Why Measuring Child-Level Impacts Can Achieve Lasting Economic Change

FHI 360

More than 600 million children in developing countries live on less than US$1 a day. Children are deeply affected by poverty, and some effects of poverty, particularly in early childhood, have life-long consequences. The fight for long-term poverty alleviation must account for children’s wellbeing in order to sustainably reduce individuals’ and communities’ vulnerability to the persistent effects of poverty.

Economic strengthening (ES) interventions, such as value chain development, savings-led finance and workforce development are often effective tools for poverty reduction. Recent evidence suggests that the impact of ES programs on child wellbeing is mixed; in some cases, interventions have even resulted in negative consequences for children. Donors and practitioners have critical roles to play in building our understanding of the complex dynamics of ES programs and their impacts on children, whether children are the primary focus of economic strengthening activities or not. The STRIVE project along with the Child Protection in Crisis (CPC) Task Force on Livelihoods and Economic Strengthening explored these themes in two recent publications.

Why Measuring Child-Level Impacts Can Achieve Lasting Economic Change challenges practitioners and donors to better understand the impacts of ES programs on children. In order to improve the likelihood that our activities are not harming children, as well as to better understand how children are affected by them, practitioners should incorporate child-level indicators into program design and donors should support ES programs to monitor effects on children and evaluate at the child level. Children and Economic Strengthening Programs: Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Harm provides practical guidance to practitioners on how to implement economic strengthening projects that are consistent with principles of sound market-based programming in ways that lead to improved child wellbeing while minimizing risks of harm.

Why Measuring Child-Level Impacts Can Achieve Lasting Economic Change concludes from its evidence review that there have been mixed results overall; evaluations have documented a range of positive outcomes for children from ES programming, but unintended negative effects like increased child labor have also been found. In order to monitor and evaluate child-level results effectively, project stakeholders should act proactively and intentionally in their efforts to improve child wellbeing. Practitioners and donors should collaborate to design and implement ES programs that have a focus on child-level effects from the beginning of the project life cycle. Donors have a key role to play in promoting accountability and devoting resources to monitoring, evaluation and research related to ES interventions and their impact on child wellbeing, so that gaps in current knowledge can be addressed. Stronger monitoring and evaluation at the child-level, and additional research, is needed in order to understand the pathways through which ES programs impact children.    

A complementary tool, Children and Economic Strengthening Programs: Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Harm, provides practical guidance to practitioners who wish to implement economic strengthening programs that are sensitive to effects on children. This guide is a valuable resource for practitioners, especially those in the program design phase. Practitioners can adapt these guidelines to a diverse set of economic strengthening programs. The guide does the following:

  •  Outlines key principles for ES programs to benefit vulnerable children,
  • Provides guidance for program targeting either adults or children as primary beneficiaries,
  • Provides guidance for programs targeting children as primary beneficiaries, and
  • Suggests indicators.

Together, these publications seek to enable donors and practitioners to identify ways to enhance the benefits of ES programs for children and adolescent youth, while addressing knowledge gaps about the critical link between economic strengthening and child wellbeing.

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 implemented 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.