Columbia Mailman School of Public Health’s Dr. Mike Wessells, professor of Population and Family Health, has developed a guide and toolkit for community-led child protection processes, drawing upon his research and learning in this area in countries around the world. The guide and its companion tools offers a sustainable approach that is community-led rather than NGO- or expert-led. Read the full guide here.
Community-led approaches can take many forms, but all of them feature community power, dialogue, and decision-making, including by children. These approaches generate high levels of community ownership, enable stronger prevention and sustainability, and decrease dependency on NGOs and externally led child protection. Ultimately, child protection requires an appropriate mix of top-down and more grassroots driven, bottom-up approaches.
“Community-led approaches are neither a silver bullet nor a replacement of more top-down approaches,” noted Dr. Wessells, who is a faculty affiliate of the CPC Learning Network, the body that promotes research and advocates for children and families worldwide. “We still have much to learn about how to balance and intermix these complementary approaches.”
The guide is written with multiple audiences in mind–NGO and community practitioners, facilitators, senior NGO managers, and also donors and policy leaders. Consisting of seven chapters written in an accessible style, the chapters offer diverse examples, reflective questions for practitioners, and practical ideas regarding benchmarks, things to do, and things to avoid. To support application, each chapter refers readers to particular tools in the four sections of tools that accompany the guide.
A long time psychosocial and child protection practitioner, Dr. Wessells is former co-chair of the the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Force on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. The IASC is the primary mechanism for inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance. Wessells has conducted extensive research on the holistic impacts of war and political violence on children, and he is author of Child soldiers: From violence to protection (Harvard University Press, 2006). He is a lead researcher on inter-agency, multi-country action research on strengthening community-based child protection mechanisms by enabling effective linkages with national child protection systems. He regularly advises UN agencies, governments, and donors on issues of child protection and psychosocial support, including in communities and schools. Throughout Africa and Asia he helps to develop community-based, culturally grounded programs that assist people affected by armed conflict and natural disasters.