Facilitating a Culture of Learning within ChildFund

by Manal Durri, ChildFund Ethiopia Child Protection and Gender Coordinator

Sarah Bouchie, ChildFund’s new vice president of Program Development, spent her second week on the job visiting two projects for children in Ethiopia. Our staff  in Ethiopia caught up with Sarah as she prepared to return to the U.S., where she will be based in ChildFund’s Washington, D.C., office.

Would you please tell us your opinion on the interventions you have seen in our urban and rural areas?

Photo of young girl presenting flowers to Sarah Bouchie

A young girl presents a bouquet of flowers to Sarah upon her arrival at Ayer Tena community-based organization.

I was very impressed with the dedication of the staff in both sites. The work that has gone into building local affiliates to carry out ChildFund’s work is admirable. Staff and board members in the CBOs [community-based organizations] could articulate clearly what they were trying to achieve and the activities they have undertaken to make them happen. It appeared as if careful consideration had been given to how we collaborate with local governments as well.

Photo of children  in Feto ECD

Children at the ECD Centre in Feto.

It was also nice to see how spaces for children had been created in schools and ECD [early childhood development] centers in both sites. I was pleased to hear community members, board members and staff talk about their efforts to address child-protection issues, and it is clear that there are compelling stories about how ChildFund’s support has changed the lives of individuals in both sites.

Have you observed anything unique in our interventions from what you have experienced before?

Photo of children with Sarah Bouchie

Meeting with children from Feto.

A couple of things struck me as unique results, or ways of working, that ChildFund has in the two sites I visited.

In the community that we visited in Boset, the pass rate of students — and of girls in particular — was very impressive. It sounds like the school is doing some things very well that might deserve a good look.

I also heard that communities were changing practice around harmful traditional practices. It might be worthwhile to dig into this deeper and find out how deep this perception translates to people’s daily practice and to try to identify some of the things that make the approach so successful. For sure, I was pleased to see that both sites had worked to ensure that referrals to government systems for child protection were in place.

Finally, I think that ChildFund might be in a unique position to be able to advocate about the most cost-effective way to provide services for OVC [orphans and vulnerable children]. Through the sponsorship program, focused on vulnerable children using the DEV framework [deprived, excluded and vulnerable children], and through SCSN [Strengthening Community Safety Nets], ChildFund has experimented with two very different models of delivering support to children in greatest need. With some investigation, we might be able to help shape policies about how to best deliver support to these children in the most cost-effective way. If we can track some of the children who participated in both programs over time, we could help to determine if higher cost per child programming gives deeper, more lasting benefits to communities and children in the long run.

In addition to positive things you saw, could you address any areas for improvement that you may have observed?

Some of the things that I think the national office seems to be doing well include community mobilization, working with CBOs and capacity building, improving educational outcomes, creating child-friendly spaces and networking to referral systems for child protection cases.

Some things to keep working on might be around analyzing high-cost and low- cost models of programming to reach OVC; conducting staff reflections about gender and harmful traditional practices — particularly with CBO staff; and thinking about some common protocols that we might use in communities to ensure we model the behavior we seek in others around upholding children’s rights and dignity in everything we do.

As the Vice President of Program Development, what will be your focus and how will you support national offices like Ethiopia in your new position?

Photo of Boset board with Sarah Bouchie

Meeting with members of the board of Boset CBO.

I play many roles in ChildFund. In my role on the executive team, I have a responsibility to ensure that resources are allocated in the most efficient and effective way possible to ensure better outcomes for children. To do that effectively, I need and want input about what we can do to make our operations more efficient and our programs more impactful.

I hope that in my position as the head of the program development team, I can help to facilitate a culture of learning in the organization that contributes to those ends. I think my team and I exist to help the organization learn from what it has done well (and not so well), and share that across the development community. We also help raise resources that facilitate innovation and high standards for our work globally.

I look forward to working with national offices to see how we can do this most effectively, and how my team and I can help bring voice to the lessons that are being learned around the ChildFund world.

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