Protecting children from the unintended consequences of economic strengthening programs

A version of this post originally appeared on SEEP Network Blog. Reposted with permission.

econstrength_degrees_smIt is a common belief that programs designed to increase household income will automatically have positive effects on children. In fact, the evidence shows that this assumption cannot be taken for granted. In some cases, the interventions that increase household economic activities actually lead to greater problems for children and youth, such as more child labor and less school attendance, particularly in the short term.

For the past five years, the Child Protection in Crisis (CPC) Network and the Supporting Transformation by Reducing Insecurity and Vulnerability with Economic Strengthening (STRIVE) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by FHI 360, have sought to understand how economic strengthening programs affect children living in poverty and in humanitarian crises. To better inform practitioners, they collaborated to create Children and Economic Strengthening Projects: Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Harm, a new guide that explains how economic interventions can achieve better outcomes and impacts for children ages 0–18.

Rooted in field experience, the guide shows how to mitigate the unintended threats to children from economic strengthening activities and ways to maximize benefits to children, whether they are the direct or indirect beneficiaries. The guide draws on the extensive child protection expertise of the CPC Task Force, the STRIVE project’s experience in facilitating cross-sectoral collaborations, and recognized best practices for market-based economic strengthening programming.1

About the guide’s creators:

The CPC Network builds evidence to effect change in child protection policy and practice. The CPC Task Force on Livelihoods and Economic Strengthening seeks to enhance the protection and well-being of crisis-affected children through sustainable livelihoods approaches. The Task Force is convened by the Women’s Refugee Commission on behalf of CPC.

STRIVE is a 6.5-year program funded by USAID’s Displaced Children and Orphans Fund (DCOF) and managed by FHI 360. The program aims to fill current knowledge gaps about effective economic strengthening approaches and their impact on reducing the vulnerability of children and youth. In partnership with Action for Enterprise (AFE), ACDI/VOCA, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and Save the Children, STRIVE is implementing four economic strengthening projects in Africa and Asia between 2008 and 2014. Coupled with a robust monitoring and evaluation framework and learning strategy, STRIVE is documenting the impacts of these diverse interventions on children.

1 For an example, see James-Wilson et al., FIELD Report #2: Economic Strengthening for Vulnerable Children and Youth, Save the Children, FIELD-Support LWA, 2008.

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