“Simplicity Workshops” organised in Serbia, Kosovo and Albania

Under the project “Young With A Voice”, funded by the European Commission through the Civil Society Facility, ChildPact and its implementing partners organised a series of Simplicity Workshops in order to discuss strategies for simplifying the legislative and bureaucratic framework in child protection by removing unnecessary hurdles.

Open Club Serbia on behalf of  The Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia (MODS) hosted the first encounter on 17-18 April. The Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo (KOMF) hosted the workshop on 20-21 April, while United for Child Care  and Protection Coalition (BKTF) from Albania hosted the last meeting on 23-24 April. The workshops benefited from the presence of 20 participants in each location.

A bit of history

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), adopted by the UN General Assembly more than 25 years ago, is the most ratified convention in UN’s history.  According to the UNCRC, children and young people are entitled to be involved in developing policies that affect them (Article 12). Accordingly, participation to relevant policy making should be considered a fundamental right of the child.

This means that children’s participation should be sought when developing judicial and administrative procedures that affect them. In today’s world, administrative is best described as bureaucracy. A bureaucracy that is excessively complicated as regarding child protection system. A bureaucracy that prevents children to understand their rights, therefore to have an opinion about them. A bureaucracy that prevents the parents and care takers to access these rights even when they are aware of their existence. How can the Article 12 of UNCRC be truly respected in such conditions?

Simplification of bureaucratic complexity requires deliberate effort and commitment. This happens because, as Eduard De Bono highlights it in his book ‘Simplicity’, ‘there is no natural evolution towards simplicity. Things get even more complex, rather than simpler.’ Therefore simplifying is difficult, particularly when undertaken by the people who work within the system. The people who know the system – child protection experts and professionals – got used to complexity and no longer notice it and even add more elements, so they increase the complexity even further. What is worse, high-level decision-makers may not be aware of how complex the system is, and have no incentives for simplifying it.

The Simplicity Workshop essentials

As a response to the need of removing the legislative and bureaucratic hurdles in child protection, the Simplicity Workshops aimed at creating a task force to advocate for simpler ways to do things in the child protection systems across the region. During the workshop, participants were accustomed with a systematic approach to simplification in the child protection  field and the most important concepts involved in this process: what is complexity and how does it take form, how  professionals within the child protection system experience complexity, what are the principles of simplifying, what methods can be used to simplify and what are the steps of the simplifying process.

The first rule of simplifying is to want to simplify, but this is definitely not enough. Therefore, workshop participants were encouraged to create and engage in a Simplicity Campaign, developed around two objectives: to collect stories of the end-users about what procedures and regulations are too complicated for them to understand, and to collect ideas about how this complex procedures can be simplified.

The Simplicity Campaign is planned to take place by the end of October 2015 in each participating country, with the support and supervision from national child protection networks. All the ideas collected from children, experts and the wider public will be presented to decision makers at high-level meetings. During these activities, campaign representatives will be advocating for the simplification of the current legislation and administrative directives that impact the well-being of children.

To be continued

Coherent action plans adapted to the specificities of the national child protection systems were developed at the meetings in Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. A high volunteer commitment combined with a hands-on approach from the national networks suggests that the Simplicity Campaign will be successful. Other two Simplicity Workshops are planned to take place in the next few weeks in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

On the same positive note, a first proactive reaction to the workshop in Kosovo already took place. The Prime Minister Office for Good Governance and Human Rights contacted The Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo (KOMF) to express its intention to join the Simplicity Campaign and actively engage in further activities.