WVL, despite the increased risk appetite needed to support local WROs. Corporate requirements for contracting, due diligence and reporting were particularly challenging for new partners, especially for local organizations, and selection processes did not fully succeed in modelling feminist principles of inclusivity and transparency. In addition, there was inadequate consideration of how to build the capacity of new, local partners to implement Canadian-funded projects.

The evaluation showed that WVL was highly relevant to local WROs’ needs in diverse contexts, contributing to filling both funding and capacity gaps and allowing sufficient flexibility to participating WROs to focus on what mattered most to their communities. WVL projects were able to reach a wide diversity of WROs but struggled to reach informal organizations and in some contexts, LBTQI+ organizations.

Despite a limited timeframe for project implementation (most projects only started in fiscal year 2019-20) and significant disruptions due to COVID-19, the evaluation showed evidence of early positive results. The majority of WVL projects made early progress toward strengthening the organizational capacity of supported WROs and their programming effectiveness, including in response to COVID-19. Whether these early results will lead to more financially sustainable WROs remains unclear. Also, consolidating these results, while applying feminist approaches, takes time, and the current WVL timeframe is a challenge from this perspective.

Summary of recommendations

  1. Ensure appropriate mandates, roles, responsibilities, capacities and resources for MGS to implement WVL and appropriate departmental roles, responsibilities, structures, resources and capacities for WVL 2.0.

  2. Document, share and promote effective strategies and best practices to support and foster WROs sustainability in WVL and WVL 2.0.

  3. Strengthen capacity of local organizations and organizations from developing countries as implementing partners of WVL 2.0.

  4. Explore more adapted corporate processes and tools for direct support to local organizations, including programming processes and risk management approach for grants and contributions.

  5. Develop a consistent and streamlined approach to approving extensions for WVL projects.

  6. Leverage the guidance, tools and learning products developed to date to strengthen a common understanding and shared ownership of WVL’s feminist approach.