Skip to main content

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, or Maria Vlahakis, interim Head of GIS Portfolio

Pathways to accountability for women and marginalised groups in the Somali context: The role of non-state actors

As part of the Implementation and Analysis in Action of Accountability Programme (IAAAP)'s work on the underlying political economy of accontability issues in Somalia, this work looks at the links between accountability, gender inequality and social inclusion in the Somali context. Particularly, this paper explores non-state actors' contribution to these links.


Implementation and Analysis in Action of Accountability Programme (IAAAP)

IAAAP was a research-led, adaptive intervention asking "what works" for strengthening accountability in Somalia through a well-documented process of enquiry and experimentation. Sub-contracted through IAAAP partners conducted applied research and test methods on the ground for greater accountabillity across a range of themes, including civil society-state engagement, financial flows and extractive industries.

Somali Women's Political Participation and Leadership: Evidence and Opportunities

This report was based on an eleven month qualitative research project (August 2016 - June 2017), carried out by Social Development Direct and Forcier Consulting, and funded by the Research and Evidence Division (RED) within the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID). The research aims to provide evidence on the main "enabling and constraining factors for Somali women’s participation and leadership in government and
political structures".

Integrating a Gender Lens in Voluntary Carbon Markets

The Voluntary Carbon Market represents a huge financial flow - from corporates in the Global North looking to ‘offset’ their residual emissions, to carbon projects often based in the Global South in sectors such as forestry and sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, or cookstoves. Under the current drive for higher integrity and sustainable development outcomes in the Voluntary Carbon Market, there is a unique opportunity to drive climate finance towards integrated gender equality and climate outcomes.

Threats and opportunities for civil society during the COVID-19 pandemic

Civil society organisations are playing an indispensable role in the pandemic response, but the context presents real dangers. Civic space, civic rights, citizen voice and civil society resourcing must all be defended. Future resilience to shocks like COVID-19 depends on a robust civil society sector and a fundamental pivot by all sectors in the direction of a more equal, inclusive world – in which active citizenship for all is valued and nurtured.

Economic costs of discrimination against LGBTQI+ people

As a gay man in my thirties, I often wonder whether my sexual orientation has hindered my career at any point. I can remember being forced to come out on a work trip, a colleague commenting how I am “different” to other men, and a manager remarking on how my clothes are feminine. But have these attitudes and behaviour had any effect on my productivity and the economic output of the countries I have lived and worked in?