Following the learning phase, communities will have a heightened awareness of various harms to children that need to be addressed.

This awareness, however, may not translate into inclusive action, as community elites may guide discussions and plans for action. An inclusive process is needed in order to unlock the greatest potential for change and to bring forward the views of girls, boys, marginalized people, and others who are not usually at the center of power.

Also, community action alone may not be enough to address harms that require collaboration between communities and formal actors in the child protection system. In this context, outside agencies may contribute to children’s well-being by playing a facilitative role.

The purpose of this chapter is to increase understanding of how to support an inclusive community planning process in which communities decide which harm(s) to children they want to address and how they will do so. Its objectives are to:

  • emphasize the importance of deep engagement and relationship with communities in enabling community decisions to work with an agency (or agencies) and its facilitator;
  • outline how to support contextualized processes wherein communities engage in inclusive dialogue and decision-making to select which harm(s) to children they want to address through community-led action; and
  • explore different models wherein communities decide which actions or steps they will take to address the harm(s) to children that they have selected and how they can collaborate with government actors and service providers.

Key Question for Practitioners

How can we co-create with communities a process in which communities decide which harm(s) to children they want to address and which actions they will take to address those harms?

Relevant tools from the Toolkit: FAC 1–9; TRN 2–5, 10; MGM 3, MGM 4, & MGM 6–11.

The process of deciding to work together may occur organically in the context of providing feedback from the learning phase to the community. During the collective reflection that accompanies the feedback, community people naturally ask themselves, “What are we going to do about these harms to children?”, and they often ask agency workers, “Will you continue to support us?” The latter question is complex and could carry hidden expectations for financial support or even for a donor-beneficiary relationship in which the non-governmental organization (NGO) leads and takes the key decisions.

The community-led process begins with the community itself defining which harm(s) to children it is most concerned about and intends to address.

This decision has significant implications for children’s well-being and also enables genuine community ownership. As the communities themselves take stock of what is most damaging to children and decide which harms to address, they increase their motivation and take responsibility for addressing the issues collectively. In most cases, it is useful for the facilitator to help the community focus initially on manageable tasks that can be completed relatively soon. This initial success helps to build the community’s confidence and ability to take on more challenging tasks.

Having selected which harm(s) to children they will address, communities can turn next to thinking more systematically about how they want to address those harms through community-led action.

Most communities already have experience in collective action planning, as they regularly take decisions about issues such as where and how to farm, how to help provide education and clean water for their children, how to deal with crime-ridden urban neighborhoods, and so on. Of course, the communities are free to develop their own action plans and planning processes.