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News & Events

Women’s Philanthropy in Action: Advancing Women and Wellbeing in Wisconsin and the World (4W) through high-impact small grants program

Collage of photographs of many people's faces

By Susan Lampert Smith

This is part of a story series highlighting the impact of investing in women-led wellbeing projects around the world.

As an alumna and longtime donor to UW causes, Marlene Hartzman appreciates what’s special about the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She also knows the sheer size of one of the world’s largest research universities can be a barrier to the kind of research that needs to happen across disciplines to advance equality for women, within a framework of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“People here do wonderful work, but it can stay in silos,’’ says Hartzman, “and it’s hard for a professor who works in one department to have a meaningful research connection with someone in another.”

That’s why Hartzman and other members of the Women’s Philanthropy Council (WPC) are so pleased with their six years of supporting the small grants program of Women and Wellbeing in Wisconsin and the World (4W), an initiative based at the School of Human Ecology (UW–Madison). The seed money provided by the grants is important, she said, but so is the multidisciplinary mentoring, the feminist approach, and the fact that support offered even to those whose grant proposals aren’t funded the first time around.

Photo of Marlene Hartzman
Marlene Hartzman

“It was a natural, easy fit for the WPC,’’ says Hartzman. The group also sponsors childcare on campus and staff development opportunities, so a program that combines research money and support for young scholars fits into what Hartzman sees as “the overarching goal of really helping women develop their capacity.”

Hartzman, an alumna of the School of Education, is also pleased that so many of the projects funded by the innovator grants for staff and faculty, and the emerging scholars grants for graduate students are “action research projects” that show results. She gave an example from the work done by Nancy Kendall, Lori DiPrete Brown and Zikani Kaunda on the important role of grandmothers in the social safety net in Malawi.

“Basically, you have a hypothesis that is based on research, and you go do the work with these mothers and grandmothers in Malawi, and see what happens,’’ said Hartzman, who has joined the board of 4W.

“It’s easy to intervene and make corrections. And having people work across disciplines adds depth and breadth to their work.” – Marlene Hartzman

Hartzman also sees the 4W small grants projects as an ideal venue to get young women involved in philanthropy, another passion of hers. Because the grants range from $2,000 to $7,500, and donated money is matched by other 4W funds, she said, “You could pull together a group of friends, pool your money and support a student doing one of these projects.”

Portrait of Lori DiPrete Brown, a smiling woman with dark hair, brown eyes and light skin, sits by the 100 Women Wall.
Lori DiPrete Brown

Projects funded so far have had impacts on schoolgirls in Ghana, artisans in Ecuador and sex trafficked youth here in Wisconsin. Lori DiPrete Brown, 4W director, likes to say that the work brings together “Wisconsin and the world.”

“We’re going from here to everywhere and back again. 4W scholars understand that we don’t live in one place, we’re nested in the world.” – Lori DiPrete Brown

DiPrete Brown says the research ideas are based on the 11-dimensions of wellbeing, a model developed by 4W scholars under her leadership, and the ideas arise from the collaborative energy of the women’s leadership circle.

Colorful infographic that looks like a flower. Each petal and concentric, green circle are labeled with a key word or phrase.
11-Dimensions of Wellbeing Model: At the center is Self, including Time, Culture, Place and Identity. Concentric circles radiate out from the center labeled, Family, Peers, Relationships, Local, State, Global Environmental. These circles are divided into quadrants: Lifelong Health (which includes Fair and Just Community, Basic Needs, and Care for the Earth), Freedom and Safety (which includes Personal Safety and Free From Harm), Thriving (which includes Growth and Flourishing, Voice and Expression, and Purpose), and Human Connection (which includes Mutual Care, Belonging, and Engagement).
Portrait of Cora Marrett
Cora Marrett

“I am delighted to see the excellent 4W grants program receive this deserved attention. It’s important to share these stories with the public, so that everyone can be aware of the high-quality work that 4W promotes and that the WPC supports.” – UW Alumnae and WPC member Dr. Cora Marrett has served on the selection committee for the grant program since its inception.

“Our focus is always well-being and the lived experiences of women,’’ DiPrete Brown said. “You can always hear the women’s voices when it’s a 4W project.”

Look for a call for 4W grant proposals in the late fall, with proposals being due in the early spring. The innovator grants, for faculty and staff, range from $5,000-$7,500 and the emerging scholars grants from $2,500 to $4,000. 4W also supports research and internship opportunities for undergraduates.

Read more in this story series about the impact of investing in women-led wellbeing projects around the world: