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How Women’s March Global collects real-time data on women’s issues

How Women’s March Global collects real-time data on women’s issues

Capturing the needs of women and gender diverse communities across the globe is a huge undertaking—and a very important one. When Women’s March Global decided to launch the first-ever Global Count for women’s issues, the organization turned to SurveyMonkey Enterprise to bring the ambitious project to life.

In the spring of 2020, the Women’s March Global team did what it does every year—it reached out to all Women’s March chapters worldwide to see how their members and communities were doing. With the pandemic rapidly changing life as we all knew it, this annual check-in was more critical than ever. 

What the team heard was devastating: domestic violence was up globally, and women didn’t feel safe anywhere. It became clear that government initiatives to help those in need were not reaching the women who needed them. 

The tumultuous nature of 2020 highlighted the fact that data showing what women truly need worldwide is hard to come by. 

“It created an incredible sense of urgency globally,” said Women’s March Global Board Chair Betsy Scolnik. “Women were, and are, desperate to be heard and counted.” 

Women’s March Global has been around since early January 2017, when a series of marches sprung up organically around the world after its first U.S. event was held. The organization was created to provide a central system of fiduciary and organizational support for the expanding local chapters, which decide on and tackle the most critical challenges their respective communities face.

After that spring 2020 check-in, billions of dollars began to pour into global economies in the form of pandemic relief. 

“And yet, not a single one of our chapters was seeing that money,” Scolnik said. “They were not seeing pandemic relief dollars going to the women and gender-diverse people who needed it, and we were not seeing solutions for the surge in domestic violence.”

Lobbying and guiding local governments to shift this would be challenging due to the lack of consistent data around women’s issues, she added. Historically, defining government priorities often includes a bit of guesswork, and this means that funding may not be going to the most impactful place.

“Knowing that organizations and governments need that information, and knowing women feel an urgent need to be heard, we came up with the idea of doing a global mapping survey,” Scolnik said. “Ultimately, the idea of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ women’s issue platform is a patriarchal, racist approach to philanthropy. Location, ethnic background, environment, societal systems,  and more affect what individual women need.” 

The survey would be the first of its kind and an ambitious undertaking. The survey would need to be accessible in 15 languages, launch globally, and provide a way to analyze tens of thousands of responses in a way that supported quick action. 

As a nonprofit with a small team, launching this survey posed several key challenges for Women's March Global. Women’s issues face an uphill climb; already limited funding becomes even leaner for marginalized communities. Scolnik noted that less than 1% of all philanthropic dollars are given to women of color around the globe, and it was important for Scolnik and her team that the survey create avenues for organizations to leverage the data and work together, rather than compete for the same limited dollars. The team also had a specific deadline in mind: It wanted the survey to be live by January 20, 2021, the day that the Women’s March would normally have taken place across the globe. 

The small but dedicated and mighty team jumped head-first into the challenge and began assessing platforms to bring the survey to life. Ultimately, the team chose SurveyMonkey Enterprise thanks to the platform’s ability to efficiently collect, track, and analyze data from multiple international locations. Women’s March also tapped SurveyMonkey's Professional Services to help launch the project.

“SurveyMonkey went above and beyond to understand our needs as a nonprofit and work with us on what this project called for."  

Betsy Scolnik, Board Chair, Women's March Global

With SurveyMonkey in place, Women’s March Global brought together a steering committee made up of partner organizations—the Global Fund for Women, Civicus, GirlUp!/UN Foundation, White Ribbon Alliance, Care International—along with civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw and experts from the University of Maryland and Care International. The committee developed survey questions meant to give women and gender-diverse people an opportunity to prioritize issues and call out the barriers to addressing them; Scolnik noted that while many may assume politics and laws are what best address societal issues, this is often not the case. The survey was hosted on Women’s March Global’s website and promoted via a targeted partnership with Facebook.

Launching an international survey on a tight timeline did involve some challenges. Due to different regulations and unique needs in each country, the survey could not be launched everywhere at exactly the same time. However, by leveraging support from the SurveyMonkey team, Scolnik and her team were able to surpass each hurdle and push forward. 

While response rates varied country to country, it was clear that women everywhere were eager to share their thoughts. Responses numbered in the tens of thousands in just a few weeks, with more than 2,000 overnight in Russia alone. The team has even been able to successfully collect responses from locations where access can pose a challenge, such as Kenya. 

As data comes in, the team identifies any immediate needs that should be elevated to local chapters. With SurveyMonkey, the global team is able to share high-level dashboard access with individual chapters and partners so they can quickly see what is most important. 

In its first iteration, the survey is already proving to be a valuable resource. Among the insights uncovered, the survey revealed that violence against women continues to be the top issue for communities globally. There are differences country by country in what women see as the barrier to solving this problem—whether political, cultural or economic—which gives Women’s March Global key information to develop targeted action plans with individual chapters and partners and to help NGOs and governments direct support and policy where the priorities are.

“It’s certainly not surprising that there are differences, but it is interesting what some of the differences are,” Scolnik said. “In some places—for example, South America—education for young women ranks very high in priorities, but the barriers vary by location, whether political or cultural.”

The Global Count survey is anticipated to be an annual venture, evolving yearly to address the most pressing issues. Data will be shared directly with over 60 partner organizations, creating a vital line of communication and collaboration. Scolnik said the project will be a key part of developing programs to meet the needs of women and gender diverse people worldwide long into the future.

“Even if issues look the same in different locations, the reasons or the barriers to change are different,” she said. “This survey is helping organizations on the ground think through who they fund, how they fund them, and what areas make a true impact.”

Elevate the voices of the communities you serve as a nonprofit organization. Learn more about SurveyMonkey Enterprise.