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Governance and Inclusive Societies

Our societies are marked by stark inequality and the exclusion of different people, including women and girls, people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ people, and ethnic and religious minorities.  

At SDDirect, we work with communities, civil society, governments, businesses and others to foster a culture of active citizenship and greater accountability of all those who hold power.  

Young woman holds sign at protest which reads: I fight like a girl for my rights

What is Governance and Inclusive Societies?


We work to build inclusive societies where every citizen and community is valued and empowered to make their own choices about their development, act on these choices, and hold duty-bearers to account.  

By applying a gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) lens, poor and socially excluded people can be better supported to access and claim knowledge, resources, rights and services. This allows them to participate in public life and build fairer, more inclusive communities and become active agents of change.  

Our work in this area 


Our work is technically focused and grounded in practice which is objective and unbiased. Key products and services include:  

  • Gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) analysis, strategy development, training and implementation support 

  • GESI-aware political economy analysis (PEA), including SDDirect’s Gender, Inclusion, Power & Politics (GIPP) analysis 

  • Design and advisory support to active citizenship, community voice and participation, and social accountability initiatives   

  • Fast response ‘helpdesk’ facilities to provide the latest available evidence and analysis on key issues and questions 

  • Disability inclusion mainstreaming, research, review, and analysis 

  • Facilitation and advisory support to more inclusive and equitable development partnership-building   

  • Development of ethical, ‘do no harm’ and safeguarding frameworks  

  • Stakeholder mapping, engagement, and facilitation of multi-stakeholder dialogue 

  • Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) for governance-related programmes 

  • Inclusive services, including promoting access to education and health services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.  

We provide technical leadership on GESI in governance programmes, including developing GESI strategies and promoting GESI mainstreaming throughout programmes. We take an innovative ‘looking inwards and outwards’ approach, working on GESI inclusion within our partnerships and consortiums as well as our programme work.   

We deliver GIS programming in a diverse range of country contexts, including development and emergency settings. We take an intersectional approach to understanding and challenging the structural barriers that people face to social inclusion, including discrimination based on gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and other factors. 

“In my engagements with the Disability Inclusion Helpdesk – both in preparations for and delivery of products – I found the service to be of brilliant quality. It certainly provided a wide range of people with increased knowledge and understanding of the issues and was always able to consider how best to support colleagues in the FCDO, to put information and evidence into practice.”
Emma Žaja
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

If you would like to hear more about our work on Governance and Inclusive Societies (GIS), please reach out to Emma Haegeman, Head of Governance and Inclusive Societies Portfolio, 

Evidence Review: What works to economically empower adolescent girls?

To assess the potential for innovation, the La Pépinière programme completed an evidence review of "what works" to economically empower adolescent girls and young women. This contributed to the design of three 'mini-pilots' which ran from 2016-17 to test "what works" to economically empower adolescent girls and young women, and how to tackle the social norms that constrain their opportunities.

La Pépinière case studies (1-4)

Four case studies were developed during the La Pépinière programme. La Pépinière's Gender Champions (thought leaders identified across civil society, government and the private sector) played a crucial role in these studies, as they worked to identify opportunities for change in key sectors and to implement strategic approaches through complementary activities. The case studies looked at:

La Pépinière tutorial video

La Pépinière: DRC's Programme for Adolescent Girls (2015 - 2017), promoted women and girls empowerment in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Social Development Direct were the main implementing partner on this programme, in consortium with Centre Régional de Recherche et de Documentation sur les Femmes, le Genre et la Construction de la Paix dans la région des Grands Lacs (CERED-GL) in Kinshasa and M&C Saatchi World Services. Watch this video to learn more about La Pépinière's work.

La Pépinière

The overall objective of La Pépinière was to promote the economic empowerment of adolescent girls and young women. From 2015 to 2017, La Pépinière focused on generating evidence and engagement to design effective innovations that increase the economic empowerment of women and girls. Below are some highlights from the programme.

Pathways to accountability for women and marginalised groups in the Somali context

This Briefing summarises the findings from an IAAAP Learning Brief on gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) produced by SDDirect. The Learning Brief draws on IAAAP partners’ reports and experiences over the lifetime of the programme, in addition to global and Somali specific literature, highlighting the specific contribution of non-state actors in achieving more inclusive and gender-sensitive accountability.

Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Learning Brief

This learning brief offers an overview of the learning on the "social dimensions of accountability"  that emerged from the experiences of IAAAP programme partners during the programme's first 18 months. It significantly contributes to research on how systemic barriers affect people's participation in accountability in Somalia. The brief summarises findings that while IAAAP programmes are helping to break new ground towards achieving more inclusive accountability, more sustained support from programme leadership is needed if they are to reach ‘accountability for all’.

'Voice of the voiceless' - Learning from SORADI's Project to Strengthen Accountability in Hargeisa

From February 2015 to January 2018, the Social Research and Development Institute (SORADI) developed and implemented a pilot project to strengthen accountability within Hargeisa Local Council (HLC). This pilot was one of more than 70 projects supported through the Implementation and Analysis in Action of Accountability Programme (IAAAP) in Somalia. This case study explores key learning from the pilot project's implementation phase, capturing reflections from people involved in the project, and presenting learning for those interested in governance reform.