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Applying a gender impact assessment to a Community Grants Policy

Name of initiative: Community Grants Policy

Policy/program/service: Policy (guiding program implementation)

New or up for review: Up for review

Sector: Local government

This case study has been drawn from real examples, however the narrative is fictional.


Asha and her team manage the Community Grants Program at a metropolitan local council. This program provides funding to various local community groups and organisations each year.

The Community Grants Policy is the overarching document that guides who is eligible for community grants, how council promotes grants, and how applications are assessed and awarded. While the existing policy has been in place for almost a decade, it is currently up for review.

As part of this policy review, Asha and her team must complete a gender impact assessment (GIA). As the lead in her team, Asha is accountable for the GIA but will not complete the whole process alone. Asha’s organisation recommends that teams work together on their GIA as follows:

  • use the 4 steps in the Commission's GIA toolkit and templates as a guide
  • invite one of the organisation’s trained ‘GIA champions’ to support the team through the GIA process
  • brainstorm critical issues and assumptions in a workshop with all team members, plus a GIA champion where possible (Step 1)
  • dedicate time for further research and consultation to inform options for policy amendments (Step 2)
  • document options for policy change and discuss the risks and benefits of each option in a workshop with all team members (Step 3)
  • document final recommendations for policy change and submit them for approval by a member of the Executive Management team (Step 4)
  • file GIA documentation to support legislated GIA progress reports every 2 years.

Step 1: Define the issues and challenge assumptions

  • Asha and her team respond to the questions in GIA Template 1 in a 60-minute ‘brainstorming’ workshop
  • A GIA champion attends this workshop to help guide team discussion
  • Before the workshop each team member watches the Commission’s short case study video. This video explains the GIA process step-by-step.

Defining the issues

The group agrees that the Community Grants Policy should provide a clear and consistent guide for allocating and managing funding under the Community Grants Program.

The Community Grants Program should then deliver financial support to community groups and organisations to carry out programs, projects and activities that benefit the local community.

The team agrees that the intention of both the Policy and the Program is to support all members of the community. They note that they have never viewed this work through a gender lens. They are unsure if the policy or program privileges, prioritises, or even disadvantages or excludes different groups of women, men and gender diverse community members.

Challenging assumptions

The team then brainstorm responses to the five guiding questions in GIA Template 1.

  • The team agrees that the volunteer Community Assessment Panel who review grant applications are key decision-makers. They decide they could have included members of the Community Assessment Panel in this GIA process, as well as previous grant recipients. The team agrees they will need to consult with these stakeholders to better understand their experience of Community Grants Policy and procedures.

  • The team agrees that different community members might ‘access’ the community grants program differently. As a team, they work to connect with potential grant applicants by distributing promotional material, running public information sessions, and providing individual pre-application briefings.

    The team agrees the grants program responds to identified needs in the community, in line with the council plan. They don't believe that 'access' to community grants has ever been considered through a gender lens. They do not currently collect gender or demographic data on community inquiries, attendance at information sessions, or grant submissions.

    In the application process, they also do not ask questions about the gender of target communities or if applicants have considered gender in the design of projects. Some team members worry that adding more questions to the application process could also disadvantage some applicants or turn some applicants away.

  • The team agrees that all grant applicants want to deliver projects which benefit the community. They agree that some applicants need targeted support to submit applications and write funding reports. Others might need targeted promotion and support to see themselves as potential grant applicants.

    The GIA champion also raised the idea that there might be some gender stereotypes associated with different funding streams. These might inform how the Assessment Panel reviews funding applications. The team will need to gather more information to understand how gender bias might influence the grant-making process.

  • The team finds this question one of the most difficult to answer. They agree that literacy skills, socio-economic status, culture or IT skills might influence whether community members apply for the grants program.

    Their GIA champion discusses how other social roles and responsibilities might influence people’s access to Community Grants. For example, people with caring responsibilities, those experiencing financial difficulties, people with low literacy, or people experiencing social isolation might experience particular barriers.

    The team might need to think about things like representation in promotional materials, scheduling of information sessions, appropriate and accessible facilities, childcare options, transport options to program events, or translated materials if they want to support different women, men and gender diverse community members to feel welcome and included.

  • The team agrees that the 'default' audience for the community grants program is a community member who would feel comfortable and confident to apply in English, have the time and resources to attend information sessions, have the literacy and IT skills to access online application forms, feel represented in promotional materials and information sessions.

    They brainstorm some initial ideas about how they could engage all community members beyond this ‘default’ audience. Suggestions include:

    • reviewing the language and accessibility of the grant application process
    • reviewing the promotional collateral to ensure imagery and project examples are representative of intersectional gender diversity in the community
    • engaging existing grants recipients in delivering information sessions or pre-application briefings
    • offering different audio, visual and written options for the submission of grant applications
    • providing training and resources that address IT and English literacy needs.

Broadening the issues with a gendered lens

After completing Step 1, the team has a list of questions to investigate further. They will answer some questions through desktop research and others through consultation with key stakeholders. Questions include:

  • What do we know about the state and nature of intersectional gender inequality in our community of potential grant applicants?
  • How might this inequality privilege, disadvantage or exclude women, men and gender diverse people in our community?
  • What role does gender play in influencing different aspects of grant promotion and community engagement processes?
  • How might gender bias influence community grant-making?
  • What do we know about the experiences of the Community Assessment Panel as critical decision-makers?
  • What do we know about the gender split of grant applicants? What groups are over-represented and what groups are under-represented? Who is and isn't represented at the application and selection stages, and why might this be the case?
  • How can we better understand the gender outcomes of grants and the benefits to different genders? Overall, who is over-represented and under-represented as a beneficiary of grant funding? Who is excluded?

Step 2: Understand the policy context

  • Asha and her team follow the process in GIA Template 2 to address some of the knowledge gaps they identified in GIA Step 1
  • They draw on internal data, desktop research and stakeholder consultation to better understand how the community grants program might privilege, disadvantage, or exclude women, men and gender diverse community members
  • They aim to complete this work over a few weeks, using it to inform and develop options for recommended policy/program amendments.

Investigating internal data

Asha and her team have limited internal data on the gender of grant applicants and the gender of participants at information sessions. They also don’t currently collect data about the gender of grant beneficiaries. This limits their ability to evaluate program access and benefits by gender.

Instead, they review various council data and collate key statistics about council communities and the different experiences of women, men, and gender diverse community members. They look at a range of documents, including:

  • the Council Plan
  • the Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plan
  • gender-disaggregated data from the consultation processes which informed these plans
  • previous project and program reports from the community grants team
  • available data from their grants management software.

Data, statistics and desktop research

Team members also complete independent research using a range of external sources. They refer to the Commission’s data sources for conducting a gender impact assessment page when they begin this external research

They consult some of the following publicly available sources to better understand the state and nature of gender inequality in the community:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Victorian Women’s Health Atlas
  • HILDA Survey Data.

The team also turns to verified websites, open-source journal articles and research papers to investigate a range of topics, including:

  • gender neutrality in grant-making
  • unconscious bias in application processes
  • gender equality in promotional advertising and communications.

Stakeholder consultation

The team also recognises the value of learning from the experiences of local community members as key decision-makers in the future direction of community grants policy and programming.

Asha speaks with representatives of some of the following groups:

  • past Community Assessment Panel members
  • community representatives involved in engagement processes informing the current Council Plan
  • current grant recipients
  • local support services, networks and community groups that currently support and distribute promotional material about grants.

Evidence collected by Asha and her team

The team documents a range of insights into the different experiences of women, men and gender diverse community members. These insights will form the evidence base for possible options for policy and programming improvements. Future data collection improvements will also help them to take a continuous improvement approach to policy review.

Step 3: Evaluate the options

  • Based on the evidence gathered, Asha uses GIA Template 3 to document 2 possible options for policy review.
  • She brings the team back together for a 60-min session to discuss these options and consider any gendered risks and benefits.
  • The team also discuss practical resourcing and capacity implications for their preferred option.
  • Asha and the team discuss the following:

    Gendered benefits of continuing with existing programming

    • the existing policy and program are open to people of all genders in the community (although it does not take steps to ensure people of all genders can access and engage with different aspects of programming).

    Gendered risks of continuing with existing programming

    • the existing policy and program are not adequately designed to address the perspectives and priorities of diverse people of different genders – intersectional gender equality is not an established policy priority or principle that guides grants promotion, applications and assessments
    • without targeted changes, the ‘voice’ of the program (i.e., program promotions and engagement of decision-makers) may not be representative of the diversity of the community
    • there may be limited engagement from community members, especially women, who are outside the program’s existing ‘default’ audience (i.e., those with IT skills, literacy skills, socio-economic status, language skills, time and resources to attend sessions)
    • without targeted changes, program ‘access’ and ‘benefits’ (i.e., applicant groups and target groups for communities) may continue to perpetuate intersectional gender inequality, reinforcing unbalanced norms, roles and relations.

    The overall impact of continuing with existing programming

    The team agree that continuing with option one would see a negative gender impact.

  • Based on research completed, Asha believes there are several actions the team can take to ensure the Community Grants Policy better supports community members of all genders and also promotes gender equality. She presents these to the group:

    • amend policy wording to establish intersectional gender equality as a guiding principle in the Community Grants Policy and across Community Grants Policy Guiding Documents, including application guidelines, assessment panel terms of reference, application and assessment forms and reporting forms
    • amend the Community Grant Policy to include a commitment to training for staff and assessment panel members to address the effects of unconscious bias in grants review processes
    • integrate a commitment to improved data collection to support gender-disaggregated monitoring and evaluation of grant applications and delivery
    • review program promotion materials and community engagement processes to include statements of commitment on the grants, website, in promotional collateral, information sessions and pre-application briefings.

    Asha and the team discuss the following concerning this option:

    Gendered risks of this option

    • community backlash around ‘gender’ as a priority. For example, some members of the community believing that women and gender diverse people may be receiving unfair treatment
    • concerns from current grants recipients around the burden of application and reporting processes to include gender lens.

    The team agrees that while these risks are genuine, there are things they can put in place to address these risks.

    Gendered benefits of this option

    • having a statement of commitment in the policy creates an ‘authorising environment’ for building intersectional gender equality in the distribution of community grants funding
    • process changes ‘operationalise’ this commitment, ensuring grants program practices welcome and include voices of diverse groups of women, men, and gender diverse at all stages
    • increases the chances of funding going to projects and programs that significantly contribute to positively transforming gender norms
    • challenges existing unconscious gender bias
    • encourages discussion amongst the grant community around gender issues
    • improves the selection of Community Assessment Panel members that are representative of the community demographics gender split
    • improves data collection over time to inform future review processes and decisions around changing funding streams over time.

    The overall impact of this option

    The team rate the overall gender impact of this option as positive.

Step 4: Finalise recommendations

  • Asha documents specific recommendations in GIA Template 4.
  • She shares her completed GIA template with an organisational GIA champion for peer review and feedback.
  • She then submits the completed GIA template to a member of her Executive Management team for sign-off.

Asha formally recommends that the organisation proceed with Option 2. She documents her specific recommendations as follows:

  • Update the Community Grants Policy to include the following:
    • statement of commitment to gender equality as a guiding principle
    • commitment to unconscious bias training for team members and volunteers involved in assessing grants.
  • Update Community Grants Policy Guiding Documents to include the following:
    • statement of commitment to gender equality in Community Grants Application Guidelines
    • statement of commitment to gender equality in Assessment Panel Terms of Reference and commitment
    • additional questions around gender breakdown of intended target communities in Application and Assessment Forms
    • additional questions around gender breakdown of reported outcomes in reporting forms.
  • Review Community Grants Application Guidelines and promotional materials with an intersectional gender lens, using the evidence they have gathered to make necessary improvements
  • Review end-to-end application process with an intersectional gender lens and make necessary improvements (for example, scheduling and location of information sessions, modes of delivery, involvement of diverse facilitators, provision of in-language information materials)
  • Develop a survey to assess the experiences of community assessment panel members and grant applicants.

Asha shares her completed GIA Template with a GIA champion for peer review. She then submits the GIA template to an executive management team member for sign-off.

Preparing for progress reporting to the Commission

  • Asha files the completed GIA template as per instructions provided by her GIA champion.
  • This GIA template will inform progress reports for the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector.
  • To prepare for progress reporting, Asha will also need to upload a short summary of actions taken as a result of this GIA.

Every 2 years, Asha’s organisation must submit progress reports to the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector. These reports must include the following:

  • detail of the policies, programs and services that were subject to a GIA
  • the actions taken as a result of the GIA.

All of Asha's recommendations were approved, and the team is proud of their work to promote gender equality. Asha files her approved GIA template in a central shared drive for use in progress reporting. Other teams may also access this template for reference when completing their GIAs.

Summary of actions taken:

  • the new Community Grants Policy will include intersectional gender equality as a guiding principle
  • previous grants recipients will be involved in the delivery of information sessions
  • the grant application form will include a new question about how proposed projects target women, men and gender diverse community members
  • the Community Assessment Panel team will participate in a practical training session on unconscious bias with an intersectional gender lens
  • Gender requirements will be considered as part of scoping for new grants management software.

Reviewed 22 June 2023