SPEAR will initiate institutional change in nine European Research Performing Organisations (RPOs).
Building on European Research Area’s central Gender Equality objectives, SPEAR operates with four overall objectives:
- increasing the number of RPOs with implemented Gender Equality Plans (GEPs),
- removing barriers and improving career prospects for women in academia,
- improving the gender balance in decision-making bodies and
- strengthening the gender dimension in research content.
Achieving significant impact of SPEAR's overall objectives requires a systematic approach, deep knowledge and adequate support structures.
SPEAR answers these requirements with the following specific objectives:
- supporting GE-practitioners in GEP implementation
- collaboration through communities: Community of Learning (CoL) and Community of Practice (CoP)
- ensuring long-term sustainability
SPEAR focuses on practice and processes, i.e. the underlying structures, procedures, activities and working conditions. This means that the project does not employ a fix-the-women approach nor does it merely focus on changing the numbers of women in research. This aligns with the recent evaluation of GE in Horizon 2020 which points out that improving gender balances (i.e. representation) is important, but not sufficient to foster required institutional changes (European Commission 2017). SPEAR consequently focuses on support, learning, practice, collaboration and sustainability.
Supporting GE-practitioners in GEP implementation: SPEAR’s project design includes a strong supportive element. In line with this conviction that partners and change agents with no or little previous experience with GE work benefit from support from others with more related experience, the SPEAR consortium consists of nine RPOs: three Supporting Implementing Partners (SIPs) with some experience in GE and GEP implementation, and six Implementing Partners (IPs) with little or no such experience.
The nine S/IPs are organized into three Learning and Support Clusters (LSC). LSCs aid the exchange and support between differing levels of GE-and GEP-experience vital to SPEAR. The three SIPs are based in three different EU countries reporting to perform strongly (Germany and Sweden) or making considerable progress (Denmark) in terms of implementing gender equality plans in RPOs. The six IPs are based in EU Member States with little or low reported performance in this aspect (Lithuania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Croatia). Two of these Member States, Bulgaria and Lithuania, have no reported GEPs implemented in HEIs and RPOs, and SPEAR consequently include two IPs from each of these countries to secure as sustainable and supportive structures as possible. This organization allows for differences in implementational contexts to be an asset rather than an obstacle. The three SIPs will support and qualify – and in return be inspired by – the development and implementation of GEPs among the six IPs, while they develop and further their own GEP-implementation.
Collaboration through communities: Community of Learning (CoL) and Community of Practice (CoP): SPEAR will build two communities, each providing systematic and supported reflection: SPEAR’s CoL and CoP. CoL focuses on identifying the needs of the S/IPs in their GEP implementation, and offers qualified and relevant training tailored to their processes. In parallel, CoP offers a platform through structured exchanges of practice-related experiences for transforming knowledge and learning into action. The two communities are interdependent and will ensure a strong collaborating network. The activities and interactions of the CoL and CoP will be further enhanced by the learnings from SPEAR’s integrated impartial evaluation feedback. Moreover, the CoL and CoP provide consortium members with vital experience in how to sustain communities of GE practitioners, an aspect that will be upscaled and exploited through SPEAR’s commitment to foster and fortify GE communities and networks across the EU. SPEAR’s consortium already engaged widely in GE networks across Europe and have instigated the establishment of several such networks themselves. This provides valuable experience in SPEAR’s future community commitment. SPEAR integrates other collaborative efforts as it engages stakeholders from EU-funded GE projects in, and from sectors beyond, academia.