Gender Mainstreaming + HCD Bring Creative Solutions for Gender Equality

Paving pathways to equity.

Gender equality is essential to global development. Its importance has been acknowledged in global conventions and treaties, and in commitments made as recently as the Gender Equality Forum last year. While significant advancements have been made, gender equality is far from being realized. As the world hones in on the Sustainable Development Goals to advance health, education, safety, poverty, climate, and more, it is crucial to recognize that these areas are not gender neutral. Their solutions require design and implementation that allow all people to thrive, and at the minimum, ensure that no one is left behind. Women, girls, gender diverse persons, and all individuals who continue to be marginalized on the basis of their gender and other intersecting identities cannot afford to wait.

Chroma Collective members share the belief that coming together across development institutions and sectors will illuminate common challenges and bring into focus opportunities to advance gender equality.

There is untapped opportunity for innovation and global collaboration to advance gender equality. Human-centered design experts from and gender specialists from Iris Group, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, launched the Chroma Collective to accelerate gender focused development impact. The Chroma Collective is a network of about 20 members from governments and multilateral institutions, who have a history of actively addressing gender within their institutions and global development programs. Chroma Collective members share the belief that coming together across development institutions and sectors will illuminate common challenges and bring into focus opportunities to advance gender equality. This is true beyond collaborating for external programming, but also collectively identifying structural possibilities within their institutions to break through internal barriers that keep gender mainstreaming from reaching its full potential. These efforts come at a crucial time when progress toward gender equality in development seems to have stalled and - in some contexts - even reversed.

The “Hard Problems” we have identified as affecting the efficacy and impact of gender mainstreaming across member organizations and the broader sector.

From Hard Problems to Shared Opportunities for Change

Through a series of meetings and one-on-one interviews facilitated by and Iris Group, members of the Chroma Collective identified six interconnected hard problems that need to be solved in order to accelerate gender equality:

  1. Organizational culture and leadership must elevate gender equality. Even when gender is recognized as important, it is not always prioritized in strategic planning and resource allocation decisions that are crucial for its success.
  2. Gender strategies must be high quality and valued across the institution, and speak to programmatic impact in an inclusive way. There are difficulties in ensuring the complexities of gender and intersectionality are adequately understood and addressed across all sectors and programs.
  3. Organizational structures such as policies, norms, culture, and systems must evolve to best support gender mainstreaming. How gender teams operate within an organization, including with sector teams, can be strengthened. Often, gender practitioners operate without the necessary authority to influence and ensure accountability to gender-related goals.
  4. Gender capacity and expertise must be built across an institution to create a blueprint to better support implementing partners. Beyond gender specific roles, it is necessary for other staff and partners to have a level of gender capacity that enables strong programming. Competing priorities for time and resources often hinder capacity building efforts.
  5. Project implementation must include a gender perspective by including gender expertise in key project moments and decisions, such as inception, planning, and resource allocation. Currently, gender practitioners are often not involved in parts of the project cycle that are necessary for a gender responsive implementation.
  6. Measurement and reporting of gender results and gender equality outcomes needs to be strengthened. There exists a disconnect between staff responsible for measuring and reporting, and gender practitioners who aim to measure programs against gender equality indicators. This is an important bridge to build to assess programs for their success toward gender equality and for their potential to do unintentional harm.

Chroma Collective members are now undertaking design sprints to prototype creative solutions to these six hard problems, which will then be tested, iterated within their respective organizations and then shared. Stay tuned for the next blog, which will outline some of the solutions.

Members of the Chroma Collective gather virtually.

Before we issue the solution focused blog, we invite you readers to write to the Chroma Collective highlighting what you think the sticky issues are when it comes to prioritizing gender equality in development programs.

With your feedback, and our continued collaboration across the sector, we continue towards our goal of innovating to advance gender equality, leveraging design innovation to better serve those whom our systems are currently failing.

Chroma Collective Member Institutions:

  • Asian Development Bank
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
  • Global Affairs Canada
  • Inter-American Development Bank
  • International Finance Corporation
  • Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
  • Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
  • The French Development Agency
  • United States Agency for International Development
  • World Health Organization
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