The challenges women and girls experience around the world are interlinked and multi-dimensional. Addressing and developing effective solutions to empower women, girls and communities requires a coordinated global and local response. Last month, Girls’ Globe had the opportunity to be a part of FHI 360’s Integration Hypothesis event in New York City. The event gathered organizations, thought leaders and those working at a community level to discuss the importance of creating sustainable integrated solutions to effectively address issues such as education, violence against women, health and poverty. Creating successful and sustainable integrated development programs for women, girls and communities is not a new conversation. For years, development practitioners, advocates, governments, organizations and communities have sought to address global  issues through talking about the need for more integrated and holistic approaches.

Last week, FHI 360 and Girls’ Globe hosted an interactive Google+ hangout to continue the conversation on the importance of integrated development for women and girls. The live discussion was a continuation of FHI 360’s Integration Hypothesis series. A diverse group of panelists took the “virtual stage” in what was an engaging and robust discussion. All panelists agreed there is no better time than the present to begin to turn the integration discussion into effective international development solutions.

Greg Beck, Director of Integrated Development for FHI 360, began the conversation by defining integrated development as a coordinated response across sectors to create an amplified impact for communities. FHI 360 is committed to building the evidence needed to show where integration and development solutions can be most effective and sustainable. Through a four million dollar FHI 360 Foundation grant, FHI 360 has launched a new integrated development initiative which utilizes their research and technical expertise as well as experience in international gender programming to produce evidence-based integrated solutions. Greg emphasized the importance of awareness and education among the donor community and private sector as essential elements to the process of advancing successful integrated development outcomes.

The Google+ Hangout panelists included: Greg Beck, Director of Integrated Development at FHI 360; Rose Wilcher, Director of Research Utilization at FHI 360; Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver; Joyce Adolwa Head of Girls’ Education, Empowerment and Programming at CARE; and Catalina Escobar, CEO of the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation. The panelists shared their experiences as well as the challenges and opportunities to implementing integrated solutions for women and girls at both a macro and micro level.

Creating lasting opportunities for women and girls requires a multi-prong approach. Katja Iversen emphasized the importance of continued advocacy for women and girls. Clear messaging and advocacy are critical components to building successful integrated solutions. Katja stated, “We need to make it so delicious for governments and others to invest in girls and women.” Evidence  is the foundation while advocacy and messaging are powerful vehicles for creating change and moving the conversation into effective action for women, girls and communities.

Joyce Adolwa spoke of the importance of listening to and involving communities in the process of integration. Women, girls and communities must be at the center and thoroughly involved in the change making process. Joyce emphasized, “Societies change because people change.” Sustainability can not occur unless we involve communities and people in the change-making process.

Simply put, integrated development solutions for women, girls and communities must meet people where they are. We all have a responsibility to carry this conversation forward. Integrated solutions and decision making must both come from the grassroots community level as well as involve donors and those at an international decision making level. Let’s continue to think critically about how we are investing time and resources into holistic solutions for empowering women and girls.

Watch the recorded hangout and continue to share your thoughts at #IntegratedDev

Read our Storify recap to learn more.

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