Having narrowly missed an airport fire and volcano during a fantastic trip to measure social impact in Indonesia, it’s good to be back and spread the good news about the W+ Standard, used to measure the impact of women’s empowerment in developing countries.
I spent a week in Indonesia helping two organisations – WOCAN (Women Organising for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management) and Hivos – measure the social impact of two biogas technology projects using the W+ Standard.
W+ focuses on women’s empowerment in six domains: time, income and assets, health, leadership, education and knowledge, and food security. Only last year I was invited to Nepal to measure the social impact of W+ and it was great to be asked to do so again.
At this point, I have to say that the results in Indonesia were both exciting and inspiring.
With WOCAN representative, Abidah Billah Setyowati, she and I (eventually) flew from Jakarta to Lombok, having been held up at the airport overnight due to a fire. We made our way to a small village called Bonjeruk in the Lombok Tengah district and met with 14 women who were using the biogas technology, where methane gas is able to be safely piped into their household after being produced from human and animal waste. The benefits of the biogas units to the women are plentiful; it relieves them of having to collect wood for fuel and cleaning repeatedly charred cooking utensils, while also being much safer to use than an open fire.
For three of the women to whom we spoke, the low-tech biogas units had been life changing, as the time it freed up was spent setting up their own micro-enterprises selling food. They talked to me about the fact that they hoped for a different life for their children and how they wanted their children’s aspirations to be higher. And with their grass roots businesses – selling cassava chips and oranges – they were creating the foundations for this to happen.
It’s what WOCAN continuously strives for. It aims to build the leadership of women in agriculture and natural resource management through an innovative approach to partnering with motivated, professional rural women. Its members provide skills in areas such as agriculture and natural resource management technologies, gender mainstreaming and negotiation to secure women’s equal access to and control of resources and benefits to improve the livelihoods of rural people.
WOCAN persuades governments, development agencies and investors to fund this change, but to do so, it needs a robust means of measuring the outcomes in a way that can be simply communicated – and that’s where I come in.
I was asked to visit Indonesia to verify the outputs and outcomes and related social value of the W+ project and having seen its impact first hand, I would encourage any organisation wishing to make CSR investments to consider buying W+ Units. In September, a team from W+ is flying to Liverpool from Bangkok. During this time, I will work with developing nations’ people to explore how allegedly developed nations may change the way money moves around the world, looking at how organisations can buy social that has profound international impact.
The latter part of the trip involved meetings with the local Hivos team in Lombok, which co-ordinates the installation of the units and trains families on how to build them. Not only does this give them valuable construction skills, but also the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ by helping other families in the village to build theirs, thus keeping costs down.
We were delighted to find out there’s now an estimated 3000 biogas units/families in Lombok and 4,000 in East Java and by the end of 2018, there are plans to have another 13,000 installed across Indonesia.
My final meeting was with the Hivos team in Jakarta where we discussed the growing social investment market in the country and our involvement with social investors back in the UK. Having recently helped broker connections that led to the unlocking of a £2m social investment in the UK ultimately, we hope to start brokering relationships between social fund managers and W+ projects. Purchasing W+ units is a fantastic way for private sector companies to advance their CSR agenda and support women in developing countries. We at The Connectives are keen to make introductions to WOCAN.
In the meantime, WOCAN is hoping to sell 100,000 W+ units by the end of the year and you can find out more at http://www.wplus.org/w-projects