Review of Save the Children Norway- supported programmes for child protection system strengthening

About the publication

  • Published: May 2014
  • Series: --
  • Type: NGO reviews
  • Carried out by: Child Frontiers (Team Leader: alexander Krueger)
  • Commissioned by: Save the Children Norway
  • Country: Nepal, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Laos
  • Theme: Children
  • Pages: --
  • Serial number: --
  • ISBN: --
  • ISSN: --
  • Organization: Save the Children Norway
  • Local partner: NA
NB! The publication is ONLY available online and can not be ordered on paper.

Child Protection was one of five thematic areas in the 2010-13 Strategy of Save the Children Norway (SCN) with the following objectives:
o stronger systems for the protection of children
o more children are protected against, and get support after violence and sexual abuse
o more children are heard and participate in prevention against violence and abuse

Within the first objective “stronger systems for the protection of children” SCN defined a comprehensive child protection system through five key elements: National jurisdiction; national plan of action; child friendly key institutions; surveillance and referral systems; and community based child protection initiatives. SCN supported the strengthening of protection systems in 13 countries during the 2010-13 strategy period.

Support to strengthening local and national child protection systems continues to be a priority area in the new SCN strategy for 2014-17.

Purpose/objective (including evaluation questions)   
The purpose of the review was to document the key results achieved with funding from SCN/Norad in the strategy period of 2010-13 in the area of strengthening protection systems locally and nationally. The review should identify key successes and best practices and challenges as well as give concrete recommendations for future programming in the area of strengthening protection systems within the current priority areas.

The results emerging from the review process have been included in the Norad interim report for 2010-13 and are used for future strategic planning linked to the SCN strategy 2014-17.

The methodology comprised the following elements.
• An inception report on the methodological framework and research process was developed on the basis of the terms of reference and a list of tentative questions. The report was shared for discussion and input before the process for the review was finalised.
• A Desk review of all relevant documents, including background documents from programmes, budgets and accounts; Save the Children programme and strategic documents for the eight countries; and relevant literature from the regional and global. A set of frameworks reflecting the questions outlined in the analytical framework and Save the Children Norway’s five key elements of system strengthening were developed to process the data and facilitate comparison across the eight country programmes.
• Specific tools for data collection were then finalized to elicit further understanding of each national situation and/or to address gaps in the information collated through the literature review:
a. An online survey was conducted with Save the Children child protection staff to generate quantifiable data on staff understanding, perceptions and approaches regarding the programmes and their impact.
b. Semi-structured interviews: The desk review singled out countries and situations worth additional in-depth analysis. An interview schedule, including themes for discussion with selected informants, was then developed.
• The emerging picture and analysis was shared and discussed with Save the Children Norway through a conference call and in the form of ‘working notes’ to ensure that the process was inclusive and participatory.

Key findings   
• The Save the Children Norway’s child protection strategy is largely consistent with the approach outlined by the Child Protection Initiative. Fundamentally, both strategies look at system strengthening as an approach for delivering better outcomes or results for children. Both strategies emphasise that systems will differ according to their context, yet neither strategy goes into much detail on how to approach a system-strengthening process.
• Country programme staff clearly believe that system strengthening is more effective than issue-based approaches for child protection and that the adoption of this approach is improving the effectiveness of child protection activities.
• The most frequently reported changes from more issue based approaches were that Save the Children is now adopting a more long-term vision and working with others, including government, civil society organisations, communities, other child protection agencies and children, in a more coordinated and coherent manner. Programme staff also believe that the systems approach promotes more effective use of resources.
• The most frequently cited strengths include developing community-based child protection committees and networks, promoting sustainability through technical support to government and helping the involvement of a range of groups, including children’s participation.
• The systems approach is understood as creating a more effective platform for engaging in advocacy, especially in relation to policy development, and affording more opportunities for piloting and standardising procedures and approaches to service delivery.
• One of the main challenges cited relates to contextualising the Child Protection Initiative and the Save the Children Norway strategies at the national level. Unfortunately, the country strategic plans generally do not appear to be based on or reflect sufficiently detailed contextual analysis that is needed to maximise the potential of the system-strengthening activities. It also appears that country programmes may be interpreting and applying both strategies in a prescriptive manner and, in the process, inadvertently adopting an overly simplistic or formulaic approach to their system-strengthening activities.
• In the new Save the Children structure it is important to establish consistency and clarity among international and members country programme strategies for child protection in order to aviod confusion or even contradictions. Even if international or member country strategies are broadly consistent with each other, the fact that multiple strategies exist is still likely to place burdens on country programmes as they try to situate their own strategies and workplans within multiple frameworks.
• The strategic plans generally contain a long list of activities, some of which relate to the five key elements of system strengthening outlined in the Save the Child Norway strategy and others that are clearly more aligned to the issue-based approach. There is a tendency to reduce the systems approach to working on specific components, which is then equated with actual results in terms of the system being strengthened. Working on components of a system is part of the process; but a system is not just the sum of its parts. Targeting a component or even multiple components of a system does not automatically mean that the system as a whole will be strengthened. 
The discourse of systems is filtering through more at the level of programmes and experience and learning are developing. The result is that the next strategic period offers the organisation the opportunity to embrace and further enhance the effectiveness of its system-strengthening activities.

As an organisation that prioritises system strengthening, Save the Children Norway has the opportunity to improve the way it works with country programmes and to influence the work of the Child Protection Initiative.

The following recommendations are presented as suggestions for improving the effectiveness and impact of Save the Children Norway’s efforts to strengthen child protection systems in the countries supported by funding from Norad and through participation in the Child Protection Initiative:

1. Update the approach to system strengthening and the strategy of Save the Children Norway.
2. Clarify and give guidance on the role or position of Save the Children in system strengthening.
3. Expand Save the Children staff capacity building.
4. Revise the country strategic planning process and centre this on the systems approach.
5. Align Save the Children Norway’s reporting process with the approach for system strengthening.
6. Review and revise the monitoring and evaluation process to deliver solid evidence on outcomes for children.
7. Clarify and provide guidance on what constitutes a better outcome for children.
8. Improve the tracking of resources for system strengthening.
9. Strengthen internal and external learning and knowledge management practices.

Follow up (with reference to Action Plan) 
A follow-up plan of the review has been developed and is currently being implemented.


Published 10.12.2014
Last updated 16.02.2015