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What is the W+ Standard ?

To accelerate women’s empowerment, WOCAN  has created W+: the world’s first standard to measure positive impacts to women’s social and economic empowerment. When incorporated into project design and execution, the W+ provides measurable, verifiable additional social benefits, resulting in marketable “W+ Units”.  Rigorous standards and methods ensure buyers of W+ certified “Units” will be protected from false or inflated claims, and can confidently measure the beneficial impacts of their investments. 

What kinds of projects can the W+ Standard be applied to?

The W+ Standard can be applied to a wide range of projects.  Any kind of project designed to improve social, economic or environmental conditions could be a good candidate for applying the W+ Standard.  Some examples might be:

- Water supply 

- Renewable energy technologies

- Climate change mitigation 

- Time and labor saving devices

- Educational programs

- Forest and agriculture activities

 What is a W+ “Unit”?

The W+ Unit represents the social and economic value of women. Purchasing these social assets drives positive social and economic change for women, their families and communities.  Each W+ project is unique and may include one or more of the six W+ domains in its assessment of value.  Each project is evaluated, outcomes are measured and a social value is set based on a variety of factors, which include factors such as; prevailing local living wage, time spent by women, measured improvements in health, income, civic leadership, etc.   

What are the “domains”, and what are they about?

WOCAN has identified six key areas where improvements in women’s lives can make a transformative difference in individual and social empowerment.  Each one of the six domains has the potential to provide positive feedbacks to the other five.  Implementers must show progress in at least one of these domains, and must show ‘no harm’ in all domains. More info

Why a “Women’s Standard” and not a more general “Community” Standard? 

The following graphic describing the findings of a 2007 UNICEF study illustrates why WOCAN has focused the W+ Standard on women.

WOCAN’s focus is based on empirical information about the gaps in resources and earnings received by women in relation to men , where these resources will have the most beneficial impact, and are in alignment with international development goals.  We also believe empowering women is the right thing to do.

If I buy W+ Units, what do I get and what good does it do?

Purchasing W+ Units is a financial donation to WOCAN, which returns a significant portion of the value of W+ Units sold to the women and women’s groups in project communities.  W+ projects identify women’s empowerment opportunities in one or more of the six domains, are implemented and monitored according to a well-defined plan, and audited on-site to ensure the results are quantified and verifiable.  Unlike donating to a cause up-front, your purchase of a W+ Unit means that the project has already performed as expected.  Your contribution ensures that women in the project community will have additional resources as a result of their participation.   Buyers of W+ Units will be issued a certificate, enumerating their unique W+ Units.

Are there an unlimited number of W+ Units?  

No, there are a finite number of W+ Units for each project, each time the project is audited, over the course of multiple years (called “vintages”).  Each project generates a limited and quantified number of Units.  Each Unit sold is listed on the W+ web-shop with a unique project and serial number so that Units are never “double sold”.  

What is the price of a W+ Unit based on?

The price of each project’s Units begins with the determination of the Direct Share value; the amount of the W+ unit price to be directed back to women and women’s groups in the project community.  The implementeris compensated for their work, commissions are paid to sellers, the independent auditor charges a fee, and WOCAN takes a small percentage to cover its administrative costs.

How does the W+ program get money back to the women in project communities?

The W+ Standard requires each implementerto ensure they have established a locally appropriate, secure and auditable mechanism to make payments to women or women’s groups in the project community.  The specific mechanism will vary from project-to-project. WOCAN assures that the funds are distributed through this reliable channel.

If women are benefitting from the projects, why are they also getting money?

Women contribute significant unrecognized and uncompensated labor and time – whether as care-providers, farmers and resource managers, or laborers.  In addition to this unpaid care labor, women provide substantial inputs to development aid projects, environmental services, water or public health projects that benefit communities and countries. It has also been found that when women are provided with monetary resources, they are far more likely to spend that money to serve their families and their community’s needs than men often do (The Forum on Public Policy, 2009).  By returning a portion of the revenues from the sale of W+ Units, WOCAN is helping the world recognize the value of women’s work, and provide women in project communities resources which they will re-invest in their families and communities, creating a virtuous cycle of improvement.

Why should my company invest in W+ Units?

By investing in W+ Units, buyers can feel confident that they are making a measurable difference, through an established program, and a well-respected organization.  Companies, governments and individuals can make certified investments in women’s empowerment, rather than take a guess at what good their contributions will do elsewhere, or create separate programs of their own.  These investments yield measurable outcomes for women, their families and communities.  Some options for corporate investments might be: integration into Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives, bundled into other purchases and services (W+ energy, W+ water, W+ materials). 

Are W+ Units charitable donations?

Yes.  W+ Units are charitable donations.  WOCAN is registered as a charitable non-profit organization in the United States  (US Tax Code 501c3).  In the United States, purchases of W+ Units qualify as tax-deductible donations. 

Are W+ units a donation or impact investment?

Buying W+ units is a donation that sets the stage for future impact investing. Buying W+ units

- supports and empowers women by returning value to women directly

- compensates implementer who have already made their own investment to establish a W+ project.  

- ensures that implementers are rewarded for their initiative and encourages a virtuous cycle of additional W+ projects.  


With the creation of a robust market for W+ units, investment in W+ project development will be an example of impact investment at its best.

Could W+ Units be considered “Securities”?

No, W+ Units would not be considered “Securities”: they are not intended to return or accrue interest, they do not convey an ownership position in a project , they do not convey a share of profit in a project.  


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