McColm & Company was contracted by a local Afghan civil society group to provide technical assistance in developing a strategy for advancing Afghan women’s economic opportunities. The engagement included support in the design of an organizational strategic plan aimed at fiscal sustainability through a strategy of providing value to members, a multi-year strategic advocacy plan that would lead to the creation of a viable environment for women business owners and women’s economic empowerment; and the delivery of advocacy skills training in Kabul for the organization’s executive body, board members, and women business owners.
FOCUS: Systems advocacy, women’s economic empowerment, sustainability, training and mentoring, strategic planning
The client is a new business association and membership organization dedicated to advocating for the rights and interests of Afghan businesswomen, entrepreneurs, female employees, and women who wish to work. Although women are already working all across Afghanistan, their contributions to the Afghan economy are often not acknowledged, and they face discrimination and special challenges due to their gender. The client is the only organization specifically focused on systems advocacy for women’s economic empowerment. Currently operating in five provinces, the client sought to expand its presence to all 34 provinces in Afghanistan within five years. The client’s main challenge was to establish its credibility and reputation as an effective advocate for women’s economic empowerment in Afghanistan in order to recruit and retain paid members by delivering value to Afghan women business owners. The client needed capacity building and technical assistance to develop a strategic plan that would put them on course to achieve organizational and financial sustainability within three years.
The McColm & Company team began the engagement with a comprehensive desk review of Afghan women’s economic role, their needs, and their impact on the local economy. The engagement manager – Victoria McColm – then traveled to Kabul to facilitate a strategic planning workshop with the Board and Executive team and to deliver training in advocacy skills. The outcomes of the planning workshops were organized into a draft organizational strategic plan and a draft strategic advocacy plan. The organization then held a series of town hall style meetings with businesswomen and members in Afghanistan’s five commercial centers – Kabul, Herat, Mazar, Kandahar and Jalalabad – in order to solicit feedback and identify advocacy priorities. With feedback and further guidance in hand, McCO then worked with the Executive Team to design a comprehensive, multi-year organizational strategic plan and strategic advocacy plan to help them set their advocacy priorities and map out their advocacy strategy. This plan included two advocacy toolkits and three individual campaign plans to be implemented by the organization, which targeted short-term, medium-term, and long-term advocacy goals.
IMPACT & RESULTS
Equipped with the strategic plans and advocacy toolkits, the organization is now well positioned to deliver real value to their constituency, recruit and retain new paying members, sustainably grow their organization, launch and manage successful advocacy campaigns, and establish their reputation as the leading voice in systems advocacy for women’s economic empowerment in Afghanistan.
A key lesson learned from this engagement was the value of Facebook as a tool for communicating and organizing in Afghanistan. McCO leveraged the organization’s significant Facebook audience as a key advocacy resource for organizing, campaigning, and lobbying on women’s economic issues. This enabled a small, but very capable organization engaging in systems advocacy to reach a wide audience and expand the capacity of a limited staff.
Stephanie is a Summer Analyst at McCO. She is a gender specialist and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She was a member of the three-person engagement team for this project, along with Victoria McColm and Hannah Navon.