On September 23 during the Sexual Violence Research Initiative’s (SVRI) 2022 Forum, USAID’s Agency for All Project hosted a breakfast event that brought together around 45 researchers, implementers, policymakers, and others experts to explore the concept of agency within violence prevention and response programming in different settings worldwide.

“What words come to mind when you think about agency?” 

This question, posed to attendees by Project Director Dr. Rebecka Lundgren via a real-time Mentimeter poll, kick-started the introduction to the Agency for All Project.

Through locally-led, equitable partnerships and innovation research, Agency for All’s central mandate is to reconceptualize definitions of collective agency—what this looks like in individual and community’s lives, its impact, and how it is measured and expanded. As we work within challenging contexts around the globe, we are required to also challenge ourselves, our colleagues, and our stakeholders about agency’s application across sectors.

What We Heard: Conceptualizing Agency

Using a Human-Centered Design focus—keeping those closest to the problem at the heart of the problem-solving process—small groups held dynamic conversations throughout the course of three activity questions:

  1. How does agency resonate within your work?

Key words shared included: decision-making, communities, partners, reduction in harm, equitable gender norms, structural norms change.

Ultimately, there was concern that agency needs to be contextualized, and is not value-neutral. One participant noted: “It is the cornerstone of all of our work,” which set the tone for the next two activities.

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