Benchmarking for better gender mainstreaming

Benchmarking is a method of quality improvement through systematic comparisons and mutual learning. This model of benchmarking is used to improve gender equality efforts in municipalities.

Gender mainstreaming means the inclusion of a gender equality perspective in the planning, decisions, implementation and follow-up of an activity.

Working with gender mainstreaming is working with quality improvement. Succeeding with sustainable quality improvement requires both persistence and an orderly way of working.

Benchmarking is based on the idea of carefully comparing one’s own working methods and processes with those of a different organization in an effort to find potential improvements. The lessons learned are used in each of the organizations by implementing, disseminating and following up on the quality improvements at home.

Learning through sharing

The Modellkommuner (model municipalities) project applies this method to develop and improve gender equality efforts in municipalities and regions. There are two roles involved here, that of the mentor, and that of the benchmarking organization.

The mentors have broad-based experience of gender mainstreaming and can explain examples and best practices that other organizations can learn from. The mentors also learn more through sharing their knowledge.

Working in clusters

Benchmarking organizations may have experience of gender mainstreaming, but may need more knowledge and a more systematic way of working in order to mainstream gender equality in their regular management systems.

Benchmarking is implemented in clusters, with a mentor and two benchmarking organizations that meet several times over the course of one year. Between meetings, they conduct their own quality improvement programmes at home. The process is commenced and concluded by joint meetings of several clusters of mentors and benchmarking organizations.

A model for benchmarking gender mainstreaming

This model consists of eight steps that describe the planning and implementation of five meetings, as well as work at home between those meetings. The Swedish version also contains checklists, templates and other material as support for these efforts. The model that will be presented here is meant solely to give you an overview of the process.

The starting point for these efforts is the checklist for gender mainstreaming that SALAR has produced.

1. The Start-up Meeting

What do we want to achieve?

  • Garnering support among elected officials and administrators
  • Allocate roles to representatives of elected officials, administrators and key persons.
  • A description of the municipality, facts and current situation should be emailed to the project manager or be published on the project’s website.
  • Communication with identified stakeholders.

Preparations before the meeting

  • The mentor organization or central organization is responsible for arranging and calling participants to the meeting.
  • Participating organizations appoint an elected official, an administrator and a key person who will be participating in the benchmarking, and make sure they understand their assignments and have reserved time for the meetings.
  • The participants describe the current situation of, and provide facts about, their organization, and publish the description on their joint platform for cooperation well in advance of the meeting.

A proposed agenda for the start-up meeting

  • Introduction: What do we want to achieve? How does this relate to the objectives of gender equality policy and currents societal challenges on the local and regional level?
  • Review of the model: What is benchmarking? A checklist for gender mainstreaming, How should it be used?
  • Introduction to systematic quality improvement
  • Practical information about the planning of benchmarking efforts, roles, and expectations on the participants.
  • Discussion in groups, both based on role (administrator, elected official, key person) and on organizational position.
  • Experiences from the mentor organization (or alternatively, some other organization with experience of this model): What did we learn, and what improvements have we made?
  • Lecture: Common gender inequality problems in municipalities, county councils and regions, together with examples of tried and tested solutions.

Meeting in clusters of the organizations that will be cooperating:

  • Start with a short presentation of each municipality and/or region, using a common template, along with a short presentation of every municipality or region using a shared template, where others are given an opportunity to ask questions.
  • Discuss and share experiences about good ways to organize quality improvements at home, between meetings. (Is a separate steering committee needed, or are there other forums that can be used?)
  • Agree on practical issues and meeting times for the three benchmarking meetings.

2. Benchmarking Meeting No. 1 – Management

The key person in the mentor organization is responsible for organizing the meetings in consultation with the other key persons. A good idea is for each organization to host one meeting and to pay for the cost of that meeting. The participants themselves should pay for travel and related expenses.

What do we want to achieve before the first meeting?

  • A completed gender mainstreaming self-assessment form.
  • An understanding of the conditions needed for gender mainstreaming.
  • A description of the organization’s management (chain of command) in PowerPoint.

What do we need to do?

  • Discuss and see where you are with regard to the various points on the gender mainstreaming check list. Do a self-assessment.
  • See the film, Chain of Command (English subtitles available)
  • Based on the film and your self-assessment, reflect over and describe how your chain of command looks, and where a gender equality perspective is currently mainstreamed
  • Identify which areas you want to improve.
  • Plan a Benchmarking Meeting No. 1 together.
  • Prepare a presentation based on the PowerPoint template and publish it on the project website (Projektplatsen) at least one week before Benchmarking Meeting No. 1.

What do we want to achieve during the benchmarking meeting?

  • Creating a shared picture of the project and the model.
  • Creating contacts and agreeing on schedules for the continued work.
  • Sharing ideas about improvements that will result in better gender mainstreaming that can be transferred to your own municipality.
  • Learning from other municipalities.

How should we proceed?

  • Conduct a knowledge inventory
  • Share experiences with the other municipalities.
  • Discuss and share what you learn with others about how to implement the improvements at home.
  • Identify ideas for improving gender mainstreaming.
  • The model municipality gives feedback to the project’s administrator.

A proposed agenda for the first benchmarking meeting (PDF)

3. Quality improvement at home

Based on the results of the self-assessment, and the lessons learned from Benchmarking Meeting No. 1, quality improvement should be done at home. The following is a description of different steps for systematically working with improvements. Go as far as you can before the next benchmarking meeting.

This programme is based on the PDSA model, which is also known as the quality cycle. Use the model and material that your organization usually uses for the systematic planning, implementation and follow-up of quality improvement efforts.

Remember to choose a well-defined area for improvement that is realistic to implement during the course of the project.

How should we proceed?

  • Choose one or more areas for improvement that leads to increased gender equality.
  • Start from your organization’s prioritized goals.
  • Gather facts and data about the current state of things.
  • Find out why the situation is the way it is today, and try to find the causes of the problems. Analyse and find possible solutions.
  • Plan the testing and implementation of an improvement.
  • Try implementing an improvement. Test the solution with the greatest chance of success. Start small.
  • Study the results. Was there any improvement? Did we find the right solution? If not, try something else. Sometimes we need to take a few steps back.
  • When the right solution is found, make sure it’s sustainable, and disseminate your solution.
  • Reflect over what you’ve learned from the improvement, and communicate what we’ve learned.

What should be achieved?

  • A number of planned or implemented quality improvements.
  • Improvement on one or more of the points of the gender mainstreaming checklist.

4. Benchmarking Meeting No. 2: Quality improvement

The second benchmarking meeting is about following up on the quality improvement that was implemented since the last meeting, benchmark the quality improvement in a specific area and begin the work of ensuring that the chain of command works from beginning to end.

What do we want to achieve with the benchmarking meeting?

After the meeting, the participants should have:

  • Formulated plans for the next step in the quality improvement of management
  • Identified areas where the results for women, men, girls and boys need to improve
  • Found improvements that will lead to better gender mainstreaming and can be applied to a specific activity in order to ensure gender-equal service and resource allocation.

Preparations ahead of the meeting

  • Implement a group self-assessment on the gender mainstreaming checklist, and identify needs for additional quality improvement. Note the shift that has taken place and learn from this.
  • Identify an area where your organization is not able to ensure gender-equal results. Prepare your organization that a quality improvement related to management will be starting, and make sure the staff received the information and knowledge required to take part in this work.
  • The key persons work together to obtain knowledge about how other organizations or the mentor organization worked to solve the gender inequality problem in a similar area. The participants can choose different examples to work with.
  • Describe the current situation based on the quality improvement commenced. Prepare presentations and publish them on the project platform at least one week prior to Benchmarking 2.

How should we proceed?

  • Share experiences with the other organizations, based on documentation on the quality improvement chosen.
  • Discuss and learn across organizational boundaries how improvements can be implemented at home.
  • Identify ideas about improvements relating to gender mainstreaming.

5. Continued quality improvement at home

Continue the quality improvement you began, using the various steps described in Step 3 (Quality improvement at home). Apply what you have learned from the benchmarking session to your quality improvement. Use the supporting material as required.

What do we want to achieve?

  • A number of planned or implemented practical improvements in management
  • Planned or implemented improvement that ensure gender-equal service and resource allocation within an organization
  • Improvement on one or more of the points of the gender mainstreaming checklist.

How should we proceed?

  • In consultation with a representative from a given activity, choose an area for improvement having to do with the management and monitoring of the activity. You should relate your improvement to your organization’s prioritized goals and identified gender inequality problems.
  • Gather facts and data about how things are today.
  • Find out why the situation is the way it is today, and try to find the causes of the problems. Analyse and find possible solutions.
  • Plan the testing and implementation of an improvement.
  • Try implementing an improvement. Test the solution with the greatest chance of success. Start small.
  • Study the results. Was there any improvement? Did we find the right solution? If not, try something else. Sometimes we need to take a few steps back.
  • When the right solution is found, make sure it’s sustainable, and disseminate your solution.
  • Reflect over what you’ve learned from the improvement, and communicate what we’ve learned.

6. Benchmarking Meeting No. 3: Continued quality improvement

What should be achieved?

The third meeting focuses on the monitoring and follow-up systems and continued efforts 

  • Ideas for improvements of systems to follow up and analyse gender equality efforts and gender impact as part of regular accounting and monitoring systems
  • Ideas for improved routines for gender mainstreaming decisions
  • Plans for how the quality improvement should continue and be followed up after the benchmarking
  • Plans for how participants will contribute in conjunction with the results conference.

Preparations ahead of the meeting

  • Implement a group self-assessment on the gender mainstreaming checklist, and identify needs for additional quality improvement. Note the shift that has taken place and learn from this.
  • Formulate a brief description of the current situation focusing on the ongoing quality improvement
  • Describe how your organization reports, uses and follows up on individual-based statistics. What share of the statistics are sex-disaggregated? Are there routines for the analysis of sex-disaggregated statistics in connection with budget work, activity follow-ups, and as part of the political decision-making process?

How should we proceed?

  • Share experiences with the other organizations, based on the documentation of the current state of the quality improvement.
  • Discuss and learn across organizational boundaries how improvements can be implemented at home.
  • Identify ideas about improvements relating to gender mainstreaming.

7. Quality improvement at home

Continue your quality improvement based on the various steps described under Step 3. (Quality improvement at home). Take what you have learned from the benchmarking meeting and apply it to your quality improvement. Use the supporting material as required.

What do we want to achieve?

  • Plan for how implemented improvements should be administered and further improved as part of the organization’s regular systems for management and follow-up.
  • Plan for ensuring that all the activities in your organization provide various groups of women, men, girls and boys with the same fine service, treatment and resource allocation
  • Improvement on one or more of the points of the gender mainstreaming checklist.

How should we proceed?

  • Involve more parts of the organization
  • Use lessons learned from the benchmarking programme, and continue with systematic quality improvement.

8. Project conclusion – Reporting and disseminating the results

What should be achieved?

  • Presentation of results of quality improvement in gender mainstreaming.
  • Becoming a model or mentor in benchmarking for a new organization that seeks to cooperate to achieve gender mainstreamed management

What can be achieved also depends on the purpose and the target group of the conference. The target group can be other activities in your own organization, or in other organizations on the regional or national level, and the purpose may be dissemination and information or the start-up of new benchmarking.

Preparations ahead of the conference

  • Implement a group self-assessment on the gender mainstreaming checklist
  • Prepare a systematic description of the methodology and results of the quality improvement so that the results can be applied to other organizations.
  • Identify factors for success, challenges and lessons learned for the entire project.

When will we be a model municipality or model region?

There is no certification or external testing required to become a model municipality. On the contrary, the assessment is based on your own self-assessment. When you realize that you no longer have any scores of 1, and you give yourself a 3 on more than half of the points on the checklist, you may well be ready to be a model organization.

Your organization can also be a ”mentor” in a new benchmarking round even when you have a ways to go before you are a gender-mainstreamed organization. You can also use this model to gender mainstream your organization’s own divisions and administrations.








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