ELAS first attracted the attention of the Avon Institute (Avon) through GIFE meetings, where ELAS repeatedly raised the question of why there was not more of a focus on women within the social investment space.
In 2009, Avon Institute invited Amalia Fischer, then the Executive Director of ELAS, to speak at the company about the Fund’s work. Avon was particularly interested in learning about ELAS’ projects to address violence against women, one of the core issues of interest to Avon and many of the women who make up its customer base and sales force. Following this meeting, Avon was asked to spend a full day together with the entire ELAS staff. During the workshop, Avon and ELAS developed a deeper understanding of each other’s work, and worked together to develop a clear agenda for partnership that addressed both organizations’ interests and goals.
UN Women subsequently partnered with Avon to pilot a program through ELAS that focused on domestic violence. At the end of the project, Avon attended the evaluation and learned about the critical role of ELAS in organizing and implementing the program. In particular, Avon saw how ELAS was able to re-grant funds directly to grassroots women’s organizations, provide capacity building to those organizations, and monitor and report on their initiatives, ensuring greater impact and transparency of the entire program.
One result of this project was the co-founding of a new fund in 2014 called Speak Out Loud Without Fear, funded by Avon and co-branded by both organizations. Avon and ELAS designed the launch, and completed all supporting communications and strategy together. As part of this partnership, ELAS ran a competitive process to award grants to projects designed by grassroots women’s organizations that utilized innovative approaches to address the issue of domestic violence.
One project aimed to create income-generating opportunities for women by professionalizing activities (raising poultry, for example) that they already performed. As a supplement to this economic empowerment work, the project also included workshops on how to reduce gender violence. Another project focused on integrating information on domestic violence prevention into programs that used soccer (football) as a vehicle for promoting social change. A third project funded a rock festival—organized entirely by women—that highlighted themes related to women’s rights and domestic violence prevention. In total, the Speak Out Loud Without Fear fund awarded grants to 31 women’s organizations. ELAS maintained a small percentage of the funding to provide communication training, assistance with institutional development and other forms of capacity building to grantees.
For Avon: Partnering with ELAS provided Avon with a foundation of credibility and expertise on gender issues in local communities to create an effective funding strategy. Through the collaboration, Avon was able to support locally-owned and driven solutions for deeper and more lasting change. In addition, the co-branding of the project directly connected Avon’s brand with impactful, innovative work in Brazil to end domestic violence – work that was visible to stakeholders in local, national, and international communities.
For ELAS: The scale of the partnership enabled ELAS to deliver innovative capacity building activities for grantee organizations, including trainings on using new technologies and media, and workshops on more effective storytelling. ELAS also supported cross-organizational learning among the 31 grantees, including opportunities to share strategies, review each other’s projects, and work collectively on key challenges in advancing their work - the depth of exchange between grantees ensured long-term growth and learning for greater impact.