Learning for change

Learning for change: inspiring further action


Mama Cash is committed to understanding how social change happens. How do groups we support and contribute to women, girls and trans people affecting real change in their own lives? How do we, at Mama Cash, measure our own contributions? How do we measure the influence we have when we push the boundaries of other donors, advocate for different approaches to funding and communicate about our work?

We strive to be accountable to both our grantees and our donors. We reflect on our practices and learn from them, and have developed a comprehensive learning and evaluation framework to help us do so as effectively as possible.

Documenting change

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In honour of our 30th anniversary, we launched a history website that looks back at what we have learned from three decades of funding women’s rights activism.

We also reflected on the impact that three decades of women’s organising has had on making our planet a more just place for women, girls and trans people – and indeed for everyone— in our Change is Happening web series.

Learning together

Community of Practice
Mama Cash maintains that it is important to build collaborative alliances and to learn and evaluate – side-by-side – with our peers.

The International Network of Women’s Funds hosts a learning and evaluation initiativeReframing the Debate – which and facilitates an ongoing conversation about the role of women’s funds in social change.

“[The Reframing the Debate initiative] is a community of practice where women’s funds have come together to share insights into how to assess the impact of our grantees – the positive changes they have made for women and girls. It is also about giving us tools to better evaluate our own impact as women’s funds, and how we are contributing to positive social change”- Annie Hillar, Learning and Evaluation Specialist at Mama Cash

Mama Cash’s Strengthening Local Fundraising Initiative supports many women’s funds by facilitating peer exchanges in which participants work to build each other’s fundraising skills and knowledge.

Along with the Central American Women’s Fund, we convened a Community of Practice, that brought together several women’s funds to exchange learnings about funding girls’ and young women’s activism. One of the key areas of discussion has been about funding groups that are led by girls and young women. Most women’s funds in the Community of Practice consider this to be an important goal, though they find that finding girl-led groups can be challenging. This discussion – and others about funding priorities – help us all improve and hone our grantmaking strategies and, ultimately, the influence we have.

What have we learned so far?

We have learned from women’s, girls and trans groups that, while they need funds, they also need non-financial support – what we term ‘accompaniment’ – to expand their work and have greater impact. Grantees have shared with us that their most meaningful learning experiences have come from exchanges with other groups supported by Mama Cash.

“[during the exchange with the Mongolian Women’s Fund] its staff was particularly interested to see and hear about our young women’s leadership programme. Their observations and feedback highlighted the need for us to invest more in our monitoring and evaluations systems. This means having more robust systems, training our staff, and being more effective in using the tools that exist on paper. This feedback has been invaluable to [us]”.- Natalia Karbowska, Ukrainian Women’s Fund

Nairobi reframing violence FI

In 2012, Mama Cash gathered grantees in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss how activists, movements and society at large define violence. They found that the most common definitions often make certain experiences of violence invisible – such as violence against sex workers, against women with disabilities or within lesbian relationships.

This convening resulted in a learning report on violence entitled ‘Who Counts?’.

We have also learned the importance of linking donors and grantees to each other to share information about what is happening on the ground. Donors want to better understand the daily realities that grantees face. And they want to understand how the grantees are working for change. Organisations want to know what donor priorities are and how funders make decisions about the money they distribute.

Sharing experiences improves relationships and communication between grantees and donors. It can also inspire donors to make changes in their own grantmaking practices.

Change is possible, and a shared commitment to this belief strengthens the efforts of everyone involved.