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UN Women: The Gender Equality Companion Program

Women's Rights Organizations (WROs) in China face a range of challenges as they plan their development, from fundraising through to market research. In collaboration with the UN Women's Beijing office, Thoughtworks China conceived the ‘Gender Equality Companion Program’, a strategic, capacity-building initiative designed to address some of these challenges with the help of volunteer consultants.

Receiving six times more volunteers from across Thoughtworks China than could be placed in the program, we had to run a selection process, mapping skills and experience to align with the specific needs of the WROs. Once matched, the teams got to work on topics from gender-sensitive fundraising strategies and feminist media product iteration to product discovery in home economics and organizational strategy.


Over the course of three months, Thoughtworks consultants ran weekly workshops for the WROs, providing tailored coaching sessions and giving strategic advice. The program culminated in a gathering at the UN’s main office in Beijing. Participants had the chance to meet in person and take part in a two-day workshop designed to accommodate each WRO’s needs for specific knowledge and skills.


Through the program, Thoughtworks’ volunteers helped one WRO to surpass its annual fundraising goal ahead of schedule, and supported another in evolving a platform concept for matching domestic workers with household employers for fair and sustainable services. 


Participants were also impressed by the processes involved. While one WRO conducting market research didn’t achieve the results it expected from the research, the organization’s director reported the highest satisfaction score overall for its program. One of our key partners at UN Women told us: “I’m inspired and educated in eye-opening ways as to how corporate teams study and analyze market landscapes, utilizing structured thinking, desk research, and data evaluation. The know-how showcased by Thoughtworks’ volunteers was in every way more valuable than any direct answer to a market research question."


Alongside Thoughtworks’ efforts, UN Women Beijing obtained deeper insight into the developmental barriers faced by WROs in China. The collaboration continued throughout 2023 which saw the launch of a content and capacity-building initiative: fanshan.org ‘Crossing the mountain’. This involved the participation of communities across four Thoughtworks China offices (Chengdu, Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen) and is expected to continue in 2024 as a community owned project.

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