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Creative Collaboration for Gender Equity: Introducing RISE

It was William Shakespeare who wrote that “misery makes strange bedfellows.” That quote has been turned around over the centuries, and yet the concept of strangers coming together to solve a critical problem is more crucial than ever before. It’s no mistake that the 17th Sustainable Development Goal, for example, calls for Partnerships for the Goals - and in particular, finding ways to strengthen implementation for sustainable development. The premise of collaboration and partnership, particularly among “strange bedfellows” is what makes our job as partnership advisors at Connective Impact so exciting. It is essentially up to us to help find those partners willing and able to work together to effect meaningful change.

That is why when the W. K. Kellogg Foundation announced that to celebrate its 90th anniversary it was challenging organizations to pitch $20 million solutions to global racial equity, as part of their Racial Equity 2030 pledge, there was something in the way the Foundation challenged proposals stemming from creative, nuanced thinking that caught my attention. Kellogg’s plan to “invite, build and scale ideas for transformative change around the world” issued a call for “ideas from teams of visionaries, change agents and community leaders from every sector and organizations of all types, from anywhere in the world.”

I thought now was the time to test my theory that strange bedfellows may indeed make the best, most impactful partners.

With a March deadline, we had two months to make this test a reality. In early January we inquired among our broad network to garner interest in gathering organizations together in a unique way even if just to exchange ideas. We indicated that Connective Impact was prepared to put together proposal teams if the interest was there. Within three days we had a list of nearly twenty organizations each curious about what a collective process would entail. After a zoom call, where we laid out our plans for managing a collaborative proposal process, our list of interested organizations shrunk to twelve, each of which shared what topic their organization would most want to pitch. We were able to develop three distinct ideas, each with different geographic and thematic topics. Once we narrowed in on the three topics, it was clear within a few days that one topic had the most formidable support among a solid group of five organizations: supporting young women and girls with limited income and education, towards leadership and financial freedom for a better future in cocoa growing communities, starting with Cote d’Ivoire.

We had found our creative collaboration, our strange bedfellows! Girl Up, a gender equality initiative of the United Nations Foundation, Fairtrade InternationalArist (a text message based learning platform), Business Connect, an entrepreneurial development company and Moja Ride, a West African startup, agreed to work with Connective Impact on a proposal for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s $90 million racial equity challenge.

Over the course of 6 weeks, we met weekly and collaborated on all of the elements necessary for Kellogg Foundation’s proposal. We used a shared google drive and google docs to work on joint edits. Connective Impact led the writing and budget development. With some back and forth, edits and adjustments, we finalized our $20 million proposal for RISE: Reducing Inequality Through Self-Sufficiency and Entrepreneurship. The project aims to transform the future for young women and girls and their families by creating a new economic and social construct for producers in Duekoue, Guiglo, and San Pedro in Cote d’Ivoire.



Girls will be equipped for a future of enterprise through Girl Up Clubs, with a curriculum on self-confidence, leadership and entrepreneurship skills, preparing women for the workforce, and tools to advocate for themselves and their communities. In parallel, women will participate in Fairtrade’s Women’s Leadership Academy, a professional development network and entrepreneur program teaching life skills, business acumen, helping women create business plans, build business infrastructure and ultimately start businesses of their own generating additional  income to their families. New businesses will center around water, hygiene, technology and on-farm activities. Families will also learn together about the importance of community development, women’s rights, economic empowerment, sexual harassment prevention, reproductive health rights, and health and safety. Moja Ride will launch its digital wallet, connecting rural cardholders safely and easily to advanced financial services, such as credit, insurance and savings, creating strong financial systems for long-term stability and agency.  

As we share in our proposal, when a girl rises, we all do. When women rise, their families and communities do.  We will look forward to hearing the results from the Kellogg Foundation’s decision. In the meantime, our unique collaboration will be sharing our ideas with other interested donors and partners, ready to show that strange bedfellows may indeed be the best types of partners for creative, long-term solutions.

Want to get involved? Email us at [email protected] with Subject Line: RISE.

​Special thanks to the team at Pierce Mill Media for their help preparing our proposal video.




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