What difference will the merger make?

Leila Hessini

On 5 March, Global Fund for Women and the International Museum of Women (IMOW) merged, as reported in the Alliance blog. The merged organization will be called Global Fund for Women, and will bring together grantmaking, activism and campaigning under one roof to create what the press release on the subject calls ‘better “joined up” thinking, audience engagement and action on women’s human rights. We’ll become a hybrid organization that can play in all multiple spaces, and instigate more change as a result.’

Merger or acquisition?
There is a conspicuous disparity in size between the two organizations: Global Fund for Women has 50 staff and an annual budget of around $18 million, while IMOW’s annual budget is just under $1 million. Nevertheless, there is no sense on either side that this is an acquisition rather than a merger. In fact, says Leila Hessini, Global Fund board chair, IMOW was ‘really the one that initiated the idea of the merger’. Moreover, Hessini points out, it is based on a fair amount of shared history. ‘We have been partnering with IMOW for years,’ she says. ‘Our paths have crossed many times over the years and we’ve collaborated on many projects.’ In addition, many of the organizations and individuals who have participated in IMOW initiatives are also Global Fund grantees. In short, she believes the two organizations are a natural ‘fit’. They share a vision of ‘a just, equitable and sustainable world where women and girls have the resources, voice and opportunity to realize their human rights’.

What difference will it make?
What difference will the merger make?  Global Fund’s areas of work are resource mobilization, funding, advocacy and education. IMOW, by contrast, has worked on strengthening hearts and minds, says Hessini. ‘It’s an opportunity to engage and mobilize at a bigger level for both of us,’ she believes. To put some figures to this, Global Fund has an international network of over 20,000 donors, a global online community of more than 650,000, and more than 2,000 volunteers and 4,700 grantees in 175 countries. IMOW has over 700,000 annual ‘visitors’ and, in addition to its online presence, in the past three years it has held physical events and installations in 14 countries spread throughout the world. Together, the two organizations calculate they will engage more than 1 million visitors per year through social media, email and web, in effect doubling their impact as separate entities.

In practical terms, Musimbi Kanyoro, current CEO and president of Global Fund for Women, will continue at the head of the new organization, while Clare Winterton, IMOW’s executive director, becomes Global Fund’s vice president for advocacy and innovation. Two members of the IMOW board will join Global Fund’s board and the new organization will be based at the Global Fund’s existing premises in San Francisco.
Beyond the question of increased scope, Hessini feels the merger will give the Global Fund ‘a new emphasis on using art, visual storytelling and an online space to reach out to new generations and new donors and to amplify the voices of our grantees’.

A matter of multiplication
Moreover, she is clear that it’s a matter of multiplication, not simply of addition. In other words, the merger will not just mean each partner adding a new range of skills. Rather, they will be exploring how the capabilities of the two organizations can complement and feed on each other. Global Fund will shortly be elaborating a new strategic plan and the merger will stimulate thinking within the merged organization about the synergies between the work of its two precursors. In the words of Hessini, ‘it will provide an opportunity to consider what the new Global Fund for Women is, given that we have now merged with IMOW, and how the whole bigger is than the sum of its parts.’ One of the things to consider will be how to ‘build on the extensive knowledge and experience that IMOW has in using art as a mechanism for social change and supporting the women’s movements who are in the van of that change’.

Meanwhile, the first joint project of the new organization will be launched in June this year. Entitled ‘Imagining Equality: Your Voices on Women’s Human Rights’, the project will showcase the voices, art and ideas of women all over the world on the future of women’s human rights.

Leila Hessini, chair of Global Fund for Women.

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