Key Terms and Definitions

Activity: an implementing mechanism that carries out an intervention or set of interventions to advance identified development result(s). Activities range from contracts or cooperative agreements with international or local organizations, to direct agreements with partner governments, to partial credit guarantees that mobilize private capital, among other examples. Activities also include buy-ins under global agreements (e.g., field-support agreements) that generate programmatic results in a given country or region. In Missions, activities should contribute to development result(s) set forth in the Mission’s country development cooperation strategy.1

Adaptive management: an intentional approach to making decisions and adjustments in response to new information and changes in context.2

Allyship: supportive association with another person or group, specifically, with the members of a marginalized or mistreated group to which one does not belong.3

Critical mass in politics: critical mass for women’s involvement in politics is generally agreed to be 30 percent.4

Decent work: the International Labor Organization describes decent work as work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives, and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.5

Gender analysis: an analytic, social science tool that is used to identify, understand, and explain gaps between males and females that exist in households, communities, and countries, and the relevance of gender norms and power relations in a specific context. Such analysis typically involves examining differences in the status of women and men and their differential access to assets, resources, opportunities and services; the influence of gender roles and norms on the division of time between paid employment, unpaid work (including subsistence production and care for family members), and volunteer activities; the influence of gender roles and norms on leadership roles and decisionmaking; constraints, opportunities, and entry points for narrowing gender gaps and empowering females; and potential differential impacts of development policies and programs on males and females, including unintended or negative consequences.6

Gender balance: gender balance is generally agreed to be a male-female ratio of between 40 and 60 percent. McKinsey, a global consulting firm, analyzed data from 50,000 managers across 90 entities around the world and found that teams with a male-female ratio between 40 and 60 percent produce performance indicators that are more sustained and predictable than unbalanced teams, in terms of employee engagement, brand awareness, client retention, and financial metrics.7

Gender-based violence: an umbrella term for any harmful threat or act directed at an individual or group based on actual or perceived biological sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or lack of adherence to socially constructed norms around masculinity and femininity. It is rooted in structural gender inequalities, patriarchy, and power imbalances. GBV is typically characterized by the use (or threat) of physical, psychological, sexual, economic, legal, political, or social coercion, control, or abuse. GBV impacts individuals across the life course, and it has direct and indirect costs to families, communities, economies, global public health, and development. GBV takes many forms and can occur throughout the life cycle. Types of gender-based violence include: female infanticide; child sexual abuse; sex trafficking and forced labor; sexual coercion and abuse; neglect; domestic violence; elder abuse; and harmful traditional practices such as early and forced marriage, honor killings and female genital mutilation and cutting.8

Input: a resource, such as funding, information, or people, including the provision of USAID staff, whether funded by operating expenses or program funds, used to create an output.9

Legacy industries: “legacy industries” refers to fourteen well-established industries across a range of sectors, including energy, materials, industrials, consumer products, utilities and waste services.10

Operating Unit: for USAID, it includes field Missions and regional entities, as well as Regional Bureaus, Technical Bureaus, and Independent Offices in USAID/Washington that expend program funds to achieve DOs identified in a CDCS. Chapter 201 refers to field OUs as “Missions,” and those in Washington as “Washington OUs.”11

Outcome: the conditions of people, systems, or institutions that indicate progress or lack of progress toward achievement of project/program goals. Outcomes are any result higher than an output to which a given output contributes, but for which it might not be solely responsible. Outcomes can be intermediate or end outcomes, short-term or long-term, intended or unintended, positive or negative, direct or indirect.12

Output: the tangible, immediate, and intended products or consequences of an activity within USAID’s control or influence; the direct result of inputs.13

Positive masculinities: a term used to characterize the values, norms, and practices that gender-based work with men and boys seeks to promote to end violence against women and girls.14

Project: a group of activities designed and managed in a coordinated way to advance result(s) set forth in a CDCS (or another strategic framework) and ultimately foster lasting gains along the Journey to Self-Reliance in a country or region. Through a project approach, Missions and other OUs can create synergies among complementary activities that generate higher-level results than can be achieved through the sum of their individual performances.15

Project development document: a short document (ideally not more than 15 pages) that summarizes key decisions made during the project design process. The PDD is not intended to be a comprehensive plan or an exhaustive description of all design considerations; it is a management tool for facilitating an ongoing process of decision-making.16

Value chain: the full range of activities that are required to bring a product from its conception to its end-use. These include design, production, marketing, distribution, and support to get the product to the final consumer. The activities that comprise a value chain can be contained within a single firm or many firms.17

Women’s economic empowerment and gender equality (working definition): women’s economic empowerment exists when women can equitably participate in, contribute to, and benefit from economic opportunities as workers, consumers, entrepreneurs, and investors. This requires access to and control over assets and resources, as well as the capability and agency to manage the terms of their own labor and the benefits accrued. Women’s economic equality exists when all women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys for education, economic participation, decision-making, and freedom from violence. This requires collectively addressing barriers to commercial activity and labor market participation, such as restrictive laws, policies, and cultural norms; infrastructure and technology challenges; unpaid care work; limits on collective action; and poorly enforced protections. Women's economic equality is just one facet of gender equality more generally, which requires attention to the full range of gender gaps - economic, political, educational, social and otherwise.18

  • 1. USAID. ADS 201: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/201.
  • 2. USAID. ADS 201: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/201.
  • 3. Miriam Webster Dictionary online: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allyship
  • 4. Reference also Dahlerup, D. (2006), The story of the theory of critical mass. Politics & Gender 2 (4): 511–522.
  • 5. International Labour Organization: https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/decent-work/lang--en/index.htm.
  • 6. USAID. ADS 205: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/205.
  • 7. Landel, M. (2015), Gender balance and the link to performance. Available at https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/gender-balance-and-the-link-to-performance
  • 8. U.S. Department of State (2016), United States strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. Available at https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/258703.pdf
  • 9. USAID. ADS 201: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/201.
  • 10. FP Analytics (2020). ”Women as Levers of Change: Unleashing the Power of Women to Transform Male-Dominated Industries.” Available at: https://womenasleversofchange.com/.
  • 11. USAID. ADS 201: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/201.
  • 12. USAID. ADS 201: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/201.
  • 13. USAID. ADS 201: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/201.
  • 14. USAID (2015). Working with Men and Boys to End Violence Against Women and Girls: Approaches, Challenges, and Lessons. Available at https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/Sector-5-SocialDev_MenandBoys.pdf
  • 15. USAID. ADS 201: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/201.
  • 16. USAID. ADS 201: https://www.usaid.gov/ads/policy/200/201.
  • 17. USAID (2005). microNOTE #6 AMAP BDS Knowledge and Practice Task Order - Lexicon. Available at https://www.marketlinks.org/sites/default/files/resource/files/ML1778_mn_6_lexicon_03_05.pdf
  • 18. This is not an official definition of USAID or any other organization but rather a practical working definition that provides sufficient clarity in pursuing USAID’s economic goals with regard to gender equality and female empowerment.