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Resonate: engaging men in women’s economic empowerment

We will develop the soft skills of young men and young women, while creating a more tolerant environment for women in business.

Photo of Ayla Schlosser
23 21

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Resonate uses storytelling to empower women and girls to build self-confidence and unlock leadership potential. Our first men engagement program will teach critical soft skills – self-confidence, public speaking, decision-making, and leadership – to women and men, while sensitizing both genders to the importance of gender-equality. The main objectives of the course are to a) partner with groups teaching hard skills and education b) integrate the development of soft skills necessary for employment and entrepreneurship c) engage both genders in direct conversation about creating an inclusive business environment d) and share experience of successful professionals. Hard skills and education can go a long way to improving opportunity, yet especially among women driving development and closing wage and unemployment gaps requires soft skills, self-confidence, and community support to turn opportunity into action. Resonate’s men engagement program is designed to address these issues, focusing specifically on young women and men as future business leaders. A study by Catalyst shows that men who are exposed to examples of female leaders are 23% more likely to support gender equality, while according to UNFPA, young men are more receptive to the concept of gender equality than older men. Encouraging young men to be supportive of women leaders is critical to gender equality, improving the business environment, and creating more employment opportunities for youth in East Africa.

WHO BENEFITS?

Our program is targeted at underserved Rwanda youth between the ages of 15 to 25 who are recent high school graduates or participating in a vocational skill building programs. We will work through our network of more than 30 partner organizations to engage 300 young men and women during the initial 3-month pilot phase. Participants will build individual skills as well as their collective ability to increase opportunity for employment and economic empowerment.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

Resonate is a nonprofit that uses storytelling to empower women to build self-confidence and unlock leadership potential. We collaborate with organizations that provide hard skills and education and integrate soft skills and leadership training into their programs, thus catalyzing impact.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Rwanda

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

During the beneficiary phase we conducted feedback sessions with students in secondary and tertiary institutions to assess demand for soft skills training, and interest in a single or mixed gender training environment. There is high demand for soft skills training in both groups, yet it is greater among youth who have not yet had work exposure – so we lowered the target age range to be between 15 and 25. We also changed the way that we are grouping men and women. Rather than having genders completely separate for the first part of training we will run the training as a mixed group and have gender-specific breakout groups during storytelling activities. Functionally this increases both genders’ exposure to working well together and optically it is more comfortable for some young men who found single-gender training off-putting. Most of our interactions with past participants have been with women, and the feedback session was an incredibly valuable opportunity for use to hear the opinions of young men. We also approached employers to learn specific soft skills they are looking for in employees to better target our curriculum and deliver relevant, impactful training.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Our Storytelling for Leadership model is a unique way to build leadership capacity and soft skills for employment. The program invites students to self-reflect, and to build personal awareness and self-confidence. The medium of storytelling creates empathy, and is particularly well-suited to building bridges and inviting men and women to take a heightened interest in each other’s experiences. We will directly address the benefits of gender equality in the workplace with both genders. Through facilitated discussion, and by bringing in successful professionals to share stories of challenges and successes, we will reinforce a shared narrative of the benefits of gender equality in the workplace. We have 3 years of experience and success with 2,500 participants in East Africa. We have seen up to 30% increases in self-confidence, comfort speaking publicly, decision-making power, and leadership roles among graduates of our programs. Those have manifested in alumnae starting businesses, interviewing for and getting jobs, and taking on local leadership roles.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

Even in a place like Rwanda where Parliament is 64% female, $187 million could be added to the economy if women were participating fully. That is because in addition to skills and training women lack fundamental tools and necessary self-confidence in their own skills and abilities to turn opportunity into action. Despite strong national policy, gender equality is not yet reflected in local beliefs and actions. We want to build on the strengths of policy on a national scale by fostering a grassroots movement for gender equality that engages men and women. We have chosen to do this in a way that also builds the critical soft skills of youth to increase employment opportunities.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

• Will holding mixed gender workshops enhance or inhibit the confidence women have speaking in front of men? • How will interest in the program change among our partners and clients now that it is targeted at men and women? • How do we most successfully adapt our current program to create a model that serves the dual purpose of building soft skills and building a more gender inclusive environment? • Once successfully adapted, can we incorporate this model into the work of our partner NGO’s, private sector clients, and government programs?

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

While the methodology that we are using is rooted in years of community organizing, and one we have been working with and iterating on for three years, this will be the first time we have used our model to specifically engage men in women’s empowerment. We developed this idea in response to the requests of our female participants and our clients, as well as many young men who have asked about how they can access our leadership programs. Clients and employers we spoke with emphasized the importance of soft skills training for both genders. Additionally, some of the female graduates of our program have said that by the end of the workshop they are more comfortable speaking up around other women, but they remain shy when they get back in a mixed gender environment. By bringing men and women together we can offer soft skill straining to youth of all genders, work to familiarize women to speaking up in the presence of men, and familiarize men with the benefits of listening to and respecting women, as well as speaking up themselves.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Resonate will organize and implement workshops. We will target youth from within our network of 30+ partner organizations in Rwanda, with an emphasis on underserved youth between the ages of 15 and 25 who would benefit from receiving additional soft skills training to prepare them to enter or better engage in the workforce. If awarded funding, we will bring on a trainer who will be specifically devoted to this program to ensure it has full opportunity for success.

Resonate uses storytelling to empower women and girls to build self-confidence and unlock leadership potential. Our core training program, Storytelling for Leadership, harnesses the power of personal stories to communicate values and skills, and inspire the support of others in a professional setting, in a business endeavor, or a community initiative. With support from Ideo, we plan to develop a collaborative leadership program for male participants. The program will complement our work with women and engage both genders to create comprehensive and lasting change. Resonate will teach critical soft skills – self-confidence, public speaking, decision-making, and leadership – to women and men, while sensitizing both genders to the importance of gender-equality.

The program is a three-day course designed to run with a group of men and a group of women concurrently. The main objectives of the course are a) to develop soft skills necessary for employment and entrepreneurship and b) engage both genders in creating an inclusive business environment. Over the three days participants will develop a story of self that shows their personal values, learn critical self-presentation and workforce readiness skills, and discuss how they can best support business leaders of any gender. After two days of working separately, groups will come together for a final day of sharing lessons learned and listening to each others’ experiences.

Soft skills are a critical and often overlooked component of job training in East Africa. Skills training can go a long way to improving opportunity, yet especially among women, in order to truly drive development and close wage and unemployment gaps, women need self-confidence and community support to turn opportunity into action.

Research shows that women-led businesses outperform those with no female leaders, but they are comparatively fewer because of gender inequality and the barriers that women face. Studies show that women’s economic empowerment changes the dynamics of their household and engenders complex and emotional reactions from men.

Pilot studies carried out by CARE in Rwanda (2013) state that women need to be supported by improved and better programming which engages with men in deliberate and structured ways - something we’ve recognized over three years of our own work with women in Rwanda.

Resonate’s men engagement program is designed to address these issues, focusing specifically on young women and men as future business leaders. A study by Catalyst shows that men who are exposed to examples of female leaders are 23% more likely to support gender equality, while according to UNFPA, young men are more receptive to the concept of gender equality than older men. Encouraging young men to be more attuned to and supportive of women leaders is an important step to creating gender equality, improving the business environment, and creating more employment opportunities for youth in Rwanda and East Africa.

Our program is targeted at underserved Rwanda youth between the ages of 15 to 35 who are recent high school graduates or participating in a vocational skill building programs. We will work through partner organizations such as the Imbuto Foundation, Inkomoko, and our network of more than 30 partner organizations in Rwanda to engage young women and men. During the initial 3 month pilot period we will work with 300 men and women to build their individual skills and their collective ability to increase opportunity for employment and economic empowerment. With Ideo’s help we will test and iterate on this idea, and learn valuable lessons about how to best design the program for maximum impact and scale.

Youth participants will benefit from soft skills training for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, identifying their own values and developing their personal story. Young men will have the opportunity to learn from and listen to their female colleagues, and build a model for and understanding of the benefits of a gender-inclusive business environment. The young women we work with will receive the training Resonate has developed over three years of delivery in East Africa, building their self-confidence and unlocking their leadership potential. By engaging both men and women in collaborative and mutually supportive leadership initiatives, we expect to benefit Rwandan communities as a whole.

Resonate is a nonprofit social enterprise that has been providing leadership training to women in East Africa for three years. Our training draws on the powerful tool of storytelling to build capacity for leadership and action through increasing self-confidence, public speaking skills, decision-making ability, and leadership roles.

Through Low-cost, light-touch leadership training we have seen women accomplish incredible things. Trained entrepreneurs actually take out loans and open businesses. Aspiring community leaders run for and are elected to village council. Bright young graduates put themselves forward to find new professional and academic opportunities. These women have what it takes to drive economic and social change – they just need to confidence to get started.

This confidence gap is pervasive globally, including in East Africa. We have seen huge jumps in confidence and leadership among our 2,500 program alumnae and wish to scale our intervention to reach more women and girls within Rwanda and throughout East Africa. 

Resonate has delivered leadership trainings in all regions of Rwanda, as well as conducting training in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Our curriculum is rooted in community organization and has been adapted to suit the East African context. In our experience with more than 50 partner organizations, we have seen that there is a clear market need and social need to engage men in women’s leadership programming. In order to both broaden and deepen our impact we are building a program that also provides soft skills and leadership training to men, while improving the business environment and chances of economic success for both genders.

SHARE ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE THIS PROJECT TO HAVE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, AND ONE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER TO GET THERE.

In five years we would like to see 95% of these program graduates finding employment within 6 months. Of those we want to see an equal number of male and female hires at comparable salaries, resulting in a huge step forward in gender equality and women's economic empowerment. In order to get there we need to know, “how can we break down barriers to employment for men and women equally?”

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • More than a year

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING AMPLIFY'S PORTFOLIO OF INNOVATORS?

Resonate has always taken a community-driven development approach. However, we could better achieve this if we had the opportunity to work with the Amplify team to incorporate strategies and best practices of Human Centered Design into our work. By joining Amplify’s portfolio of innovators we can better fulfill our organizational mission and values, take a truly user-centered approach to supporting innovative progress, and have a greater impact toward achieving gender equality in East Africa.

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Spam
Photo of Chelsea Takamine
Team

Hi Ayla and Team! Amplify and our experts have some comments and questions for you - we encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea.

-I am fascinated by the idea of storytelling as a approach to unlock the leadership potential of young women. I also admire the approach of having young men and women engage together for large portions of the training.
-I'm curious whether you have done / will consider a layer to the training that brings an external perspective to bear on the problem of professional gender equity - do all participants recognize it as a problem? Do they understand how it manifests itself? I'd recommend creating time to a) make the business case for gender inclusion and b) perhaps bring in an older, experienced panel of professionals (men and women) to discuss how gender dynamics have played out in their careers.
-Potential challenge: soft skills are necessary but not sufficient. How will partners and other actors fill in any other missing pieces of the puzzle? Also, can you use design thinking to adjust your idea to the needs of employers, investors, and lenders? Focusing only on young men and women may be useful, but it may not be sufficient to address the problem you wish to tackle.
-What outcomes have you been able to see / track coming out of the female-only trainings delivered to date?
-I'm interested as to whether the expansion to include men is something that the former participants (female) asked for, or whether Resonate identified the need at a higher-level.

In case you missed it, OpenIDEO and Amplify hosted a Storytelling Office Hour - https://youtu.be/g0gZRR6T9tA. Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and help make it come to life! Don't forget - December 18th is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Looking forward to reading more!

Spam
Photo of Ayla Schlosser
Team

Thank you so much for these questions, suggestions, and points of feedback. We've enjoyed considering them and integrating them into our idea.

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