Guess our riddle: what are the three things that child protection coalitions need for being able to improve children’s lives?
Here are some hints:
- The child protection coalitions are from the Western Balkans, South Caucasus and Eastern Europe, where a culture of philanthropy is still developing and individual donors, when they choose to contribute to a social casue, prefer to give for a concrete service or an individual child. Never to an NGO network, even if the NGO network, through lobbying, could change an entire system of injust procedures for children.
- The child protection coalitions operate in a context where the legacies of the socialist past are still felt and still shape the government’s respone to vulnerable children and to civil society demands.
- These child protection coalitions operate in an increasingly sophisticated environment where advocay requires not only concrete data, but also stories that can influence hearts and minds.
That’s right! You guessed!
First, national coalitions need financial sustainability. Lacking capacity investment, NGO networks rely on erratic annual project grants. With funding cycles tied to planned outcomes, networks can not urgently seize political influencing opportunities because grant timelines need to come first. Moreover, coalitions are victims of a misconception about what matters when making institutional funding and private donation decisions. Networks are seen as 1) bureaucratic structures with un-productive administrative costs that 2) do not offer direct services to children. This reasoning is hugely flawed. On one hand children need more than direct services: they also need good policies. On the other hand the administrative or ‘overhead’ costs are a poor measure of a network’s performance. Impact results (along with transparency, governance and leadership) should be the main factor for guiding funding decisions.
Second, the child rights networks need the skills and capacities to make their voice heard by both policy makers and the public through direct meetings, media outreach, and online activities. Fighting for a just cause should be enough to obtain visibility, but unfortunately this is not the case. Effective communication and advocacy are complicated crafts that representatives of national coalitions have to muster to grab public attention and influence policy debates.
Third, child protection networks need evidence. They need facts to be able to show what the governments and other stake-holders promised, how they score on their promises and how they can improve what they have promised to deliver. They need to have answers. When a decision-maker says: ‘Yes, I am aware of this, but what can I do?’, they must be ready to develop solutions or maybe borrow solutions, instead of ‘re-inventing the wheel’, by finding inspiration in other countries. Knowledge is power, and convincing evidence is the most powerful tool for effective advocacy.
‘United Voices for Children’ is a project that considered the importance of these three factors (and many others) for coalition impact. Financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), through World Vision Germany and Agroinvest Serbia, this project started on March 1st 2015. The project partners are 7 ChildPact members (or organizations who act on behalf of the non-registered members) from: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, and Serbia.
With this project our team will grow: we will need project coordinators in every country, fundraising consultants at regional and national level, celebrity & business partnership experts, an NGO partner (or a small team of consultants) to develop a Governance Manual (operational and funding standards) for ChildPact and its members, child protection experts to pilot the Child Protection Index in 4 more countries (Albania, Armenia, BiH and Kosovo), media coaches and a significant number of volunteers and interns that may want to join us in this new adventure.