Brand new website @YouthBankIntl http://

Brand new website @YouthBankIntl – Also check out the @grantcraft publication on #YouthBank model


Back to freelance

It has been very quiet on this blog over the past few years, but times are changing! I  am moving on and writing on this blog will be part of my routine again.

In 2011 I joined the European Foundation Centre (EFC) in Brussels to help make GrantCraft into a global resource for foundations.  The modern looks of the brand new GrantCraft  website – great job by my colleague Jen Bokoff  in New York!  – hide that GrantCraft has a track record of 15+ years.  Originally developed by Ford Foundation it was a resource used mostly by staff of US foundations, NGO’s, consultants and academia.  Over the past few years, through a joint effort of the EFC and the Foundation Center in New York the interest for GrantCraft among practitioners in Europe has significantly expanded.  We published new resources on a variety of topics, drawing on the practice of foundation all across Europe, the US and globally and many GrantCraft publications are now translated in Chinese, and Arabic, and some in Portuguese Spanish and Turkish

Early 2014, for a variety of (good) reasons,  the partners in GrantCraft have decided to dissolve the partnership.  The leadership of the European Foundation Centre and the Foundation Center set a great example by sharing the learning from the now dissolved partnership: check out the article in Alliance Magazine on Lessons Learned from a Trans-Atlantic Partnership

After some reflection I decided that I wanted to go back to working independently, making the most of my diverse experience in the world of foundations, NGO’s and government.  My last GrantCraft publication was released a few week ago and talks about YouthBank: a way to empower young people by getting them involved in making grants to support initiatives of their peers. YouthBank Model Has Global Appeal explores the commonalities and differences in how YouthBank is implemented globally and the case story provides funders with practical tips and ideas.

GrantCraft has been a  learning experience in many was, and I am sure I will be able to share some of that learning through new (freelance) ventures.

If you want to stay connected, subscribe to this blog and/or follow me on twitter @herweijer


New challenges: GrantCraft

My consulting practice is on hold because I dove into a new project. It is called GrantCraft, a joint venture of the European Foundation Centre and the – New York-based  – Foundation Center. GrantCraft collects practical wisdom from grantmakers and philanthropist and turns it into guides, workshops, videos, and other tools to help philanthropists hone their craft.  Grantcraft is not about blueprints or recipes. It explores how practitioners deal with dilemma’s and tradeoffs. It helps you organize yourself and your  work and provides tools to make grant-making more strategic, and benchmark effectiveness.  GrantCraft delivers these materials through its website

When I started out as a consultant in 2008, I was ready to head where my clients were leading me.  Without a detailed plan, just like Yogi Berra warned – indeed, I did end up some place else. But I very much enjoyed the trip.  I definitively will not miss having proposals rejected, the umpteenth tender failure….  But it was certainly very gratifying to explore and address a variety of organizational problems with clients: from mainstreaming gender in international coöperation,  to supporting good governance of a Women’s Fund in South Africa, addressing age diversity in HR policies in Dutch municipalities and measuring effectiveness in attending to victims of commercial sexual violence in Latin America. With GrantCraft I will still be working very much around learning with those who try to promote social justice.  But it will no longer be in a personal, advisory capacity.

I may be blogging here but you do check the GrantCraft blog!

Sharing experience in evaluation

With my colleagues from evaluation 5.o we wrote a paper for the upcoming INTRAC conference on monitoring and evaluation entitled Fifth generation Evaluation of a HIV/AIDS prevention programme among LGTBIin 15 countries Africa and Latin America”. In the paper we describe how we used constructivist evaluation methodologies to facilitate the evaluation of the International Programme of Schorer Foundation, Amsterdam generating a process that produced real learning among all involved 

Monitoring advocacy and (policy) change e

Comments on a very useful brief on theories of (policy) change on evaluation5.0  : check it out!

Evaluation5.0 is an initiative of people that work together to promote innovation in evaluation. Recently evaluation5.0 has been working on its business model, using the approach that I used on an earlier occasion with WHEAT to develop their business model. The evolving Evaluation5.0 model looks like this.

Conflicts and states that (do not) work for women

FRIDE just published a working paper on its research into the integration of gender concerns into post-conflict state building. Let’s hope that the people who seek to influence from the outside that what is currently happening in Tunis, Egypt and Libya, will manage to read these mere 19 – highly readable – pages  full of sensible recommendations.

The paper draws on lessons learned in Kosovo, Guatemala, Sudan, Sierra Leona and Burundi.  It looks at women’s involvement in  politics of state building and at the process of building state structures that actually promote women’s rights. Clare Castillo of FRIDE author of the working paper does not deny there are tensions, dilemma’s  and trade-offs. To name a few:

  • It seems quite logical to negotiate peace with those who have the arms to threaten peace, but if you need a quick solution and have a genuine opportunity to end bloodshed, why should you actually involve powerless groups like women?
  • Should donors take over funding of  the usually under-resourced, powerless national gender equality institutions when national governments withdraw funding, or should they leave them to be and fund civil society organizations that promote the interest of women?
  • “Traditional authorities”, involved in upholding ” customary law”,   may seem to be a stabilizing factor in a situation of conflict (also called more ” grounded legitimacy”).  Unfortunately that customary law also has a tendency to deny women their (human) rights.  So, how hybrid should you aim for?

The paper takes a position and makes clear recommendations about the first two. Regarding the latter, it provides no solution but some solid recommendations.

The general conclusion of the paper is that significant gains were made thanks to external actors (donors) and that the donors also missed opportunities.  Let’s highlight some other recommendations to avoid that.

Although women are rarely a short-term threat to security, one has to support them to be able to influence the (peace) settlement and be involved in the negotiations to at least incorporate some fundamental rights for women.  It is critical women are able to influence the development of new constitutions and funding women’s organizations may help in that process.  But this is by no means sufficient because the inclusion and exclusion, the power relations are being negotiated long after.

Quota for women in parliaments are quite useful, the research reaffirms, it is equally important to remove more structural barriers for women’s participation. These barriers relate to skills, cost, violence and stigma.  Also, most western donors hesitate to work with political parties (all parties) but that is an important omission, so is working with and training on gender for men in politics, according to Castillejo : “In all five countries political parties emerged as the greatest barrier to women’s participation in post-conflict politics.” Al Jazeera reports that in Tunisia equal numbers of men and women will be on the ballots for the Constitutional Assembly

The paper does not solve the dilemmas between endogenous state building (drawing on ” traditional authorities”  and ” customary law” ) and normative agendas on women’s rights. And such dilemma’s are never simple as the paper illustrates For example,  granting women ” modern” inheritance rights in Burundi, which they do not have according to customary law, has an array of long- and short-term implications:  it may increase pressure on land in Burundi, but it may also decrease birth rates.  The paper strongly recommends that donors make sure they understand the implications of what they support. And to understand they need to engage with a range ow women’s organizations.

The paper addresses several other issues. For example in Security Sector Reform, according to the paper, donors focus too much on recruitment and service delivery: important but unsustainable changes if women are not becoming involved in decision-making. And it shows: while it is rampant, the new draft Kosovo Security Strategy to date, does not mention domestic violence as a problem (Castillejo, 2011:13).

Interestingly, the paper observes that – maybe with the exception of Sierra Leone – the civic activism of women has had far more influence on changing attitudes in society that politics or institutions has had ( and has).  At the same time it also observes that  funding mechanisms do not usually allow civil society organizations to develop and project their own,  long-term agenda, because donor horizons are short and their funding is project based. Rarely do they give long-term core-funding. Also there is a tendency to fund organizations representing the elites.  Which brings us to the final set of recommendations to donors that deal with their support of civil society organizations:

  • look beyond your usual – élite – partner group
  • listen to a range of women’s voices, behind the contradictions are real women’s interests
  • give grants for core funding
  • fund and help develop leadership skills
  • support their campaigns, you can have real impact.
Indeed, food for thought.
You can download the paper and hear Clare Castillejo herself on the FRIDE website, right here

Women at the top: mazes and illusions

The Norwegian law about quota for women in boards has put the focus on female leadership at the top levels.  Will these mandatory quota work or should we dismiss the whole idea of gender equality at the top as a fata morgana? Or maybe we do not really need these drastic measures?Maybe time alone will solve the problem.

Not likely.  I think the Norwegian approach may work but it is not going to be enough.

On 14 January 2011 the Flemish University Council presented its third, five–year report on Equal Opportunity and Diversity 2010 (in dutch only, sorry). Lots of good news about measures that were taken, programs that were launched, learning and change happening etc.   Emphasizing the progress made, Professor Machteld de Metsenaere, who presented the report, said action is still needed because if we do not act,  it may still take ages before gender equality would be attained.

The Belgium Institute for Equality between Women and Men observed in 2008  that of the 15 top academic officials (“rector magnificus”) in Belgium only one (1) was a women (2008:41). In Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium,  no female “rectrix” was ever elected yet.  Extrapolating the historical progress women made through the academic ranks in the past, it is said that it would take at least another century for a woman to be elected top executive of a Flemish University.

So is there is undoubtedly a problem at the top. The figures for the Flemish universities published by the Flemish University Council in this “Equal Opportunity and Diversity 2010” report suggest that women disappear on the way to the top. Comparing numbers of women in the lowest academic positions to the highest ranks (full-professor), the balance shifts from 46,5% women to just over 10% women and 90% of all full-professors being male.  So what is happening?

Actually it is not harder for women to get promoted to the top once you are at the sub-top, as compared to getting a promotion at lower levels. It is not that women move-up and then suddenly hit a glass ceiling.  Alice Eagly and Linda Carli argue that as a women it is harder to get promoted, full stop. In their interesting book “Through the Labyrinth – the truth about how women become leaders” (Boston, 2007),  Eagly and Carli show that the numbers sometimes create the illusion that the problem is at the top. In reality they suggest there is a systematic bias is consistent from the bottom to the top.

The Flemish figures on the situation at universities – and by the way,  it is not only at universities, of the top-15 Belgium NGO’s in development coöperation in 2008,  also only one (1) was headed by a women (2008:50) – any way, data on academia show that while at the entry level for academic professionals the ratio men to women is about one on one, at the next level there are 3 men for every 2 women and at top two levels there are 5 and 8 men for each single women, respectively.  This would suggest that it gets harder at each level and that the top positions – to become a full-professor –  are the hardest to get?

Eagly and Carli argue that a professional career is like a labyrinth and that women basically face a much more complicated maze than men do. It is not that as a women your career is easy at the beginning and gets more and more complicated when you move ahead, once you have advanced towards the centre of the labyrinth. The model of the glass ceiling is wrong according to Eagly and Carli. They argue that women face a more complicated career maze compared to men, right from the start.  If the maze that women have to negotiate creates more chances to make a wrong turn early on, they will get more easily lost or lose valuable time, while men may be faced with a more straight forward route or have some easily visible do-not-enter-signs that prevent them from getting inadvertently  off-track.

Gender biased career maze

In their book Eagly and Carli use an example with numbers to show that as far as discrimination is concerned there may be a constant bias ( 2007: 73).  In other words, they show that discrimination may be equally severe at all levels,  bottom and top, while at the same time that process creates the impression or illusion that the main problem of discrimination is at the highest level.  Numbers can play tricks on you (and one can trick with numbers…;).  Applying the format of their examples on the figures on the situation at the Flemish universities one could deduce that in the academic world of Flanders there is systematic discrimination with one out of each 10 men reaching a higher level, while only one out of 17 women do.

Universities – 2010
Systematic discrimination example
at all levels 1 out of each 10 men is promoted, and 1 women  out of 17
level m/f  – ratio m/f – ratio Men Women
lowest 3,3 to 3 3:3 10.000 10.000
| 4,9 to 3 5:3 1.000 588
| 7,8 to 3 9:3 100 34,6
| 15,4 to 3 15:3 10 2,0
highest 25,3 to 3 25:3 1 0,12

At the highest level women are only one out of eight full-professors at Flemish Universities, but already in the first round of promotions there is an equally strong bias, and that bias may still exist very much today, anno 2010.  Although 5:3 does not look bad, better than 8:1,  we may not have not solved the problems at the lower, entry levels yet.

Norwegian-type quota laws will help shake things up and provide inspiring role models.  And we can be pretty sure even in hundreds of years the problem will not solve itself.  We will have to address the imbalances at all levels and support women in their efforts to manage the obstacles in the complicated labyrinth they face throughout their career.

A lucky 2011


I wish all my readers a very healthy and lucky 2011 and hope for a year full of inspiring meetings – virtual or real-time.

We seek evidence to confirm preconceived notions, even ambiguous evidence we interpret in favor of our ideas, this is what psychologist call the “confirmation bias”.  Psychological experiments also found that we consider people who succeed more valuable, admirable than people who do not and other theories and experiments argue that we feel more comfortable and happy when we see patterns in events, as opposed to having to undergo than as completely random. Yet a lot of things that happen around us and with us are quite random, more random that we are comfortable to see. And then the “butterfly effect” which says that very small changes (the flutter of the wings of a butterfly) can have enormous effects.  Success, so much valued can be derived from random chance and very much based on biases instead of intrinsic value.  And so is failure.

Leonard Mlodinov’s book “The Drunkard’s Walk – How Randomness Rules our Lives” is a great read for anyone interested in diversity and change in organizations. Learning from best practices is not one of his recommended strategies:  that success may have been quite random and been the result of a drunkards walk: the path molecules follow in space, incessantly bumping and being bumped. Eager as we are  to see patterns we look at the best practice to see how they can be replicated, but randomness cannot be replicated.  Mlodinov questions learning from past performance and recommends we focus on our ability to react to events and not to rely on our ability to predict them. Altogether an interesting book to read.

Over the past year I have blogged infrequently and the last few months I have read mostly quite boring documents. So  my new year’s resolution will be to blog and read more,  to trust and respond to chance and hope for a lucky 2011 and lots of inspiring people and reads.  Which I also wish to anyone who reads this.

Granny driven change …………..

At a workshop in Brussels last week I heard Alan Fowler and friends about what they call civic driven change, change for the benefit of the community that spontaneously  emerges from groups of citizens that solve their problems, change that is not driven by governments or donors.  A good description can be found in this brief leaflet on civic driven change published by Fowler and Biekart.  It is a concept under construction they warned, the thinking evolves as they say.

Somebody at the Brussels meeting noted that the concept of CDC  – the way that Fowler and Biekart describe it –  has an eighties-ring to it. Could be,  but I do not think there is any misplaced nostalgia to it.  The concept of civic driven change actually takes the idea of people helping themselves to the next level, as the example of Kwanda showed.

Having exhausted to complete boredom the aid-does-not-work-argument, some people think that politicians in European countries may find in the sheer force of this “un-aided” change a new reason to promote cuts in budgets for international coöperation.  No true.  Civic driven change should inspire aid, not replace it.

And for some more inspiration, this great video:


hearts and minds….

Last week PSO – an organization I used to work with – celebrated its 25 year anniversary. A feat to be celebrated, indeed.  Two keynote speakers contributed to the celebrations.  Ilco van der Linde, founder of “dance4life” and  “masterpeace” who argued that people only come together and move when you speak from your heart, development cooperation has been too cerebral too long, and when people did not respond to the messages from the sector it is because we fail to connect with their hearts.  Rajesh Tandon of PRIA responded arguing that we should make sure our heart feeds into what we think to feed into action and criss-cross and backwards……

heads, hearts and action

I like that approach. I guess Ilco is right that a lot of conflict can be resolved and mediated when people put their heart to it, which makes his campaign “masterpeace” a brilliant initiative. But when NATO, Putin and Wen Jiabao discuss tension in Sudan their heads and their (economic and political) interests rule, not their hearts. So maybe we do need a mix of these two to feed into our action. And by the way, our actions also need to feed into our heads and hearts, which is simply another way of saying that we should learn from what we do

Happy anniversary PSO

note: the “heads” you see are 11 out of the 19 female Heads of State in 2010.