Philanthropic Partnerships Supporting Housing

Exploring a gender lens approach

Housing insecurity disproportionately impacts women and other gender identity minorities. These people face challenges including a lack of access to safe and secure housing due to domestic violence and the effects of a lifelong wage gap. Despite this, philanthropic efforts to address homelessness and insecure housing have traditionally been gender-blind, omitting to account for the difficulties faced by women and other marginalised groups.

A current research project at the Melbourne Social Equity Institute is exploring the use of a gender lens in philanthropic partnerships that support housing for disadvantaged women. A gender lens is a way of examining or analysing a particular issue, policy, or practice by considering the ways in which gender identities, roles, and norms affect it. This approach aims to identify and address gender-based inequalities and injustices by recognising that gender is a fundamental social and cultural construct that intersects with other forms of identity, such as race, class, and sexuality.

The research project is being undertaken by an interdisciplinary team – Dr Alexandra Williamson, Professor Kylie Smith, Dr Victor Sojo and Professor Jo Barraket – at the University of Melbourne, in partnership with Australians Investing in Women. It aims to understand how philanthropic organisations can best incorporate a gender lens into their housing initiatives. To do this, the researchers are conducting two case studies in mid-2023 on philanthropic partnerships with nonprofit organisations and others, examining the approaches and strategies they use.

The literature, both academic and professional, suggests that by applying a gender lens such partnerships can better address the unique challenges faced by women. The research project will consider the gender-lens models and strategies adopted and explore the involvement of women tenants in the design and implementation of housing initiatives.

The research is being funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, in line with the Foundation’s purpose to help end cycles of disadvantage in Australia.  Lead organisation, Australians Investing in Women is bringing their experience and focus on funding through a gender lens to the project. The outcomes will be a framework that philanthropic partnerships can adopt and adapt in working closely with a range of organisation types, plus a detailed report on the two case studies that will add to knowledge of how partnerships function, and what makes them effective and sustainable.

The in-depth case studies will examine partnership processes, with the aim of encouraging and empowering the actors in partnerships to find appropriate solutions to the specific challenges they face, building on the experiences and insights gleaned from others. By taking an intersectional approach that recognises gender as one of many forms of disadvantage, these partnerships can be more effective in creating long-term, sustainable solutions to address housing insecurity.

The research project has important implications for philanthropic organisations that fund housing initiatives for disadvantaged women. Through a gender lens, funders can ensure that their efforts are responsive to the unique needs of women and other marginalised groups. This approach can also help to build trust and foster collaboration between philanthropic organisations and the communities they support.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Alexandra Williamson
Senior Research Fellow
Melbourne Social Equity Institute

Published on Wednesday 19 April 2023