Why measuring child-level impacts can help achieve lasting economic change

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

Why should economic strengthening (ES) projects monitor and measure how they affect children? Until recently, the development community has largely assumed that greater household economic welfare also leads to improved well-being for children. While evidence indicates that there is a correlation between increased household economic welfare and child well-being , studies have also shown that in the short-term, household economic activities may have no or even negative impacts on children’s well-being , such as risks of decreased school attendance or increased child labor.

For the past six years, 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, and the Child Protection in Crisis (CPC) Network’s Task Force on Livelihoods and Economic Strengthening have sought to increase our understanding of the link between households’ economic situation and children’s well-being. STRIVE and the CPC Network’s new technical brief Why Measuring Child-Level Impacts Can Help Achieve Lasting Economic Change is based in their experience and research, and shares emerging lessons and relevant recommendations for both practitioners and donors seeking to maximize the benefits of economic strengthening projects and support sustainable growth.

Based on the current state of implementation and research, the brief observes that:

  1. Addressing the well-being of the upcoming generation is key to the successful and sustainable alleviation of poverty.
  2. Economic strengthening programs have transformative potential for improving the lives of children and youth but have also yielded negative results in some cases.
  3. Substantial gaps remain in our understanding of how children and youth are affected by economic strengthening programs.

In order to build on opportunities and address gaps and risks, the authors recommend that:

  1. Practitioners should monitor children’s well-being in order to maximize benefits and minimize harm. This monitoring should employ the following emerging best practices: a) plan for child-level monitoring in project plans, b) build in child-level indicators from the beginning, and c) incorporate local definitions of success.
  2. Donors should promote the sector’s accountability on this issue by calling for and funding monitoring, evaluation and research of child-level impacts related to economic strengthening efforts.

Systematically monitoring and evaluating child well-being is essential for recognizing opportunities to build on successes and address unintended negative consequences for children. Donors and practitioners will further benefit from investing in tool development, documentation and publication of data, and sharing best practices for evaluation and monitoring of child-level impacts. A stronger evidence base will improve project design and implementation, leading to more efficient and effective interventions that will generate greater momentum in poverty alleviation for coming generations.

The Technical Brief can be found here: Why Measuring Child-Level Impacts Can Help Achieve Lasting Economic Change. A related publication from STRIVE and the CPC Network is Children and Economic Strengthening Programs: Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Harm, a guide for practitioners designing or implementing economic strengthening programs in low-income settings with a sensitivity to the well-being of vulnerable children. The guide provides an overview of key learning about how economic strengthening can achieve better outcomes and impacts for children aged 0–18, both within and outside of household care, whether the direct program beneficiaries are adults or adolescents (aged 10–18), themselves.

About the technical guide’s creators

STRIVE is a 6.5-year, $16 million 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 has been implementing four economic strengthening projects in Africa and Asia between 2008 and 2013. Coupled with a robust monitoring and evaluation framework and learning strategy, STRIVE is documenting the impacts of these diverse interventions on children.

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.

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