The With and For Girls Collective

The With and For Girls Collective is a group of eight organisations united by a common belief that girls are agents of change. EMpower, Mama Cash, NoVo Foundation, Plan UK, The Global Fund for Children, Nike Foundation, The Malala Fund and Stars Foundation – the Collective’s convening partner – have committed a combined $1million to co-create a global awards initiative to find and fund locally-led organisations working with and for girls.
The Collective has planted the voices of girls at the heart of the award selection process; girls make up the final-stage panels that select the award winners.
Winning organisations receive up to $50,000 each of unrestricted funding as well as capacity-building and profile raising support.
The Collective demonstrates that donors can fund in a meaningful way, so that more grassroots girl-led organisations receive the flexible funding they so desperately need.


The Collective set out to bring donors together to address a single funding priority by building an alliance of girl-rights supporters determined to fund at the front line.
We believe that girl-led and girl-centred organisations are best placed to respond to issues facing girls within their communities.
Promoting the value of flexible funding was another objective, as it allows organisations to invest in core costs and respond quickly to changing circumstances on the ground.
Finally, the Collective wanted to promote the voices of girls in development initiatives. Girls are vital agents of change but are rarely represented. Their voices are present throughout the awards process.


We achieved our $1million fundraising target within months. We collaboratively designed a referral and assessment process to select the winners and the tools to manage and support them eg. needs assessments, reporting frameworks etc. We’ve also shared the responsibility of award management.
We selected the winners using girl-led judging panels and used their feedback to develop the ‘With and For Girls’ brand. In November we awarded 20 winners, each demonstrating strengths in engaging girls in governance, programme design and decision-making to ensure that their work really is girl-led.
The Collective partners have begun taking time to consider jointly how much more can be achieved by building on the successes to date. We’re also talking to more funders who are exploring additional support for award winners.
The importance of providing flexible funding to locally-led organisations has been raised through a targeted media campaign, with articles in the Guardian, Alliance & Grantcraft.


We offer unrestricted funding, so we don’t determine the outcomes that we want from the funding we offer, the winners do. We fund organisations, not projects. And we fund directly, not through intermediaries.
The final stage application process was conducted through girl-led judging panels, giving girls decision-making power over the choice of winners. Girl-led interview panels took place in Mumbai, London, Mexico City, Dar es Salaam and Cairo. The inclusion of girls on the panel is in line with the Collective's strong belief in girl participation. Each panel selected four winners for its region.
Lastly, this collaboration has brought different donors together, many of whom have never worked funded this way before.


This Collective demonstrates the value of funders coming together to address a single issue. Each funder has contributed no more than $200,000 which together has leveraged an additional $800k for locally-led girls groups.
In 2015 this funded 20 organisations, working with close to 40,000 people across 19 countries.
For many funders it has provided a way to fund in countries they wouldn’t have been able to, and to fund projects outside of their usual remit. The process has reduced the risk of funding flexibly, and most of the funding partners have done this for the first time. Working together has enabled us to build interest, and therefore advocacy power. Collaborating has allowed us to leverage not just our funding amounts and our respective areas of expertise, but our profiles too, enabling us to put the needs of girls funding on the map.


Despite the critical role that women and girls play in sustainable development, the World Bank estimates that less than 2 cents of every $1 spent on international aid is directed towards adolescent girls.
It is also estimated that only about 1% of all official aid, and an even smaller portion of humanitarian assistance, goes directly to the global south.
In response to this, the Collective aims to showcase that directly funding girl-led organisations can be done. This has involved challenging norms and re-thinking traditional funding structures to design a method that is both responsive as well as workable for the eight donors involved. As a result funding partners have had to take risks and put their trust in the awards process in order to stay true to the core values of the Collective. This has sometimes meant difficult conversations and compromises have been made in order to push ahead the Collectives' shared objectives.


Our bigger challenges included different opinions on what meaningful participation means, different ways of assessing organisations, and diverse approaches to addressing development challenges.
As eight separate organisations, with our own priorities and ways of working, establishing a partnership that worked for all funders has not been easy. It proved hardest to agree on advocacy communications and there was a risk of going for the lowest common denominator. Every partner had to make compromises.
Everyday challenges included differences in UK vs US vs EU laws in grant-giving, logistics of connection across time zones, and realisation that the more partners you have, the more layers of review there are before agreement can be reached.


Our biggest learning has been in managing the expectations of the funding partners, accepting different levels of involvement and realising that’s okay as long as they are well communicated.
Partners have benefited in different ways from the Collective. At Stars Foundation we were able to successfully trial youth participation in an award process, suggested by partner Plan UK based on their expertise in youth-led development. For other partners, the Collective has presented the opportunity to test flexible funding as a new way of giving, or in the case of Stars, funding in a new country.
We have learnt from each other’s expertise. Stars has a track record in delivering awards processes', EMpower in capacity building, Plan UK in youth participation and so on. Working Groups were set up for branding, M&E and capacity building to facilitate a fluid exchange of knowledge and learning across organisations.




Brave philanthropy is about taking risks, doing something differently, and swimming against the tide. With the space for civil society shrinking in so many countries, and southern NGO's being relegated to a sub-contracting role in many instances, it’s essential to support them in ways that allow them to flourish in spite of the challenging environment they face. Showcasing voices less heard within organisations serves to remind us where the power for change in international development lies. When funders come together to try something new that requires them to give up some of their priorities in favour of the Collective’s, it forces donors to reflect, question and to change. In doing so, they help change the landscape for the better.


United Kingdom