Members of the Community Based Child Protection (CBCP) Task Force have undertaken a systematic review of literature and research on the types and nature of community based child protection approaches, how they function, and how agencies can engage more effectively with communities. The findings are being drafted and piloted in the form of "Key Considerations.” These Key Considerations will be a component of the upcoming Inter-Agency Field Guide for Strengthening Community Based Child Protection.
The CBCP TF team working on the initiative held a side event to the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action's Annual Meeting on Thursday, October 18th in Nairobi, Kenya to present the draft Key Considerations and how they are being piloted by members. Features of the presentation included:
- A PowerPoint overview of the systematic review, draft Key Considerations and the typology that was used to determine whether approaches are more or less community-driven or top-down.
- Save the Children, War Child and Plan presented ways in which they have taken the findings of the review into the field for validation, contributing to the development of programmatic approaches. These included sessions in Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Sir Lanka, and the CBCP TF’s first pilot for the field guide initiative in Sudan.
The findings of the review indicate that much of the CBCP work in humanitarian settings is externally-driven and does not easily transition to more community-led approaches. The Key Considerations reflect the growing evidence base demonstrating that approaches that are more “bottom-up,” with higher levels of community leadership and management, are more effective and sustainable. There remains more to learn on how we can adapt these approaches in emergency humanitarian settings.
The event facilitated discussion of the challenges and opportunities in moving towards these directions and enabled colleaguesto share their experiences and perspectives for further development of the Field Guide. In three groups the following questions were discussed:
- As a humanitarian child protection sector, do we want to move towards more community-driven approaches that emphasize higher levels of community ownership (e.g. levels 3 and 4 in the typology presented)?
- Why? Why not? When?
- If so, what do we need to get there? (specifics)
Summary of Discussions
As to the overarching question, the general agreement was “yes,” we do want to move in that direction, as higher levels of community ownership promote sustainability. In some contexts, the presence of external actors may be limited and finding ways to support community-led protection efforts may be the most viable approach.
However, there may be contexts in which community-led approaches are particularly challenging (e.g. urgent onset crises, contexts where there is large-scale population movement) or potentially undesirable (e.g. in some sensitive contexts external actors may effectively play a role as “convener”). There were also differences of opinion as to whether such approaches can work in contexts of inaccessibility and how to best support those remotely. It was also noted that some community-led child protection approaches are harmful and not supported.
The questions, challenges, and ideas of how to make this shift towards more sustainable and effective community-level child protection work generally revolved around the structures/systems of humanitarian action, the nature of how we have been working as humanitarian agencies, and the need to reflect on what that means to drive a change in approach.
Reflections on Current Approaches
The humanitarian coordination and funding systems limit a “bottom-up” approach: donors and organizations have agendas, mandates, priorities, etc. Funding can also influence governments’ desire to work with INGOs and not local organizations.
- Can those be influenced to change?
- Do we even try to bring different approaches to donors?
We have worked in this way for a long time, and recognize that we can’t try to change existing programming that was strongly externally driven. We don’t have a lot of lessons from the humanitarian context to guide us in supporting approaches that are more community driven and in making determinations about when such approaches are more/less appropriate.
Community-based work is broader than child protection; how can it build on the work in other sectors, as well as that in the development sector, to strengthen across contexts? These approaches require a very different way of working, different skill sets, attitudes and behaviours.
We need to reflect on who we are as humanitarian actors, and what the appropriate roles are to promote these approaches (e.g. “being of use” vs. being experts). Are we willing to let go of pre-determined priorities and expectations and open ourselves to potentially “inconvenient” answers or priorities that are not aligned with those of our organizations? Can we ask ourselves honestly if we are willing to “trust” communities, to hand over responsibility, funding, etc.?
How Do We Get There?
- Work in communities to the extent possible (e.g. office space) and prioritize hiring local staff.
- Focus capacity building on both CP technical skills and on the “soft skills” needed for effective community level work (e.g. patience, respect, humility, communication skills, etc.).
- Emphasise attitudes and behaviors; not just things you can be trained on but that are reinforced by organizational culture.
- Document effective approaches, share learning and advocate for funding opportunities.
- Develop guidance and training for to support community level implementers.
- Spend time building relationships with communities to build trust; ensure representative community participation, including vulnerable groups.
- Begin with mapping: identify the existing structures (e.g. organizations, groups); understand their roles, capacities, and resources; and develop relationships with them.
- Learn how the community already mobilizes itself for children’s protection.
- Use approaches that emphasize respect, humility, listening and non-directive participation.
- Approaches should build on and strengthen existing resources, structures, systems and approaches.
- Engage the government as soon as possible and work with it to develop implementation strategies and build sustainability.
- Work through local leaders and build on local knowledge.
- Make linkages with other community based mechanisms and/or approaches from other sectors/the development context to learn, build on existing work, and reinforce CP in other mechanisms.
- Focus on preparedness and ways to mitigate potential risks and challenges.
- Pilot new approaches in “new” humanitarian settings that have not had a strong external presence (example of Venezuela was given) to provide better opportunities to start with a strong community-level approach from the beginning of implementation (rather than trying to change existing CBCPM). Monitor, evaluate and document.