The Women and Economic Development Consortium
The Women and Economic Development Consortium (WEDC) is an innovative grant mak-ing partnership founded in 1996. WEDC brought together two public foundations, a bank,three private foundations and a corporation. A list of the partners follows. Although the WEDC partners came from different sectors of the economy, with different man-dates and approaches, we shared a desire to support the development of new ways to help low-income women become more actively involved in the economy. We wanted to learn about howbest to do this work and to share our learning with practitioners in the field, other funders andpolicy makers. This, our second paper is part of fulfilling our commitment. WEDC grew out of the work done since 1991 by its Administrative Partner, Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF). Since 1991, CWF has been making one year EconomicDevelopment Grants of up to $15,000 to women’s community groups for micro-enterpriseprojects, including self-employment training, feasibility studies and cooperative businesses.CWF knew that in order to achieve significant progress and learning, the groups would needlarger grants, as well as the security afforded by multiyear commitments. As a relatively newfoundation without a large resource base, but with experience in strategic alliances, CWF decid-ed to recruit other funders to work in partnership and thereby provide a level of support thatnone of the partners could provide on their own.Many Community Economic Development initiatives do not have a well-developed genderanalysis, and women are often left out. By committing our funds over five years we could pro- vide critical support that was generally not available to women’s community groups for eco-nomic development work. Working in collaboration with our grantees, we would have theopportunity to learn how low-income women can achieve greater self-reliance and economicindependence, and could identify models and best practices to increase the capacity of women’scommunity groups to work with low-income women.In 1996 the partners began to meet regularly, and to consider the types of projects we wouldsupport. We decided to cast our net broadly and consider a range of approaches, includingcommunity business, worker co-operatives, training businesses and self-employment training.It was critical, however, that the projects and businesses be focussed on low-income women.This decision was reflected in the results of the First Grant Round, a diverse portfolio of 8 proj-ects with differing levels of expertise and needs.
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