Investing in women’s empowerment: formative evaluation of the SEED Project in Seymour, Victoria

Margaret Kabare

A formative evaluation assessing the implementation stage of the SEED Project and how the project is making progress towards its intended outcomes.

At a glance

The Sustaining Economic Empowerment and Dignity (SEED) Project is a co-designed community initiative in Seymour, Victoria that commenced in 2020. SEED’s overarching ambition is to demonstrate how a multi-disciplinary collaborative approach across research, service delivery and advocacy can work to challenge the systemic and structural barriers that undermine women’s financial wellbeing and economic security.

The SEED model comprises four key elements:

  • a Financial Wellbeing Hub for women
  • a Community Investment Committee (CIC)
  • research and policy analysis to support the CIC and the hub
  • rigorous monitoring and evaluation.

Dive deeper

This formative evaluation assessed the implementation stage (from November 2022 to December 2023) of the SEED project and to what extent the project is making progress towards intended outcomes. Our data analysis was framed by the concept of empowerment as a process of increasing women’s ability to exercise choice, and the five dimensions of power (‘power within’, ‘power with’, ‘power over’, ‘power to’ and ‘power through’) which are commonly used to capture how power can be expressed at the individual, community and society levels.

The findings indicate that the SEED Project has been implemented successfully in Seymour. The project is also empowering women by:

  • Fostering ‘power within’: The main areas of change reported by participants were the development of self-confidence, self-esteem, and dignity.
  • Fostering collective empowerment (or ‘power with’): Some women, building on a new sense of personal empowerment after taking part in a leadership program (known as Change Makers) are taking a more active role in the community than they had previously. The project has also successfully mobilised a broad range of local organisations and service providers to be part of the SEED CIC in Seymour, stimulating the process of collective empowerment or ‘power with’ others.
  • Connecting the local to the national through policy and advocacy efforts: These efforts including participation in consultative forums and numerous policy submissions around work, care and social security.

Factors that have influenced program implementation and empowerment process at individual and collective levels include: 

  • accessibility and flexibility of the program
  • a safe space for women to connect with others; a supportive, non-judgemental environment
  • investment in relationships and trust-building
  • the extent of community actors’ alignment with the project ambition
  • decision-making within organisations and capacity to take on new responsibilities
  • an enabling organisation and resources.

Some key learnings from the project are:

  • Enabling women’s economic empowerment is a process that requires harnessing different forms of power in place towards a common goal.
  • Expanding collective capabilities through collaborations in place is needed to advance women’s economic security in place.
  • Flexible and voluntary participation promotes trust, agency and dignity.
  • A women-only space allows women to feel heard which increases their agency to advocate for their own needs and those of others.
  • An enabling organisation plays a vital role in catalysing change towards women’s empowerment and financial wellbeing in place.

As the project moves from developing and demonstration to adaptation and expansion, it will be important to consider:

  • Sustainability: A stronger focus on sustainability beyond the project cycle by prioritising long-term funding for the project from a variety of sources.
  • Accessibility: Maximising access to all women by locating the women’s Financial Wellbeing Hub closer to public transport and identifying a ‘fit-for-purpose’ building for women with access needs. Expanding access to the Stepping Stones to Your Pathways program, which is currently only available to members will also help reach more women build their confidence skills.
  • Efficiency: Developing project timelines into the project design to ensure that there is enough time for implementation of activities as well as assessment of impacts.
  • Theory of change: even though the SEED Project has a clear ambition and a comprehensive data collection and monitoring framework, a clear theory of change is needed to enable assessment of the project intended impacts for the next phase.

    Last updated on 26 June 2024