Last autumn we brought partners from five countries together in Kenya to take the first steps on the way to developing our UK safeguarding consultancy into an international model. ChildHope's Safeguarding team share some insights from that first workshop.
ChildHope and our partners have long championed the need for child protection systems that make sense for the people implementing them, and the children benefiting from them. ChildHope’s consultancy work supporting UK-based organisations to develop, strengthen and implement safeguarding measures over recent years has further cemented this in our minds: that when it comes to those directly implementing programmes for the most marginalised children – often the partners of these UK-based agencies - the best people to support, train and advise on safeguarding and protection are those with their own experience working with children in those settings.
Thanks to a strategic grant from Comic Relief, we began work with six of our partners - from The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Kenya and Nepal – to turn this idea into a reality, by setting up an international consultancy network, to offer support, training and advice to other organisations in their regions. In the process, partners will be bringing in much needed income for their programmes, and if all goes to plan, become less reliant on grant funding to deliver their vital work with marginalised children.
In September, we brought this group together in Mombasa, Kenya for the first time for our inception workshop. We wanted the chance to air questions and concerns, be honest about the areas we need to strengthen, and identify how we can support each other to move towards being recognised expert consultants in child safeguarding. As you would imagine for a group of seven child rights NGOs, putting on a ‘business’ hat doesn’t come all that naturally, and a lot of our most burning questions were about this. How do we start selling our expertise as a ‘product’? It will be a real learning curve but one the team are certainly ready to tackle.
The focus for the inception workshop however was not on the complexities of business plans and forecasts, but on the knowledge and skills the team feel they have, and feel they need to develop, to operate as child safeguarding consultants. Some of the group are already offering these services, but looking to grow their business. Others are embarking on this anew, keen to introduce a new area of operations to their work.
Sharing and discussing specialist knowledge and expertise – such as child protection in emergencies, safeguarding street-connected children, and strengthening community child protection mechanisms - was a big part of the workshop. The exercise highlighted just how rich the group’s collective experience and knowledge really is. By the end of the week, we had identified what we have to offer, what we need to strengthen, and planned how we are going to go about it.
This project really couldn’t be more timely: the increased demand for safeguarding support across the sector; the real sense among our partners that they have something to offer; and the need to diversify income streams in response to the challenging funding environment.