From Silos to Synergy: Learning from Politically Informed, Gender Aware Programs

Derbyshire Helen, Orlanda Siow, Sam Gibson, David Hudson, Chris Roche

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper


This paper draws together reflections, approaches and practical lessons from 151 development programs that are,
in various ways, seeking both to be gender aware and to understand and engage with power and politics. It aims to
provide food for thought for donor organisations and development programs.
Gender aware programming has been on the development agenda for at least a generation. Most donor organisations
have policy commitments to gender equality and to women’s and girls’ rights, and development programs are
commonly tasked with ‘mainstreaming’ this into their objectives and activities. Increasingly, development programs are
additionally required to be both politically informed and adaptive, responding to recent influential work on ‘thinking
and working politically’, ‘doing development differently’ and adaptive programming. The thinking behind these recent
approaches has been justifiably criticised for being somewhat gender-blind. However, practice is outstripping analysis
in bringing gender awareness and politically informed approaches together.
Gender aware programming and politically informed ways of working both seek to understand, engage with and
ultimately reform unequal power dynamics to bring about change—and both approaches are challenging to implement
effectively. Too often, targets and strategies are top-down, donor-driven and reliant on external technical experts,
limiting both local ownership and impact. There is a great deal to be gained from these two approaches coming
together—mutual learning, better and deeper analysis, greatly strengthened practice and improved results.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBirmingham
PublisherDevelopmental Leadership Program, University of Birmingham
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


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