Collective action is about promoting effective, inclusive organisations for and by women producers and waged workers. It is about helping groups of women, not just the exceptional few, gain more stable and powerful positions within markets — as input-providers, certifiers, quality assurance, processors or wholesale traders – adding value in diversified, higher-skilled, lower-risk, profitable positions in markets.

The women’s collective action guidance documents available in the download provide information on how to create effective groups for production and for influencing.

The following exercises are complementary to wider strategies on enterprise and markets development, food security or employment. They aim to assess good practices and gaps in the groups and organisations identified by the programme, and to prioritise potential interventions, to improve structures, policies and practices to support women’s economic empowerment.  This assessment contributes to programme design and/or evaluation.

The exercises are based in part on the findings of three-year programme of Researching Women’s Collective Action in agricultural markets in Ethiopia, Mali and Tanzania.

Average time investment for using this tool

2-3 days over 1 week

Who leads

Facilitator fluent in the local language and familiar with the community

Who needs to be involved

Partners and Oxfam staff; male and female smallholders who are members of collective action groups; female community members who have chosen not to join collective action groups.

Activity 1: Guidance for collective action

Exercises for programme teams to assess collective action, select partners, and design interventions to maximise the potential for women’s economic empowerment in markets initiatives.

Step 1: Introduce the concept

Agree with your partners on the objectives of the exercises you choose to undertake. Identify together where improving women’s collective action fits within you project’s ambitions.

Ensure you have baseline data on how inclusive, sustainable, and economically and socially supporting current collective action groups are. This will be useful for monitoring and evaluating change from the intervention.

Step 2: Identify/map collective action groups

Convene a representative group of local women members and non-members of collective action groups, as well as a few men for an initial meeting.

Download the complete tool below for guidance on questions.

Step 3: Understanding perceptions

Ask women about the expectations about the benefits of participating in various groups/collective action

    • What has been the real experience of benefits of participation – both monetary/economic and in terms of knowledge, skills, support, or empowerment?
    • What are the gaps and weaknesses of different types of collective action – what would they like to see happen?
    • What is their perspective of adding new functions to existing groups, or providing support to them.

Step 4: How groups function

Convene a focus group including representatives of the most relevant collective action groups (based on the mapping), and identified partners and stakeholders of the markets programme. Present an overview of the findings of the mapping during this discussion.


In small groups, discuss structures, policies and practices of groups and organisations, and identify and prioritise changes/interventions to promote women’s economic empowerment. Use the talking points available in the downloadable document as a guide:

Step 5: The wider system analysis

The same group is asked to discuss ways in which the wider policy environment is (dis)enabling of women’s collective action.

Download the complete tool below for guidance on this step.

Step 6: Action planning and programme design

Design an exercise to review outputs from the preceding discussion, to prioritise potential actions, identify roles and responsibilities and set timelines for change.

Identify and agree indicators of change in the prioritised action areas.

See the complete tool for examples of indicators.