Celebrate International Women’s Day with Grassroots Partnerships

Levi Strauss & Co.
March 5, 2015

The following is an excerpt from an article originally published on LinkedIn, where LS&Co. leaders periodically share their perspectives and expertise on business trends, industry issues, careers and the workplace. Have thoughts or reactions to this piece? Head on over to LinkedIn to share them.

As International Women’s Day approaches this Sunday, I distinctly remember when my college professor, Malcolm Diamond, asked: “Which social force in the past century has had the most profound influence, inexorably reshaping every institution and aspect of our social fabric?” After a long silence, he wrote eight letters in a frenzied, all-caps scrawl and belted out: “FEMINISM.”

Years later, cutting my professional teeth in international human rights I saw firsthand how grassroots women’s organizations are bellwethers of social movements: first-movers, connectors across otherwise disparate issues, and innovators in shifting cultures and transforming institutions. Yet, despite their incomparable impact and value, grassroots women’s organizations receive only a tiny trickle of funding from the private sector.

Recent years have seen a surge of private sector investment in women’s empowerment in general: $14.6 billion has been pledged to 170 initiatives involving women and girls between 2005 and 2020. However, only 27% of these programs actually engage women’s organizations as partners; and only 9% directly fund grassroots organizations. Moreover, a recent survey conducted by the Association of Women in Development showed that less than one percent of grassroots women’s organizations receive direct funding from corporate funders.

This is discouraging because investing in grassroots organizations is a high-leverage, high-yield proposition: a recent study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shows that every $1 invested in grassroots women’s organizations working on policy and civic engagement yields a return of $115 in benefit.

By failing to connect the corporate sector with the power and impact of grassroots women’s organizations, we leave a lot of opportunity on the table. Many leaders in the social change space will have the opportunity to discuss issues such as this at today’s International Women’s Day Forum at UN Women, where I will also have an opportunity to speak. For those of you who won’t be there, here are a few guiding principles that I plan to share to help build winning partnerships.

To read Daniel’s guiding principles click over to his entire post on LinkedIn.