Planning and Reporting

Evaluation of the Women's Program

Volume I - Final Report

2.0 Program profile

This section of the report provides a detailed profile of the WP, including its mandate and objectives, components, and performance measurement strategy.

2.1 Overview

In its 1970 report, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women acknowledged the special role played by voluntary organizations providing services in their communities. Noting that some federal departments were providing funding to associations, the Commission called on the government to increase financial support to women's associations engaged in projects of public interest, and voluntary associations working in fields of particular concern to women. In response, the WP was created in 1973 within the Department of the Secretary of State.

In 1976, the Government of Canada established SWC as the federal agency "to coordinate policy in respect to the Status of Women and administer related programs."1 SWC's overall goal is to promote gender equality and the full participation of women in the economic, social, cultural, and political life of the country. The organization's current areas of focus are to improve women's economic autonomy and well-being; to eliminate systemic violence against women and children; and to advance women's human rights. Under the responsibility of the Minister for Status of Women, SWC is headed by the Coordinator for the Status of Women and is comprised of seven directorates, including the WP.

The WP was transferred to SWC in 1995 with the intention of providing for "a single access point for Canadians to programs promoting women's equality."2 The WP is currently the largest of SWC's directorates. The WP has a decentralized structure and is delivered via a national office and five regional offices: Atlantic, Quebec/Nunavut, Ontario, Prairies/Northwest Territories, British Columbia/Yukon, and National. There are currently 16 points of service across the country. Refer to Appendix A for the organizational chart of the WP.

2.2 Mandate and objectives

The mandate of the WP is "to support action by women's organizations and other partners seeking to advance equality for women by addressing women's economic, social, political and legal situation." The Program is further framed by the objectives, guiding principles, and areas of focus enumerated in Table 1.

Table 1: Objectives, guiding principles, and areas of focus of the Women's Program

  1. To promote policies and programs within key institutions which take account of gender implications, the diversity of women's perspectives and enable women to take part in decision-making processes.

  2. To facilitate the involvement of women's organizations in the public policy process.

  3. To increase public understanding in order to encourage action on women's equality issues.

  4. To enhance the effectiveness of actions undertaken by women's organizations to improve the situation of women.
Guiding principles
  1. To involve those most directly affected by the problems in identifying solutions.

  2. To recognize the interconnectedness of women's equality issues.

  3. To acknowledge the diversity of women and their experiences.

  4. To understand the systemic nature of women's inequality.
Areas of focus
  1. Eliminating systemic violence against women and the girl-child

  2. Improving women's economic status

  3. Achieving social justice
Social change approach

The WP funds initiatives that promote social change through citizen participation. The Program supports collective efforts toward women's equality through a strategic approach to social development that is guided by the values of the WP and emphasizes the following elements:

  • The Program maintains an ongoing dialogue with groups which is open, respectful, informed, sustained, and welcomes a range of viewpoints.

  • Those women most affected by the issues are central to defining the problem and the need for change, and developing the solutions.

  • The social change landscape is dynamic, with players, effective strategies and issues in continual change. Individual women's groups need information and support to connect with others when developing strategies that will have an impact in that changing environment. The Program can assist, facilitate and accompany the group, as appropriate, in this process of reflection and analysis.

  • With women's organizations, the WP plays a role in recognizing issues and opportunities for collective action. Through a process of dialogue, exploration and the contribution of expertise from the groups and from the WP, it is possible to identify the issues, strategies and outcomes where they can work together.

  • The Program has a range of resources it can make available to groups, including ideas and suggestions, tools and materials, connections to other groups, connections to other funders, and funding. Not all of these resources will be appropriate for every group the Program works with.

  • It is important to support a wide range of groups and strategies working for change. Not all strategies or groups supported will reach their original objective as the process of change is not necessarily sequential and linear.

  • The Program encourages and supports connection and collaboration among groups who are working for change, learning within and among groups, and making adjustments to strategies as needed to make progress towards outcomes.

  • The Program works with existing women's groups to support them to adopt increasingly effective strategies, with new or emerging women's organizations seeking change, and with organizations which the Program may not have historically funded but which offer effective avenues for policy and institutional change for women's equality.

  • The Program invests in exploratory, developmental or experimental approaches, in order to help identify effective new strategies.
Women's Program Management Decision, December 16, 2004
Status of Women Canada
2.3 Program components

The WP consists of two components: technical assistance and financial assistance.

2.3.1 Technical assistance

Through the technical assistance component, the WP provides various forms of non-financial assistance to women's groups and other equality-seeking organizations. Examples include assistance with developing proposals for WP funding, developing action strategies, resolving operational concerns, and reporting on the status of funded initiatives, as well as referrals to other sources of funding and opportunities to network and partner with other organizations. Other forms of technical assistance are also available to governmental and non-funded non-governmental organizations, such as sharing information about key women's groups and other equality-seeking organizations working on similar issues.

2.3.2 Financial assistance

The WP also provides financial assistance in the form of grants and contributions. Prior to 1998, financial assistance was available in two forms: program (or core) funding and project funding. In 1996, the WP held consultations with women's groups and other equality-seeking organizations. During these consultations, these organizations emphasized the importance of WP funding for their efforts to advance women's equality and recommended, among other things, the continuation of program funding and an increase in the Program's overall budget.3 However, following these consultations, the WP implemented several changes to its funding mechanisms in 1998.

  • Initiative funding replaced project and program funding - Initiative funding was intended to make the WP more equitable, flexible, and accountable. It supports "change-oriented strategies addressing one or more of the Women's Program objectives and areas of focus, which occur within a specified time period and which have clearly articulated plans to achieve results."4

  • Funding for initiatives up to 18 months in duration was made available - Prior to 1998, project funding had been available for up to 12 months only.

  • Multi-year funding was made available - Multi-year funding supports initiatives focusing on institutional or public policy change that are up to three years in duration. Prior to 1998, multi-year funding was not available.

Also in 1998, the WP made the guidelines for assessing applications available to potential applicants.

Women's groups and other non-profit voluntary organizations committed to equality for women in Canadian society are eligible for funding from the WP, provided that they demonstrate that:

  • Their principles, objectives, and activities support the attainment of women's equality as defined in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (UNCEDAW), the Beijing Plan of Action, the AGE, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  • They operate democratically or on an otherwise participatory basis.

  • The results of the funded initiative will be accessible to other organizations and the public.

  • The initiative falls within the mandate of the WP and addresses one or more of its objectives and areas of focus.

  • The initiative involves women who are affected in all aspects.

  • They have identified other sources of financial or in-kind support.5

However, only women's groups can be funded under objectives #2 and #4 (see Table 1).

Organizations seeking multi-year funding must also demonstrate their experience and capacity related to planning and implementing long-term initiatives, and address the institutional or policy change objectives of the WP.

The WP does not fund initiatives that provide direct social or health services; are emotional, spiritual, personal or professional development; or have already taken place or are taking place outside of Canada. Funding cannot exceed $2 million per grant or contribution and does not cover the total costs of a given initiative. Eligible costs include salaries, professional fees, facilities, supplies, travel within Canada and publicity, and exclude capital expenditures, expenses incurred before the funding decision is made, and travel or other expenses incurred outside of Canada.6

Program Officers distribute a variety of "tip sheets" and provide information sessions for organizations regarding the application process, the design of outcome-based initiatives, and the development of a budget.7 Officers can assist directly in the preparation of applications and proposals, for example, by assisting organizations to focus their initiatives and to identify objectives and expected outcomes. Once an application is deemed complete, the approval process is usually completed within 12 weeks. A portion of the funds is paid at the time of the approval, while the remainder is linked to deliverables over the course of the initiative, including but not limited to the interim and final reports.

2.4 Funding

With approximately $14 million in annual spending and 50 FTEs,8 the WP represents roughly 58% of SWC's spending and 38% of its staff (full-time equivalent basis).9 In 2003-2004, the WP funded 159 initiatives, spending roughly $11 million on grants and contributions,10 $2.8 million on salaries and $562,000 on overhead and management costs.11 The amount of individual grants varied widely, from $1,600 to $339,049. Total grant and contribution funding for the WP fluctuated from $10.2 million in 2001-2002 (funded 175 initiatives), increasing to $12.2 million in 2002-2003 (funded 178 initiatives) and falling back to $11 million in 2003-2004 - the last year for which detailed information is available. The grant and contribution budget is allocated to regions and the national office, which then make funding recommendations based on their strategic plan and public assessment guidelines. All funding recommendations must be approved by the Minister for the Status of Women.

2.5 AGE funding

In 2000, the Government of Canada implemented the five-year Agenda for Gender Equality (AGE) initiative, whose objectives are to accelerate the implementation of gender-based analysis in public policy decision-making; to engage Canadians in the policy process; to meet Canada's international and treaty obligations and sustain Canada's status as a global leader on gender equality issues; and to enhance voluntary sector participation in support of achieving gender equality.12 The WP has received approximately $10 million in AGE funds over five years beginning in 2000-2001 (roughly half of the total $20.5 million for this initiative).13 The Program has used those funds to support community-based initiatives at the local, regional, and national levels for two primary purposes: to support new and emerging issues, and to support new organizations. Currently, some $2.5 million per year in AGE funds flow to the WP.14 The AGE administrative data were summarized in a separate report on the AGE component of the WP, along with case studies of two AGE-funded initiatives (see Volume II).

2.6 Performance measurement

In April 2003, the WP implemented a new outcome-based approach with an emphasis on highlighting the results achieved by each initiative funded. An important element of the new approach was a full accountability framework, including a logic model detailing the WP's objectives, outcomes, and performance indicators. The WP logic model appears in Appendix B.
Other elements of the new outcome-based approach include a Risk-based Audit Framework, the Women's Program Procedures Manual, a performance measurement strategy, and a new suite of instruments: a new Application Form and Guide to the Application Form, as well as Interim Report, Final Report and Close-Out Assessment forms (prior to the introduction of these standard forms, different forms were in use in various regions across the country). The new instruments are intended to form the basis for developing outcome-based initiatives, for ongoing performance monitoring and for reporting on results.

1 Status of Women Canada 2004-05 Estimates: A report on plans and priorities, p.5, Status of Women Canada.

2 Women's Program: Accountability Framework, p.1, Status of Women Canada.

3 Report on consultations held March-May 1996 and follow-up action plan, November 1996, Status of Women Canada.

4 Women's Program: Accountability Framework, p.2.

5 Women's Program Funding Guidelines, p. 8, Status of Women Canada. (last updated in 2003).

6 Terms and Conditions - Women's Program, pp.2-3, Status of Women Canada.

7 Women's Program Toolkit, November 2003, Catalyst Research and Communications.

8 Departmental Performance Report 2003-04: Status of Women Canada, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, pp.28-29. Administrative data from Status of Women Canada (P. McInnis, June 6, 2005).

9 Status of Women Canada 2004-05 Estimates: A report on plans and priorities, pp.24, 26-27.

10 Women's Program: Accountability Framework, p.3.

11 Administrative data provided by Status of Women Canada (P. McInnis, June 6, 2005).

12 Evaluation Framework: Agenda for Gender Equality, pp. 1-3, November 2004, Status of Women Canada.

13 Status of Women Canada 2004-05 Estimates: A report on plans and priorities, p.27.

14 Ibid.