Trafficking, abandonment, violence – the problems children face are complex and deep-rooted. They demand an ambitious and strategic response.
A single organisation can only do so much. But when 5,300 come together with a relentless focus on bringing about change for children, it’s time to start listening. Here’s why, and what’s special about Viva’s approach:
1 Network model
Viva has helped pioneer a collaborative approach that works, and is being increasingly adopted by other NGOs. We have 20 years’ experience of building locally-led networks of churches and organisations that deliver collective action programmes designed to tackle the root causes of problems affecting children.
Each network brings together an average of 160 organisations. There is real strength in numbers, plus the added benefit of an invaluable diversity of skills and services. The power of working together makes ambitious goals possible.
3 Social capital
As the reputation of a network grows it attracts contributions from many other people across a city. This can be as simple as the person who cooks food for a refuge each week, or the psychiatrist or lawyer who donates their time and expertise. A wide, strong safety net of people who care starts to form, vital for catalysing change across a society.
Key players in Viva’s partner networks are the local churches. When you inspire a church to reach out to the children on their doorsteps you can call on a body of people with a mandate to love, pray, give and serve sacrificially. The result is powerful.
5 Government engagement
When networks make progress on thorny issues like domestic violence, they get noticed by local and national government. In Guatemala, Viva’s partner network has been given official authorisation to investigate reports of abuse, enter homes and rescue children. When governments add their resources and authority to the efforts of civil society, many more children can be helped.
We don’t go for a piecemeal approach; we tackle the causes of a problem head-on. Drawing on in-depth local knowledge and shared learning from other networks across the world, we design solution strategies which take a comprehensive and strategic approach to resolving issues facing children.
Networks are made up of local people working to help the children they live amongst. We don’t fly in staff from other countries to do the work of the networks, and we don’t need exit strategies because networks aren’t going anywhere. They are committed to doing whatever it takes to make problems like trafficking, poverty and violence history.
It’s not just about breadth and scale; it’s also about depth. Viva makes quality improvement a priority. Many people working with children lack training, skills and support. By training projects in areas such as financial management and effective planning, and training people in areas such as child protection and self-care, we can significantly improve the quality of care vulnerable children receive.
The expectation is normally that to get results you need to invest a lot of money. But what if you had access to thousands of people’s volunteered time, skills, expertise, determination and passion? This is what a Viva network looks like. We don’t set up new projects; we unite and improve what exists; we unlock local resources. We are lean and creative, and as a result our work is highly cost-effective.
The importance we attach to quality and learning extends to our monitoring and evaluation. In an annual Network Health Check, we undertake rigorous research into the effectiveness of our networks. This learning then informs our planning, to ensure that our work to help some of the world’s most vulnerable children is the very best it can be.