The Cherie Blair Foundation And Its 100,000 Women Campaign - An Interview With Alexandria McCall
Alexandria, the Cherie Blair Foundation seeks to empower women around the world. How do you do that?
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women helps release the potential of women entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries and close the global gender gap in entrepreneurship. Since the Foundation’s inception in 2008, we have directly supported over 175,000 women across more than 100 countries. Through our combined approach of programmatic delivery and advocacy, the Foundation supports women to start and grow successful micro, small and medium businesses, with training, technology, mentoring and networking at the heart of our work. This opens doors to finance, markets, contacts and more, and enables women to create better futures for themselves and their families, enable their communities to prosper, contribute to strong economies, and move the world in a whole new direction. We do this through our three core programmes, Road to Growth, HerVenture, and our Mentoring Women in Business programme as well as our global advocacy work.
Equal rights and equal pay of women are issues even in Western democracies, but the Cherie Blair Foundation is active globally. How do you decide where to help and why?
As you mention, women’s economic equality is truly a global issue. In 2019, the World Economic Forum projected that it will be 257 years before women will achieve the same economic opportunity as men – a shocking 55 years longer than projected in 2018. Research shows that investing in women is one of the smartest investments we can make to improve local economies for family and communities around the globe. Through dynamic partnerships with public and private-sector organisations, we identify which countries have a significant need and can most benefit from our programmes. Before implementing any programmes, we conduct localised needs assessments to ensure that our programmes can be adapted to best serve women in these communities. The need for our work has never been more urgent, and we are growing to respond to this need – and we’re always looking for investments to support launching our programmes in new countries or new communities.
Your foundation, if I understand correctly, is a rather small organisation. So I assume you can’t handle all tasks yourself. Who are your partners in the operations field?
We work with in country experts to help us deliver our programmes. We don’t helicopter in and out of countries, but identify experts in-country who we support and provide technical assistance to in the delivery of our programmes. Our hope and objective is that having run the programme, the partner will maintain the knowledge and skills to facilitate similar programmes in the future. This capacity-building methodology is embedded across our work and in the spirit of SDGs 5 & 17, enables and equips local partners with the tools to continue supporting women’s economic empowerment. We aim to empower our partners to truly be the agents of change in their communities.
And who are your donors?
Our partners are at the heart of what we do. We partner with philanthropists, corporate businesses and institutional partners to raise the much needed funds to deliver our programmes free of cost to women entrepreneurs in low-middle income countries. Examples of some of our current partners include ExxonMobile, DHL Express, PayPal, Salesforce, MMC, United States Agency for International Development and individual philanthropists who not only fund our work but also give their time and energy to support the foundation.
How important are (Single) Family Offices and Ultra High Net Worth Individuals for your work?
Family Offices and UHNW individuals are crucial to our success at the Foundation. In our early days, the Foundation was built through the collective effort of generous individuals who had a passion for supporting women entrepreneurs around the globe. Philanthropists continue to play a crucial role in supporting our work, particularly now as we develop our 100,000 Women Campaign Board, comprised exclusively of philanthropists, business leaders and advocates. These incredible individuals work closely with us to raise the capital needed to implement our programme, as well as utilise their robust networks to provide introductions to new opportunities which will allow us to collectively support even more women entrepreneurs.
Many of the super wealthy have their own charities or philanthropic projects. Do you ever collaborate, or leverage synergise with other organisations and how so?
One of our core beliefs is in the power of partnerships. Over the years we have worked with a number of Foundations and Charities to leverage ongoing projects in order to reach more women. For example, a private family foundation we have worked with for many years, works very closely in South Africa to deliver a variety of projects. We are in the process of rolling out HerVenture in South Africa for the first time, so have connected with their key contacts in the region to seek guidance on who we might be able to partner with locally to ensure success. We also look to see how we can build on and provide value to existing projects in country.
Mrs. Cherie Blair, wife of a former British Prime Minister, is certainly well connected around the globe. How does her organisation benefit from this network?
Cherie is actively involved in the Foundation, generously giving her time and resources to ensure its success. During normal times, Cherie travels internationally to visit projects, connect with donors and attend conferences. Cherie is a tireless ambassador for women entrepreneurs everywhere, including in her role as Global Chair of the 100,000 Women Campaign Board, where she works with our regional campaign boards to encourage other non-profits, corporations and governments to do more to support women business owners.
I asked you already about collaborations between the Cherie Blair Foundation and other philanthropic projects. In case of a partnership, would donors and partners be able to tap into your network, too, to increase their impact and footprint?
Absolutely! We always welcome the opportunity to discuss and explore new partnership opportunities to see how we can build upon the amazing successes of other organisations, charities and foundations. Please do get in touch so we can discuss!
Tell us about the biggest project that you are currently working on
As mentioned throughout the interview we are currently working on our most ambitious project to date, the 100,000 Women Campaign. This Campaign works to tackle the global gender gap by empowering and equipping 100,000 women entrepreneurs with the skills, resources and networks they need to participate equally as entrepreneurs. We plan to do this by rolling out our suite of core programmes, HerVenture, Road to Growth and our Mentoring Women in Business programme in new countries where there is a need.
Each of these core programmes above can be delivered as a stand-alone service or be brought together to form a complete learning journey for women entrepreneurs – starting with the open-access Her Venture digital app and progressing to Road to Growth’s more advanced skills programme, then finally accessing on-going support through the mentoring programme. This full learning journey model is currently running in Vietnam, Indonesia and Nigeria, with further implementation happening in Kenya and South Africa in 2021. Alongside this, we are boosting our advocacy work to raise awareness of the potential of women entrepreneurs on the global stage and create an ecosystem that empowers women to fulfil their potential.
We only just started into the new year - so what’s the plan for 2021 and what’s the Cherie Blair Foundation’s long-term vision?
Despite these enormous challenges, the incredible women entrepreneurs we work with persist. In turn, our work to empower women to build and sustain successful, resilient businesses has never been more needed. As such, we will continue to work to achieve our three-year goal of supporting 100,000 women, with an aim to reach 40,000 women across 2021 alone. As mentioned earlier, unfortunately we are seeing that women’s economic equality is nowhere near to being achieved. For as long as there continues to be a need, we will work to ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the education, networks and support they need to help move us closer to achieving real gender and economic equality.
If a family office or private donor would like to get in touch with you to collaborate - what’s the best way to do it?
Our mission cannot be achieved alone. We hope you will join us in our work to support 100,000 women entrepreneurs, transforming the lives of women, families and communities around the globe. Your support has never been more needed. Please feel free to contact me directly via email at email@example.com or +44 7867 396741 to find out more.
Alexandria, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me today and all the best for your projects.
Alexandria McCall is the 100,000 Women Campaign Lead and Senior Partnerships Manager at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Previously, Alexandria worked for the Prince’s Trust and other charity organisations in the US and India to create transformational partnerships for change.