Kicking off our strategy refresh for international reproductive health

We are excited to share that we have launched the strategy refresh process for our international reproductive health(IRH) grantmaking. Our Global Development and Population program director Dana Hovig noted in January that this process happens every five years or so across all of our grantmaking areas to ensure we keep our commitment to practicing good habits with our grantee partners and outcome-focused philanthropy. Our prior strategy was launched in 2014, with two long-term goals: ensure no woman has an unwanted pregnancy and no woman dies from an unsafe abortion. We remain committed to working towards these important areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all women, while asking ourselves how we can better support the field in the future.

All Hewlett program officers are limited to eight-year terms. We spent the first few years of our terms getting to know our portfolios, grantee partners, and funding colleagues, and following broader trends and research in our field. We are humbled with the task of rethinking the Hewlett Foundation’s role in sexual and reproductive health and rights, and eager to create this new strategy with many of you and start implementing it. We spent much of the past year having in-depth conversations with you and the organizations we support on where we want to dig deeper, what values we want to bring to our refresh and future strategies, and what types of partners could inform our thinking.  In this note, we give you an overview of the values and process and ways you can expect to hear from us and be part of the process moving forward.

Values guiding our process and strategy

Our approach to this strategy refresh process is grounded in the foundation’s overall guiding principles and a set of values we think are especially important for this process. These values include equity, shared ownership, transparency, evidence generation and use, mutual respect, adaptability, and capitalizing on synergies. We believe these principles and values should guide both the process for developing the strategy as well as the priority areas of the final strategy. These three foundation principles are central to our process:

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion. We seek to promote the values and practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workforce, our organizational culture, and our grantmaking. In our current times in the United States, the Hewlett Foundation stands with our colleagues, our partners, and the communities they support, in their efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive society and have shared thoughts on the recent tragedies here. Though issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion manifest differently across countries, cultures, and environments, we are committed to listening and learning throughout our process.
  • Openness, transparency, and learning. We are committed to openness, transparency, and learning. This is one reason why our strategy refresh process will span 14 months to ensure ample time to speak with and learn from a broad range of individuals and organizations both globally and across the African region. We will engage all of our current grantees while also hearing from new voices that will push us to think differently about our grantmaking, partnerships, and other ways that Hewlett can contribute to progress. You can expect to hear from us regularly through blog posts and other formats, and we hope that you will be generous with your ideas throughout the process.
  • Collaboration based on mutual respect. Finally, we are committed to working, internally and externally, in a collaborative fashion based on mutual respect. We consider grantees, co-funders, and other colleagues to be our partners in problem-solving. The spread of COVID-19 this year has been devastating, with many losing loved ones, falling into poverty due to unstable livelihoods, working jobs that put them and their families at risk, taking on overwhelming care responsibilities, and dealing with loneliness and isolation. In this new reality, it will be more challenging for us to share ideas and collaborate, yet we remain firmly committed to finding ways to do so virtually. We are dedicating resources to ensure that access to technology does not impede participation from the broad set of people and organizations we think are critical to making this process successful. In fact, we hope this new virtual approach will increase the inclusivity of our process and serve as a model for the future.

What’s ahead

The strategy refresh is guided by three partners, Afton Bloom, Evaluating for Equality, and Niyel – three firms led by women that bring diverse geographic perspectives from New York, to London, to Dakar and Kigali. Together, they will lead us through three phases of work:

Phase 1: The purpose of this phase is to (1) reflect on what has been accomplished through an evaluation of our grantmaking over the past five years; and (2) conduct a broad landscape scan to understand current trends in the field of reproductive health and rights.

The evaluation will be guided by a theory of change and include a review of internal documents, conversations and dialogue with grantee partners, and a survey that will be shared with all grantee partners and other field experts. We are keenly interested in why and how change happened and to understand how Hewlett’s investments and activities contributed to improving access to and demand for reproductive health care and strengthening the reproductive health field.

The landscape scan will look at trends in reproductive health and rights at the global level and, more specifically, in East and West Africa, the primary focus of our current grantmaking. We hope to understand the current and future state of reproductive health and how the broader reproductive health ecosystem, including funding flows, organizational skills and capacities, and existing expertise and knowledge, is evolving. In addition, we’ll expand our research to also look at trends in women’s rights and empowerment as well as other health systems trends to position our work within these broader ecosystems as well. We aim to identify gaps and opportunities for future funding that complement and enhance the work of others.

Phase 2: This phase will focus on developing the strategy, committing to areas that Hewlett will continue to support and identifying promising areas to elevate in our refreshed strategy. Together with our three partners, we will hold collaborative sessions to reflect on how we can use Hewlett’s unique assets and capabilities to have impact. We will share and test these ideas with grantee partners, co-funders, and other stakeholders, to ensure that our strategy reflects the needs in the field. At various times during the strategy development process, we will engage with Hewlett’s board of directors for refinement and input.

Phase 3: The final phase is dedicated to sharing the strategy broadly with our partners and friends while developing plans for implementation. Beyond grantmaking, we are committed to facilitating partnerships, strengthening networks, and serving as a thought partner to grantees. We hope this sharing and dissemination process will encourage meaningful and continued dialogue about how we can work collaboratively over the coming years to see that no woman or girl has an unwanted pregnancy or dies from an unsafe abortion.

Throughout the strategy refresh process, we will share updates about what we learn, how it is shaping our thinking, and what it might mean for current dialogues and debates about the future of international reproductive health. If you have questions or comments, please email us at  And for those of you who are current grantee partners, we look forward to being in touch with you in the coming months.

By Althea D. Anderson and Janet Holt

Published on 02-07-2020 on Hewlett

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