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Welcoming GirlSPARKS to the GAGE Consortium

Girl-centred design training with practitioners in Amman, Jordan. Photo: GirlSPARKS

GAGE is instrumental for a Girl-Centred approach and intentional design

GAGE is pleased to welcome GirlSPARKS as our newest Consortium partner. As a leading non-governmental organisation working on adolescence and gender, we are delighted to be partnering with them to leverage their expertise in research, policy and programming.

GirlSPARKS is a global training initiative that uses our Girl-Centred Design approach to supply practitioners with the knowledge, tools and skills to provide better programming for adolescent girls. We build the capacity of individuals and organisations to find the most marginalised girls, deliver girl-centred solutions and use a systems approach to tackle the intersecting issues between gender norms and girls’ participation in programs. Our Girl-Centred Design approach comprises of three steps: find the most marginalised girls, listen to them, and co-design with them. We do this through a range of capacity building services available to practitioners including in-person training workshops, an online course, a community for practitioners and tailored coaching. We deliver these services through our network of trainers who are experts in girl-centred design, based in locations all around the world, to ensure our services are contextualised and affordable. Up until now, we have supported practitioners in many regions in the world, notably the Sub Saharan Africa, Middle East, Latin America, and South Asia.

Some of the evidence of improved capacity that GirlSPARKS has documented in the teams and partners they worked with across the years include:

  • Increase in self-reported confidence and/or ability in assessing whether or not programs are placing girls as active participants/change agents rather than passive beneficiaries.
  • Changes in program design or implementation that results in the program better incorporating girls’ voices and meeting girls’ needs.
  • Monetary increase of program budget (existing or new) allocated toward the activities that will meet girls’ needs.
  • Increase in program buy-in and number of allies within the communities.

GirlSPARKS has supported teams in countries such as Uganda, Mali and Niger to identify and tailor programs to the specific needs of girls using Girl-Centered Design. GirlSPARKS’ Girl Centered Design methodology informed the Food For Peace’s Sawki program in creating safe space for 3,100 adolescent girls in agro pastoralist communities to reduce rates of child marriage and help girls break out of cycles of malnutrition and vulnerability.

Many development and humanitarian organisations recognise the importance of working with and engaging girls in their programmes, and gender justice is a priority for many donors. At the same time though, we see that there are still many assumptions made about girls, and their own voices, needs and aspirations are often not prioritised in programming. We want to change that, and to ensure that girls, especially the most marginalised girls, are intentionally reached, served, and engaged throughout program stages to break the cycle of inequalities.

Most of the things that we practice at GirlSPARKS resonate well with the GAGE framework. GAGE’s conceptual framework recognises that both adolescent girls’ capabilities and the change strategies aimed at supporting them are deeply dependent on the contexts in which they are situated. While our Girl-centred Design is a standardised approach, it’s not a one-size-fits-all and we’ve adapted it in many contexts that we work in while trying to not stray too far from the principles, and therefore we’re particularly keen to follow GAGE’s exploration on the dilemmas around converging girls’ experiences versus context specificities.

Especially aligned with our mandate are the research questions that GAGE is posing around programme effectiveness. As we design our curriculum to train practitioners to be more girl-centred, we realise that more evidence needs to be gathered in this respect, i.e. how do investments in girl-focused programmes must be delivered in order to see significant returns on investment, and how do we combine girl-centred approaches with more proven approaches such as cash transfer.

We believe that the study that is currently undertaken through GAGE will be instrumental in determining how adolescent programmes, particularly girl programmes, need to be delivered, as well as making the case on how girl-centred the whole field of international development should be. Going forward, we would like to see how GirlSPARKS can contribute in shaping the focus of the researches, collaborate with other consortium partners, and as a result of that, enrich our curriculum with stronger evidence base and reach more practitioners in the field.

If you would like to learn more about a Girl Centred Design approach you can sign up for GirlSPARKS online training course here. You can find out about other services, including in-person training workshops on the GirlSPARKS website here.