Shifting social norms in the economy at scale

Practitioner Learning Group (PLG): Call for applications

Are you working on shifting social norms in the economy for promoting sustained women’s economic empowerment (WEE)?
Are you facing challenges on how to change social norms at scale?
Interested in teaming up with other experts facing similar challenges?

Then, this initiative is for you!

Social norms in the economy are about gender norms and roles (e.g., asset ownership, or violence against women), as well as ‘economic norms,’ such as what is considered work, versus leisure, and the perceived skill and value placed on different economic activities. Norms that lead to gendered occupational segregation, and accord those jobs typically done by men with a higher social value, maintain the gender pay gap and skew prices for products and services considered “female” versus those that are “male.” These norms shape and distort markets and economic policy by influencing cost-benefit analyses and investment decisions. For example, where norms privilege productivity of market labour over unpaid and care labour, this can lead to financial policies that exclude household water systems and prioritise irrigation systems, with negative implications for investment in women’s work, productivity of labour, and empowerment.

Interventions for women to be economically empowered must be complemented by broader, integrated strategies to address social norms in the economy. Such norms limit women's choice of economic activities, participation in the paid economy and the benefits they gain.

Programmes may promote women within existing market systems, but fail to achieve transformational change because they do not challenge the social norms in the economy that systematically discriminate against women in the selected markets.

As a result, market-based programmes increasingly aim to design interventions for WEE that address social norms in the economy. This means that there are many practitioners working on shifting social norms, and it is highly probable that someone else is facing similar challenges to those that you are facing. However, time pressure, lack of resources and other factors can force us to work in isolation when it matters the most: when we must make decisions on what to do here and now.

Project teams have an important wealth of experience and knowledge but lack of communication with other teams during critical moments of the project means missed opportunities to:

  • explore alternative practices
  • broaden the team’s knowledge base (use new knowledge that other teams may have)
  • challenge each other’s assumptions
  • build logistic and budgetary synergies
  • learn through contrast of contexts and strategies
  • build professional connections

This initiative, coordinated by Oxfam's Knowledge Hub on WEE in Agriculture and the SEEP Network, in collaboration with BEAM Exchange, is designed to help you seize these opportunities in a cost-effective way. It will identify other experts who are working on issues that matter to you, will convene and facilitate meetings, find external experts when needed, document the collaboration process, and raise the profile of your achievements.

In other words, it does the not-so-exciting things so you can focus on what you really love: overcoming important challenges, innovating with other top-class experts and promoting sustained WEE through more effective markets development programmes.

Timeline and activities, including time commitments

The contributions from each organisation will depend on different variables, such as type and scope of the challenges, geographic location of the PLG members, resources available by each team, etc. However, it is expected that each participant will invest time to prepare and participate in the process as shown below.

Timeline and activities: March-May 2017: Interviews with selected participants, and 3 online meetings (Skype, webinar, video conference, etc.)

Time commitment: 4-5 days of time during this period to prepare for and participate in monthly virtual meetings, and contribute to the guide on social norms that synthesises the learning from the PLG process (the bulk of the work related to the production of the case study will be done by the facilitator of the PLGs).

We hope that many of the PLG participants will be able to participate in the upcoming WEE Global Learning Forum in Bangkok, May 23-25. If you are able to attend this Forum, we estimate an additional 4 days to prepare for and participate in the 3-day forum where you would also have the opportunity to share results of the PLG process, and engage with others on your core challenge(s). Participation in this Forum is not compulsory.

Note: SEEP will provide complimentary registration for PLG participants who are able to attend. Participants will need to cover their own cost of travel to participate in the Forum.

How can you apply?

Easy! Just share with us a short description of your work on shifting social norms for WEE, and your most critical challenge(s) related, and some contact details for us to get back in touch with you.


You may download the application form in a Word document here,
but responses must be submitted via this form for consideration.

What types of challenges is the PLG looking for?

We are interested in challenges that relate to how to address social norms in the economy at scale. Questions that we will ask you to respond in your application are:

  • What are the social norms in the economy that you are trying to shift?
  • What methodologies are you using to identify the negative norms to change, and the positive norms to promote?
  • Please provide a couple of specific examples of norms that you’ve identified.
  • What strategies and interventions have you used to address social norms?
  • What population are you reaching currently?
  • For your programme, what does norm change at scale mean?
  • What mechanisms are you using to spread or leverage change?
  • What methodologies are you using to monitor change in norms over time?
  • What are the top three core challenges that your program is facing in your efforts to shift social norms at scale?

We are open to any type of challenges - as long as they are related to shifting social norms within market development programmes to achieve sustained WEE. Do not hold back because you think your challenge is not interesting enough or you have not articulated it well.

Who can submit applications and participate?

You can submit an application on behalf of a project team if:

  • Your challenge is linked to a women’s finance or livelihoods programme, organising women in economic activities or advocacy around WEE (no standalone research programmes)
  • Your ideas are backed by the rest of your colleagues in the project team

You can be part of a Practitioner Learning Group if:

  • You will be directly involved (to the best of your knowledge in the moment you submit your application) in the implementation of ideas that may come out of the Group.
  • You can invest some time in the activities of the PLG and participate with a spirit of collaboration, respect, creativity, and openness (sharing knowledge within and outside of the team) – See time requirements above.
  • You can mobilise your team around the findings and lessons learned from the PLG.

What will happen after we receive your application?

We will analyse the responses we get and select a group of up to 7 people from different organisations who are facing similar challenges. We will take into account things like type of challenge, type of programme, sector/subsector, target populations, geographic location, strategic value for the broader market development field, etc.

We will let you know if you have been selected to be a part of a PLG and the details of the other teams that will be part of your group. Through a facilitated process, the group will agree on the scope of the challenge(s), the strategies to overcome it, the ways in which it will interact, etc. Note that even if you are not selected, your application will be valuable for informing the PLG process, and we will keep you informed of future opportunities to engage with others on addressing social norms.

The PLG will have a facilitator to support its work with their work plan, logistics, access to technical assistance, documentation of the process, in-person and virtual meetings, and communication with external audiences.

We hope that many PLG participants will be able to meet face-to-face at the WEE Global Learning Forum hosted by SEEP on May 23-25 in Bangkok, which will contribute to trust-building, networking, local visibility and influence, and access to local/regional experts.

I am a senior manager – why should I let my team participate?

Becoming part of the PLG will give your team a unique opportunity to further increase their knowledge, build their capacity and skills and expand their professional networks.

If your project involves addressing social norms, your team is probably facing critical challenges in this precise moment that they have to address anyway. This initiative is a unique opportunity for a team to overcome challenges in collaboration with experienced practitioners from other projects and top-class external experts with a relatively small contribution in time. This collaboration will take place through structured, time-bound and facilitated interactions, such as Skype conferences, webinars, and one in-person meeting (see section above for more details on expected contributions from your team).

A facilitator -paid for by this initiative- will document the discussions, synthesise the materials, learning and innovation journey of the PLGs and do the heavy lifting of producing a guide on social norms that synthesises the learning from the PLG process will be a valuable resource for your own and other organisations and donors. The guide will be widely publicised through the SEEP Network, Oxfam and BEAM Exchange channels and partners.