A Guide To Successfully Harness Social Entrepreneurs for Women’s Empowerment.
Strengthening social entrepreneurs’ work for women’s empowerment requires a holistic approach.
We call this approach the WomenChangeMaker's Fellowship. This is what we’ve learnt from working with WCM Fellows since 2012.
The Social Entrepreneurs (WCM Fellows)
  • 01 The right fit between candidates and the programme offer is decisive for their selection The decision to select one particular fellow and organization over other candidates must be based on the hypothesis that the value added by the program’s intervention can lead to a turning point in the fellow’s potential and in the organization’s growth curve and social impact.
  • 02 Clear, aligned expectations between the Fellows and the Fellowships’ offer are key to a successful engagement A complete understanding of the Fellows’ expectations for the engagement helps Professional Program Partners to plan and deploy resources effectively. Just as the partnership between WCM and the Fellow needs to be formalized (e.g. with a MOU), it is highly convenient to define and formalize the scope of each collaboration or partnership within the program (e.g. with collaboration notes).
  • 03 An external needs’ assessment + a prioritised action plan for the growth and development strategy = increased impact A comprehensive needs’ assessment of the organization at the beginning of the collaboration opens up a whole new set of perspectives for the Fellow and her/his team, who can then decide on priority areas to be addressed. In this sense, it is key to involve the team that will be in charge of the needs’ assessment in the Selection Panel.
  • 04 Social enterprises are highly complex and require complex solutions It takes time, patience and effort for the Professional Program Partners to be efficient in their support and deliverables. Hence, WCM should facilitate an induction process to the complexities of the WCM Fellow’s organization, activities and operational context, as well as mediating the initial collaboration meetings.
  • 05 Dynamic leaders require a highly customised approach to successfully scale up their impact Fellows’ priorities and needs are constantly changing and the ability of the Womanity Foundation to promptly respond to the demands is crucial for the success of the program. Revisiting or updating the findings from the first needs’ assessment as well as the action plan will allow WCM to be more effective.
  • 06 Not every opportunity is a good opportunity Some opportunities are not necessarily aligned with the strategy of the organization, and each Fellow should have the ability and confidence to say “No, thanks”. Some opportunities that are not completely aligned with the organization’s strategy might represent a distraction for the organization.
Providing Expert Support Services (WCM Program Partners)
  • 07 Maturity of the social enterprise favours effective partnerships Maturity of the Fellows’ organizations increases the synergies with Partners and allows Fellows to take full advantage of the potential of the WCM model. The operational capacity constraints of the organizations can be a critical barrier to the effectiveness of capacity building and ultimately to the Program’s impact. On the other hand, the Fellow’s maturity ensures their understanding that the WCM Program is investing in building a more resilient organization in the long term.
  • 08 An external needs’ assessment + a prioritised action plan for the growth and development strategy = increased impact In the first stage of the program, it is key to provide the Fellow with external support to define a 5Y strategy or to revisit its existing one, after conducting the needs’ assessment. Only once a deep needs’ assessment is done and a clear strategy has been devised is it reasonable to push for more partnerships. Moreover, a mid-term review of needs during the second year of the Fellowship can add significant value to the program. It will enable WCM to bring in Partners that are more relevant for the Fellow.
  • 09 Building business partnerships which enhance social enterprises requires local hands-on help and stewardship To build a partnership is to build mutual trust, and it is useful to set a mid-to long-term view to ensure a win-win relationship. In this sense, successful collaborations should be based on clearly identified needs; a well-defined scope of support; committed, capable Professional Partners and motivated, empowered Fellows; and a right timing facilitated by the WCM local team.
  • 10 Professional program partners must be able to offer a concrete value add to WCM Fellows Each Professional Program Partner’s core competence and credibility to deliver the expected output must be verified before the engagement and mapped against the Fellow’s needs. This helps to take full advantage of the 3-years program and to avoid frustrating or ineffective experiences for both parties.
Facilitating Social Change (WCM Team)
  • 11 Documenting the program’s impact at the grassroots is essential to transformative change For a 3-year fellowship, it is key to have an empowered (and as stable as possible) local team that can keep the program on track, integrate the learnings into the program management and build trust among all stakeholders. The changes in the local team in Brazil affected the capacity-building performance and hampered its capacity to deliver high-quality support properly and in a timely manner.
  • 12 Trust is central to leveraging professional partners, Fellows and Womanity’s contributions The program’s strategic contribution is mainly human. Building trust takes time, resources and many soft skills such as leadership, good listening and empathy from every member of the team. Accessibility and openness in the relationship with the WCM team is the best possible asset. Additionally, the advisory role of the WCM team helps the Fellow to overcome the roadblocks that the organization faces.
  • 13 A facilitatory partner with global reach can lever funds and added influence for the Fellow Professional partners’ engagement can be encouraged to grow beyond a direct collaboration with the WCM Fellows’ organisation to building valuable connections with their clients and business partners, which, if successful, adds yet more value to the whole WCM network, since professional partners are also looking for peer-to-peer recognition and networking opportunities through their engagement with the WCM programme.
  • 14 It is vital to keep a healthy balance between structure and flexibility in the approach The program needs to maintain a balance between a structured approach and flexibility in order to achieve predefined milestones, and to react nimbly to Fellows’ needs. Having clear timelines and deliverables sets the expectations of all stakeholders and allows them to plan ahead the resources to be allocated and the calendars to be engaged. This ensures smooth delivery from Program Partners and complete incorporation of the results into the Fellow’s organization.
  • 15 Business support coupled with strategic connections and networks is game-changing While the core of WCM’s model is based on capacity-building for the organizations, the program and its team have also built a valuable way to empower its Fellows through coaching and access to strategic networks. One of the most valuable aspects of WCM for the Fellows is the program’s ability to identify (with or without help of a needs’ assessment) issues that are extremely relevant for the Fellows and could be addressed easily and/or rapidly, thereby improving impact and cost-value. Both in India and Brazil, Fellows saw support in planning, coaching, networking and fundraising as one of WCM’s main contributions throughout the Fellowship, apart from capacity-building.
  • 16 Proactive communication and knowledge sharing capitalises on learnings and increases efficiency and effectivenes WCM is a high-complexity program, with a 3-year timeline and a multiplicity and diversity of actors in very different countries such as India and Brazil. Therefore, it is crucial to strategically manage information and knowledge, based on horizontal and vertical communication among all team members that make it possible to continuously identify and replicate learnings and good practices. Open participatory discussion among stakeholders, mediated by the WCM team, also ensures real-time knowledge sharing and troubleshooting of any temporary glitches.
Best Practices for Taking Innovations to Scale
The Social Entrepreneurs
(WCM Fellows)
WCM Fellows enthusiasms and ambition about their growth increased the program’s value add.
Engaging other key staff members within the organization leads to more effective collaborations
Needs' assessments and 5Y strategy reports have leveraged resources from donors and investors.
Providing Expert Support Services
(WCM Program Partners)
A high level of commitment from Program Partners ensured a dynamic relationship that can be better serve the Fellows' organizations.
Refining the Fellows' organizational strategy immediately after the need assessments provided the direction for growth and expansion.
Facilitating Social Change
(WCM Team)
Accessibility, openness and commitment from the Womanity team is crucial for the Fellows.
The WCM team's operational flexibility in the field critically espoused the WCM Fellows’ dynamic nature and chasing challenges.
Arranging Partners Collaboration Meetings enabled an exchange of experiences and lessons learned with a view to continuing strengthening fellowships.

Represents key learning taken from the Womanity Foundation's innovative WomenChangeMakers Fellowship program.
See the full learning report.