Adapting global economic and social empowerment programs to improve well-being of Latino immigrants

We seek to implement an economic empowerment and gender equity promotion program to reduce interpersonal violence and increase well-being.

Photo of Lisa Gring-Pemble
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Written by


  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

Manassas, VA 20111 Springfield, VA 22150 Falls Church, VA 22041 Fairfax, VA 22030 NOTE: We regret that we cannot share photos of our work but due to confidentiality, privacy, and immigration status of our target population, we cannot offer any photos.

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Civic Engagement
  • Development & Prosperity
  • Health & Fitness
  • Human Rights & Equality

Date Started

2013: Successful International Program in Ivory Coast 11/1/17: Proposal for VA summer 2018 pilot.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)


  • $50k - $100k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter URL

@GeorgeMasonBiz @MasonCHHS

Facebook URL

LinkedIn URL

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

Dr. Lisa Gring-Pemble was working on economic empowerment programs for indigenous women in Colombia, designing courses in social impact and entrepreneurship, and serving the Mason Dreamers and Ashoka. Dr. Jhumka Gupta had successfully launched a World Bank funded gender equity and economic empowerment intervention to reduce violence against women in Côte d’Ivoire. Dr. Becki Sutter, Mason and Partners Clinic Director, had launched numerous health care centers that provided comprehensive primary and health services to low income, immigrant populations. Dr. Laura Poms, who knew each of us well, introduced us via email in Fall 2017 and said, "You have so much in common--you should work together." And so—a beautiful relationship was born!

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Male-perpetrated violence against women is a critical human rights and security issue (a UN Sustainable Development Goal) with grave social, economic, and health consequences for families and communities. Low-income, Spanish-speaking Latina immigrant women are particularly vulnerable. Immigrants comprise over 20% of the population in Northern VA's Districts. Interventions are scarce but global strategies, if adapted, offer potential solutions.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Recent research conducted in Côte d’Ivoire by Dr. Jhumka Gupta (team member) found that combining women’s economic empowerment with gender equity training for men reduced women’s experiences of interpersonal violence (IPV) & improved women’s mental health and men’s perceived social support from peers. This model is being replicated in Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan, and Ethiopia. To date, despite national data indicating that 1 in 4 women experiences IPV in the U.S., and extensive research that economic vulnerability contributes to IPV experiences, promising global strategies remain largely unexplored for adaptation in the United States. Throughout summer 2018, we are conducting a mixed-methods, community engaged research project to inform the design and adaptation of implementing an economic empowerment and gender equity promotion program to reduce IPV, promote economic and mental well-being, and increase social support.This proposal examines how to adapt such innovations to reduce IPV among low-income Latino immigrant populations in VA. Specifically, we will embed an economic empowerment and gender equity training intervention within Mason and Partners (MAPS) Clinics.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

We are: 1. Investigating perceptions of and experiences with IPV, gender dynamics, and economic empowerment programming using mixed-methods research: a .Conducting focus group discussions with low-income, Spanish-speaking Latina/o immigrant women and men (n=2 groups each), health care providers (n= 1 group), Latino-serving domestic violence advocates (n=1 group), economic development staff (n=1 group). b. Administering a pilot, quantitative survey with low-income, Spanish-speaking Latina/o immigrant women and men, examining experiences with IPV, economic hardship, and gender inequity (n=20 men and 20 women). 2. Iteratively adapting an economic empowerment and gender equity intervention with demonstrated effectiveness in non-US settings to improve economic well-being, reduce IPV, and improve mental well-being within a health clinic setting for underserved populations in N. Virginia.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

A key component of this program is to reach Latina immigrant women, an underserved population to be sure. Latinas are disproportionately impacted by IPV, with 1 in 3 reporting such experiences. Immigrant women face unique barriers for disclosure of and seeking services for IPV, due in part to fear of deportation and/or discrimination, fear of perpetuating negative stereotypes of their community to outsiders within an anti-immigrant climate, cultural factors, and attenuated social support.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • ability
  • immigration status
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • gender
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The literature has long recognized the interdependence of economic self-sufficiency and interpersonal violence reduction, especially in non-Western global contexts. Oxfam and the UN are two well-known programs that recognize this connection. Dr. Gring-Pemble has worked with economic empowerment programs in Colombia and the U.S., and Drs. Gupta and Sutter have experience with gender equity and health interventions in low income populations. Existing interventions often rely heavily on passive strategies without considering economic vulnerability and gender inequity; we want to remedy that.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We are inspired by 3 successful projects. Gr. Gring-Pemble's Colombian work has engaged over 30 women and 10 men with 180 hives since 2017. Women report that "income for women directly benefits women and the family too." Another said "earning money leads to independence." Others note "The beekeeping program empowers at the community level." Dr. Gupta's work in Côte d'Ivoire involved a randomized controlled trial which impacted 981 women and those who attended the most workshops with their partner experienced a 40% reduction in violence. Dr. Sutter's work with the College of Health and Human Services provides over 200,000 hours of services to the community and the MAPS clinics (bridge-care model) serve uninsured, immigrant and refugee families. This summer we adapt global successes to our region, combine IPV, health, and economic empowerment, and pilot data for intervention.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

We will pursue 4 strategies for scaling, including: 1. Focusing on impact & measurement. Dr. Gaamaa Hishigsuren, social entrepreneur and impact investor, has agreed to join our team to aid in data collection and social impact measurement so we can track success and adapt strategies accordingly. 2. Designing effective economic empowerment & gender equity intervention strategies that are pilot data-driven 3. Collaborating with local businesses for effective tri-sector partnerships. 4. Replicating the model in other settings nationwide

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Other

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We received a $28,000 grant from George Mason University to gather our pilot data this summer. We are seeking additional funding from grants like this one and from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Global Ideas for U.S. Solutions and R21 grant proposal to the National Institute of Minor National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), funding opportunity announcement PA-17-044 (Addressing Health Disparities through Effective Interventions among Immigrant Populations).

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Jhumka Gupta, ScD (Asst Prof & soc. epidemiologist)— international expert on public health impacts of violence against women who led a similar World Bank-funded trial in Côte d’Ivoire. Dr. Rebecca Sutter, Assoc. Dir. of Nursing— launched 3 academic nurse managed health centers in medically underserved areas. Dr. Lisa Gring-Pemble, Assoc. Prof. of Business & Dir. of Global Impact & Engagement—leads social entr. initiatives plus 6 students. Dr. Gaamaa Hishigsuren (finance) joins us in the Fall.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)
  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)
  • Middle Eastern or North African (for example: Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian)

If you replied "Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

NOTE: The faculty & students working on this project together represent a variety of categories.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges
  • Ashoka page or contact


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Photo of Heather Saunders

Terrific idea!

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