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New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?

(21 June 2018) We sat down with Gabrielle Berman, our expert on research ethics, to chat about her two new discussion papers which explore the ethics of using new technologies to generate evidence about children. The papers, written collaboratively with UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, highlight the advantages and risks of using these technologies to gather data about children. They also provide useful guidance for researchers – especially those unfamiliar with technology – on the questions they should be asking in order to protect children’s rights.Twelve-year-old Waibai Buka (second left) teaches her friends how to use a computer tablet provided by UNICEF, at a school in Baigai, northern Cameroon. What inspired you to produce these two discussion papers?During staff trainings, we kept getting requests from staff who wanted technical advice around technology and the use of technologies for data collection and evidence generation. Most didn’t know where to start or what to consider when thinking about using these technologies. This was the initial foray into an incredibly complex and important area for UNICEF around using technology for evidence generation.Why focus on social media and geospatial technology specifically?We started with social media and geospatial technology because these were the two that were the most prevalent in the organisation at the time, and there was the most demand for guidance. We should now also be considering the ethical implications of technologies like biometrics, blockchain and wearable technology. We have already started receiving requests from staff for technical advice around the ethical implications of these new technologies.The papers were written in collaboration with the Office of Innovation. What were the benefits of the process?Without this collaboration, the papers wouldn’t have the same status. The dialogue and relationships that were established through the collaboration of the two offices are just as important as the papers themselves. Working together also meant that we could establish an advisory group which spanned everything from ICT for Development, to communications, to data and analytics.  In this way, people with all sorts of expertise across the organization could input into the papers.What are some of the most common misconceptions about the use of these technologies for evidence generation?It depends on what side of the fence you’re on. From my perspective, one of the biggest misconceptions is that technology is unequivocally good, meaning these technologies could be used without appropriate reflection on the implications and potential impacts. However, for those on the technology side, one of the biggest issues is that technology won’t be used for fear of the complexity of the ethical implications. The benefit of collaborating with the Innovation office was that we had two different perspectives, but both are equally valid. Through dialogue, we acknowledged the benefits as much as the risks and agreed that what was required was reflective practice. It’s not an absolute yes or a no, but rather an “if” and “how can we do this?” and what strategies do we need to consider?Adolescent girls look at social media posts while attending a "Lifeskills" event in Union Development & Culture Community Centre in Djibouti. What is the biggest challenge with regards ensuring ethical compliance when using these technologies?The biggest challenge is understanding the implications of the technology when you’re not a native technocrat. It’s incredibly difficult for staff in the field to understand the type of questions they should be asking. They also have to receive responses in simple English in order for them to start thinking through the ethical issues and the potential mitigation strategies. Part of the challenge is to change thinking and empower those who aren’t tech natives to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and interrogate the potential implications of the technology. We must avoid abdication of responsibility to tech experts and remind staff that they are in fact the experts on potential implications for children. To be a child advocate it’s incredibly important to ask the right questions, to understand and to take responsibility for the technology and its implications. "We must avoid abdication of responsibility to tech experts and remind staff that they are in fact the experts on potential implications for children."How can we empower people to feel like they can ask the right questions?Firstly, we need to provide them with guidance. But importantly, we need to get stakeholders around the same table - including the social media companies, the data scientists, and the communities we work with. We should bring these people with different perspectives together, acknowledging everyone’s expertise, and engaging in dialogue on what the potential ethical issues are and how they can be mitigated. This joint risk assessment is a key way to start a constructive dialogue on the issues and potential mitigation strategies. How can we mitigate the threat of data and algorithms informing policy, without appropriate engagement and dialogue?Firstly, it’s important to appreciate the implications of the data sets on which algorithms are based and to be aware that the algorithms may have built-in biases. For example, certain populations are more likely to be monitored and so data on arrests are more likely to be higher for this group. Following from this, we need to understand that certain populations may be excluded from the data sets. Algorithms are based on training data, so unless all communities are included in the data, the outcomes and predictions are not going to be representative of these communities. For example, when data is gathered via smartphones, those who don’t have a smartphone are excluded.Thirdly, we must recognize that modelling looks at trends only and does not consider individuals. Algorithms may see these trends as a whole but, like any type of quantitative data, it will miss the qualitative nuances underpinning these findings. While it may be very easy to adopt big data sets and use them to determine policies, we must not forget that there are very real risks in making decisions based on quantitative trends alone. The Convention on the Rights of the Child very clearly says that a child has the right to have a voice on matters that affect them. If we start basing policy exclusively on quantitative data, we are not giving voice to the nuances that may explain the data or the nuances of the individual who may differ from the broader findings. It’s very important that we acknowledge the value of big data, but we must also acknowledge that individuals still need to have a voice. Listening to children’s voices should never be replaced by a purely quantitative approach, so while data is a very valuable tool, it is only one tool."We must not forget that there are very real risks in making decisions based on quantitative trends alone."Are there any other ethical risks that stem from using this type of data?With social media data in particular, if you run algorithms against the data you may start using it for purposes other than those originally intended when people submitted this data. The moment you start taking data out of context, it may lose its contextual integrity in which case we have to ask whether it is still relevant. This idea of contextual integrity needs to be interrogated. Adolescent girls use cellphones and tablets in a solar kiosk providing internet connectivity in the Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees, Jordan. Does ensuring ethical compliance also provide an opportunity to educate people on technology and online privacy?I don’t see it as an opportunity but rather an obligation stemming from our use of these technologies. If you’re using third party data in a public way, it must also be announced publicly, in the spirit of full disclosure. We must recognise the importance of transparency in the work we do, particularly when it may be difficult if not impossible to secure informed consent. With social media projects, where you’re actively using the platform to engage young people, it’s incredibly important that you actually provide information around privacy. You cannot guarantee that children have child-friendly explanations, and so it’s our responsibility to educate and to be clear about the risks involved. Are there any additional potential risks specifically associated with geospatial technology?Geospatial technology has been invaluable in both development and humanitarian contexts, but we need to think about where we source the data, how useful it is, whether it’s a two-way dialogue, and if can we respond to any requests for help in humanitarian contexts. We particularly need to be concerned with the potential risks involved and the security of this data in humanitarian contexts. In these situations, we’re often dealing with vulnerable populations. Because of this, we must be very careful to ensure that this data is limited to those who absolutely need to access the data, particularly any raw and individual data, with specific consideration for the safety of the populations that may be captured by the technology. For this reason, we really need to think about the interoperability of geospatial data systems: which partners are we working with? who in these organisations has access to the data? why do they have access? do we have sufficient security measures? These types of reflections are necessary to fulfil our obligations to protect the communities that we work with.You can download the paper on ethical considerations when using geospatial technology and social media now.
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Workshop on evidence on social protection in contexts of fragility and forced displacement

(6 June 2018) An international workshop at UNICEF Innocenti will bring together and foster exchange between researchers and policy makers working on social protection in settings of humanitarian emergency. The workshop, jointly organized with UNICEF's Social Inclusion section in New York, will take place on 7 and 8 June. The workshop is seen as a follow-up to the international conference on social protection in contexts of fragility and forced displacement held in Brussels in late 2017. The workshop will focus on the latest rigorous quantitative evidence on the effects of social protection programmes in humanitarian settings, concentrating on evidence gaps and the policy implications. The workshop coincides with the publication of seven new draft working papers, which will be discussed on the day. The papers broadly fall into three themes: Comparisons between effectiveness of different delivery modalities; Evaluations and implications of targeting choices (including universal reforms); and Impacts of programs targeted at refugees and host communities.All seven papers are now available for download and can be found on the right-hand column of this page under "Related Content - Publications".Malian refugees use a water point in the Mangaize refugee camp, Niger. Recurrent conflict between armed groups in Northern Mali cause a constant influx of refugees into the Tillabery and Tahoua regions of Niger.As part of the commitments under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, the global community at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) pledged to expand the coverage of social protection measures for all, and to achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable by 2030. This expansion must include scale up of social protection in humanitarian contexts, including fragility and forced displacement to ensure no one is left behind. Social protection is increasingly considered as an important policy response in contexts of fragility and displacement. In non-fragile contexts, Innocenti research has provided extensive evidence and knowledge on related policy implications generated by  Social Cash Transfer Programmes in several low and middle income countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia  among others. Between 2013 and 2015 positive impacts on poverty, income multipliers, food security, productivity, education and health demonstrate that social protection helps reduce poverty, inequality, enhances livelihoods, and has long-term positive impacts on human capital development.This year the UNICEF Innocenti team will continue to document positive evidence and knowledge gaps associated with conducting research on these systems, such as the cash transfer program in Lebanon, known as Min Ila, an initiative of the Government of Lebanon, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme to encourage school participation of displaced Syrian children. As Jacob De Hoop, Humanitarian Policy Specialist at Innocenti leading the research, highlights in his blog this research represents one of the first evaluations of a cash transfer program that aims to improve education outcomes for children in a refugee context and helps fill an important gap in our knowledge about what programs work to help refugees. It also demonstrates the challenges of achieving an equitable balance between assistance for refugees and host populations, an important question, particularly in locations where social protection guarantees for nationals and social services infrastructure remain limited.In September UNICEF Innocenti interviewed six experts attending the Brussels Conference to talk about existing challenges, experience and potential of social protection programmes in contexts of fragility; forced displacement and prolonged crisis, as well as to identify future directions for research. Their words confirm the lack of knowledge in those areas and the critical role of research in bridging the gaps. The interviews conducted now form the basis of a new edition of UNICEF Innocenti's Research Watch programme titled: Social Protection in Emergency Situations Research Watch. On the Research Watch page you can find all the expert video interviews as well as extended podcasts and written commentary.You can download the seven working papers now! Search on the right-hand column of this article under "Related Content - Publications".
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RESULTS REPORT 2017 NOW AVAILABLE

Read UNICEF Innocenti Director Sarah Cook’s foreword to our 2017 Results Report. Download the report for a full summary of our research and results last year and how they positively impact children’s lives.
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Second Global Meeting on Children on the Move: data and evidence discussion on the agenda

(30 May 2018) UNICEF Innocenti researchers Bina D’Costa and Iolanda Genovese attend the Second Global Meeting on Children on the Move in Bangkok. The gathering brings together UNICEF specialists in emergency, programming, policy, communications, advocacy, resource mobilization and partnerships, as well as data and research. The three days of mutual learning and experience sharing (30 May – 1 June) will help to identify implementation gaps and priority actions to support UNICEF’s work on migrant and refugee children, and to promote UNICEF’s Six Point Agenda for Action for Children on the Move in its global ‘UPROOTED’ Campaign.A group of children study sitting under the shade of a tentl at Markazi camp for Yemeni refugees, Djibouti. According to the UNHCR, the Markazi camp hosts around 2,000 refugees fleeing conflict in Yemen since 2015.  Bina D’Costa, Senior Migration and Displacement Research Specialist leading the Innocenti research on Children and Migration, will contribute to the second day session dedicated to data and evidence on migrant and forcibly displaced children. According to her blog about the 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID 2018)  prepared by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), “despite twenty years of global and national policy effort, since the publication of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in 1998, the pace of displacement is still outstripping efforts to address it.”  Out of 30.6 million new internal displacements in 2017, children represent a significant proportion, and are certainly the most vulnerable. However, major data gaps persist and data disaggregation by age and sex is crucial to paint the full picture of internal displacement and its impacts on children. More investments must be made at the national and international levels in sustainable development, peacebuilding, climate change impacts and disaster risk reduction for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, as internal displacement is directly related to all the Goals.“despite twenty years of global and national policy effort, the pace of displacement is still outstripping efforts to address it.”At the end of 2018 the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be convened under the auspices of the General Assembly of the United Nations. It will represent a crucial moment for all Member States and for UNICEF’s work on refugee and migrant children. At that moment child-sensitive and child-responsive research will be more important than ever to understand the dynamics of migration not captured by more general research on migration. “We need systematic analyses to understand the dynamics of child migration. Research, in particular evidence-based research, can persuade international, regional and state actors that the migration of children is a humanitarian issue not just a political issue” said D’Costa in a recent interview.South Sudanese Gedain Galwak, 8, smiles as he waits in line for the water to be turned on in the morning, in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Bentiu, South Sudan “Research can dispel myths and anxieties surrounding migration, and could help design strategies that are effective in resettling children. Good research can also explain to advocates for child migrants how and why certain political decisions are taken, and support the explicit integration of children’s rights and protection in the migration agenda,” D'Costa said.
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A Delicate Balance: protecting and empowering young people in South Asia

(22 May 2018) UNICEF’s latest Strategic Plan explicitly prioritises the crucial second decade: adolescence. This is a period of huge vulnerability and a great opportunity to make investments that can pay enormous dividends today as well as for future generations. However, in order for adolescents to thrive and reach their full potential, legal and policy frameworks must be improved to ensure all children’s rights are respected and protected. Adolescent girls run and play kabaddi in the playground of the Government Middle School in Badhwa, India.  A recent report, Realising an Enabling Environment for Adolescent Wellbeing: An Inventory of Laws and Policies for Adolescents in South Asia, provides an overview of these essential frameworks (through 2016) and how they relate to adolescents’ evolving capacities. The inventory, compiled by UNICEF Innocenti’s Elena Camilletti, provides a platform for policy makers and programmers to understand what has been enacted in the South Asian region. It also provides analysis of what can be further improved in order to bring legal and policy frameworks in line with international standards to ensure adolescents can fulfil their potential, make decisions and participate fully in society.With 340 million adolescents in South Asia, there are more young people living here than in any other region in the world. India alone is home to more than 250 million adolescents. This stock-taking exercise of eight South Asian countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - sheds light on the similarities and differences among these countries regarding the translation of international human rights law into national normative frameworks. Nine domains of child rights are examined: political rights; protection; education; health; marriage; protection from child labour; social protection; digital rights; equality and non-discrimination. Research has revealed that this transformative period offers a unique window of opportunity to influence the development and outcomes of children and young people. The delicate balance between protection and empowerment presents a challenge unique to this increasingly independent age group. Laws and policies, then, must strike a balance between protecting adolescents from vulnerabilities and risks, while recognising their growing autonomy and capacity to make responsible decisions. The study reveals that this challenge can result in incoherent legislation, including loopholes that raise concerns over the effective protection of adolescents as well as opportunities for their empowerment.Commenting on the results, Elena Camilletti observes that “grey areas are exposed throughout the analysis. In some countries and in some of the nine domains of rights examined, the policy and legal frameworks don’t clearly contradict international standards, but they also do not enable adolescents to thrive.” Laws and policies are not always enacted in a coherent and integrated way, for example discrepancies exist between the minimum age for the end of compulsory education and the minimum age for admission to employment. This is important, as the issues affecting adolescents are complex and intertwined and thus call for policy action across multiple lines. Significant exceptions in laws and policies, for example in relation to early marriage, similarly limit their effectiveness. There are examples of outright contraventions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with some minimum age requirements lower than those prescribed.The table shows selected laws and policies, and compares these national provisions with international standards. Cells are coloured according to whether a country’s legal and policy frameworks are fully in line with international standards, including by providing specific protections for adolescents (green), partially in line with them (yellow) or clearly contravene them (red). Grey cells denote frameworks for which there are no clear requirements in international law, or for which no information was found. “Each country has made efforts to meet minimum international standards, but each country also has a lot left to do” according to Camilletti. “In particular, improvements can be made in the protective sphere, for example doing more to protect adolescents from exploitation.” She also stresses the importance of appropriate and coherent laws and policies which consider adolescent rights in their indivisible entirety.This study is a first step towards understanding the legal coverage for the protection and empowerment of adolescents in specific institutional contexts. Recognizing that implementation gaps (the effective coverage) can undermine legal protection, this report calls for future studies to explore laws and policies in practice, where the interpretation, enactment and enforcement may influence the fulfilment of rights for adolescents. Another consideration is how adolescents themselves perceive these laws. Parallel UNICEF initiatives, including Latin America and the Caribbean region’s study on legal minimum ages and the Europe and Central Asia region’s Age matters! Project conducted by Youth Policy Labs, are exploring these questions in different contexts and helping to fill evidence gaps in the area.The eight countries analysed share some cultural, political and social similarities, yet are at the same time incredibly diverse. Beyond human rights codified by international standards, the Sustainable Development Goals are an opportunity for the governments of these countries to systematically address development issues and work towards the 2030 deadline. The interests of young people are represented in many of these goals, targets, and indicators. With this in mind, national laws and policies, in addition to programmes and interventions, must be advanced to better protect and empower adolescents.
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Could families be the key to achieving the SDGs?

(18 May 2018) The family is the fundamental social unit of all modern societies. We learn to communicate, to empathise, to compromise within these small, vital social structures. The importance of the family is reflected in national public policies, such as child allowances and paternity leave, which focus on family policies as a way to improve the living standards of future generations. Thus, families, and the national policies that support them, play an important role in national efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Former UN Secretary General in 2010 stated that “the very achievement of development goals depends on how well families are empowered to contribute to the achievement of those goals. Thus, policies focusing on improving the well-being of families are certain to benefit development.”Djénéba Diarra, her husband Mamadou Doumbia and their daughters Sitan Doumbia, 5, and Assitan Doumbia, 3 months, in Baraouéli village, Ségou Region, Mali.  Given these realities, understanding how families contribute to social progress is key to finding the most effective route to achieving the SDGs. Despite this, global data on families is lacking, prompting the UN Secretary General in 2014 to call on governments and relevant stakeholders to “support data collection and research on family issues and the impact of public policy on families and invest in family-oriented policy and programme design, implementation and evaluation.”In response, a team of family policy experts, including Dominic Richardson, UNICEF Innocenti’s Education Officer, have compiled a synthesis Report “Key Findings on Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals” to analyse how these policies are being used to meet the SDGs. The project calls on policymakers, practitioners and the general public to act.The report summarises the evidence across six SDGs: poverty; health; education; gender equality; youth unemployment; and ending violence - all of which can be positively impacted by well-designed family-focused policies. By analyzing over 150 quality-assured family policy studies, evaluations and literature reviews, every region of the world is covered, with the sole exception of the Middle East.Promising PracticesEvidence across the six SDGs shows that family-focused interventions are often positively evaluated, with desired effects on family outcomes being achieved to varying degrees in the majority of cases across all goals. However, there is no ‘silver bullet’ in family policy or programme design. Instead, aspects of different policies are shown to be effective when designed for a specific purpose. Additionally, implementation choices impact results, including where the policies are hosted and who is involved in their application. Efficiencies in Complementary Goals Spill-over effects of policies from one SDG to another were observed. For example, well-designed family poverty interventions have positive spill-overs into education and health. This indicates opportunities for optimizing effects within and across social progress measures by integrating policy portfolios. Equally, poorly-designed policies can negatively impact the outcomes in other goal areas, highlighting the need to consider the order of interventions. For example, efforts to address employment outcomes for women will be sub-optimal whilst gender inequality in leave entitlements continue to exist.Considerations for PolicymakersThe report highlights key messages for each individual goal, as well as cross-goal considerations for policymakers and practitioners. Firstly, the review clearly shows the need for more data on the family. National and international organisations can work together to build the evidence base, and in doing so, support evidence-informed family policy, cross-sector integration, and implementation strategies.Secondly, policymakers and practitioners should recognize that, although global goals are the same, a family policy will not work in the same way in different contexts. This indicates a need for further evidence on the scalability and transfer of family policies. Comparative studies, including this report, can only provide an indication of potentially effective practices rather than a prescription for action. Finally, evidence shows that family environments can be the cause of and solution to negative social outcomes. Practitioners working with families should be conscious of the important role played by family professionals, early interventions, and family involvement in physical and mental health treatment.Father Dejan, mother Stefana, son Filip (4 years) spend time together in their home in Belgrade, Serbia.  The study highlights the importance of working for families, and with families, in order to meet the SDGs. Efficiencies in complementary goals show that even single-purpose policies can achieve multiple goals. As an elementary social unit, the progress of families will inevitably influence the progress of the societies in which they are part. Those seeking to meet the SDGs should not underestimate the role of strong families as enabling agents for achieving the SDGs. 
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When cash alone is not enough: the transformative power of cash plus programmes

(14 May 2018) Research has shown that cash transfers promote economic empowerment. The direct payment of cash to the poorest households contributes toward improved social outcomes and sustainable livelihoods, while making local economies more dynamic. However, despite the benefits, cash alone is not a silver bullet. For example, evidence suggests that cash alone is not always sufficient to secure the safe transition of adolescents to adulthood. Results from several countries suggest that external conditions, such as the labour market or access to quality services, impact the success of cash transfers. Where adolescents are concerned cash alone has not always been successful in reducing significant risks such as violence, early marriage and sexually transmitted diseases. How then can we use cash transfers to more effectively protect and prepare adolescents for healthy productive adulthoods?A group of Cash Plus livelihood and health training course participants discuss an assignment in Ikama Village in the Rungwe District of Tanzania.The Transfer Project‘Cash plus’ may provide the answer. Leading social protection partner of UNICEF Innocenti, The Transfer Project, has gathered extensive evidence on the effects of social protection programmes on adolescent well-being. They are now engaged in examining the potential for additional key interventions and linkages to services – a ‘cash plus’ component – targeting youth. These initiatives examine whether a package of adolescent-focused interventions can improve future economic opportunities for adolescents and facilitate healthy transition to adulthood. Interventions include life skills training, sexual and reproductive health education, HIV treatment, peer support groups, and mentoring.Cash Plus in Action: Tanzania ResultsThe Transfer Project’s most recent studies from Tanzania help illustrate the scale of the programme and the potential for cash plus to improve adolescent well-being and empowerment. Yet for adolescent boys and girls, transitioning to adulthood means facing significant social, health and economic risks. To mitigate these risks the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), along with UNICEF and other key stakeholders, are implementing an intervention where social protection and economic empowerment interventions are combined with adolescent training in business and livelihood skills, sexual and reproductive health education and support services as a core part of Government cash transfer schemes. “We met close to a hundred adolescent trainees, peer educators and mentors actively involved in the cash plus training in three villages in Rungwe district of southern Tanzania,” said Dale Rutstein, Communication Chief of UNICEF Innocenti, recently returned from a cash plus filmmaking mission. “In the mornings, young people delivered impressively detailed long-term business plans – for dairy production, dress-making and farming – and in the afternoon they practiced how to use male and female condoms. “We met one 19-year-old peer educator who had given birth to a child at age 17 who said if she had had the training at a younger age her life would have been dramatically changed.”Recent cash plus research studiesA recently completed18-month mixed methods study, Tanzania Youth Study of the Productive Social Safety Net, provides evidence on the effects of Tanzania’s cash transfer programme: ‘Productive Social Safety Net,’ or PSSN, on youth well-being and transition to adulthood. Results of this study reveal certain positive effects that cash transfers have on youth education outcomes, participation in economic activities, and material well-being. Importantly, results also highlighted the limitations of cash to positively impact mental and physical well-being, sexual behaviour, or experiences of violence. The findings confirm that cash alone is not always sufficient to reduce the broad, interrelated social and economic risks that vulnerable populations face.Another new study, A Cash Plus Model for Safe Transitions to a healthy and Productive Adulthood, carried out in 2017, and recently presented to the Tanzanian government, establishes baseline findings required for conducting a 24 month impact evaluation of Tanzania’s current ‘cash plus’ programme, exploring how cash combined with training and linkages to other support services enable youth to benefit more efficiently from household participation in cash transfer programmes. The findings reveal insights into young people’s lives and behaviour, particularly around accessing health services, economic activities, and education. What Next?Adolescence is an intense period of physical transformation and brain development, representing a unique window of opportunity. Investments in adolescence are often referred to as having a “triple dividend” with benefits today, in adolescents’ future adult life, and in the next generation of children.An adolescent girl from Makandana Village in the Rungwe District of Tanzania presents her future business plans during the closing ceremony of the Cash Plus livelihood and health training course. The second phase of this study looks to amplify the impact of cash to fully benefit from this window of opportunity. At the end of the two-year cash plus randomized cluster trials, it is envisioned that Tanzania will have robust evidence on the impact of the “plus” component targeted to adolescents, layered on top of the existing social protection scheme. The findings should indicate which aspects of the cash plus programme work well and which need refinement, as well as considerations for scaling up the programme, to give more young people in Tanzania the chance to reach their full productive potential as healthy adults.With a projected 35 million Tanzanians aged between 15 and 34 in the year 2035, investments made today present immense potential for Tanzania’s prosperity. Given its implementation within an existing large scale government social protection programme, cash plus may be a scalable solution to intergenerational poverty, empowering adolescents - both now and in the future - to reach their full potential. You can read the Cash Plus Project Brief here.Access FAO's book, From Evidence to Action: The story of cash transfers and impact evaluation in sub-Saharan Africa, here.  
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The Breastfeeding Paradox

(11 May 2018) This Mother’s Day, UNICEF is calling attention to the importance of breastfeeding, particularly in high-income countries. A UNICEF report released yesterday, Breastfeeding: A Mother’s Gift to Every Child, reveals that worldwide, approximately 7.6 million babies a year are not breastfed.
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Facilitator Feedback: the key to programme success?

(18 April 2018) A recent UNICEF Innocenti paper, Delivering a Parenting Programme in Rural South Africa: The Local Child and Youth Care Worker Experience, explores the perceptions and experiences of parenting programme facilitators in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The qualitative study builds on previous quantitative research and helps answer the question: How effective is parenting support in reducing violence? Anyone who has ever had a teenager living under their roof understands that raising adolescents can be a challenge. These difficulties become even more pronounced in vulnerable communities, such as the Eastern Cape in South Africa. In 2012, 49% of households in this region had no employed adult, with 80% of children living in income poverty. 33% of children were not living with their biological parents. The area had the highest percentage of assaults in South Africa in 2016. Despite these figures, the Eastern Cape provincial government is committed to change and has invested in community-owned parenting programmes. Child maltreatment is a serious public health problem. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse affects an estimated 95 million children across the world every year. The high prevalence and seriousness of child maltreatment has resulted in a growing interest in parenting programmes. These preventative interventions can improve child and adolescent well-being by increasing positive parenting leading to reduced violence in the home. “SinovuyoTeen Parent Programme” is one such programme.The programme was the result of a collaborative effort between multiple bodies. Child and Youth Care workers of the Isibindi programme were trained by Clowns without Borders to facilitate SinovuyoTeen Parent Programme in 2014. A recent Innocenti study describes the perceptions and experiences of the SinovuyoTeen facilitators. The publication forms part of a suite of papers emanating from an exploration of the effectiveness and scalability of a parenting programme in South Africa. A pre-post study, conducted in 2014, quantifiably revealed the positive impact of SinovuyoTeen in the Eastern Cape, including reducing child abuse and improving positive parenting. This study complements the quantitative results with the narratives of the programme facilitators, without whom the programme could not have been offered.CARE WORKERS: THE KEY TO PROGRAMME SUCCESSThe analysis of focus group discussions revealed four consistent themes:Programme ownership and adaptations:  facilitators provided recommendations, including content adaptions and logistical suggestions.Professional synergies: complementarity existed between traditional child and youth work tasks and SinovuyoTeen activities.Value of trust between child and youth care workers: facilitators had a pre-existing level of trust with the families who benefitted from the programme owing to their child and youth care work in the community.Personal impact on the facilitators as parents: facilitators themselves reported a positive impact on interactions with their own children.These results culminate to highlight the importance of understanding and considering the perceptions and experiences of the facilitators who deliver a parenting programme. Their accounts can contribute to programme improvement, ensuring cultural acceptability and logistical viability, prior to scaling-up the initiative. Additionally, involving facilitators in programme adaptation increases their sense of ownership of the programme, which can in turn affect successful programme delivery.A group of children and adults in a National Association of Childcare Workers (NACCW) safe park in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Complementing previous work, this study revealed insights that were best captured through qualitative methods, especially focus group discussions among facilitators. This is particularly significant when considering the vital, multi-dimensional role facilitators played in testing SinovuyoTeen while continuing their family support work.“The value of our qualitative work was to hear the voices of a range of people involved,” says Heidi Loening-Voysey, UNICEF Innocenti’s Research and Evaluation Specialist (Child Protection). “You can get a sense of how their professional and personal lives have changed as a result of the programme.” Follow UNICEF Innocenti on Twitter and Facebook to be informed when the full suite of studies is released. You can also view other content related to this topic in the column on the right. Find out more about the World Health Organisation’s Parenting for Lifelong Health programme here. 
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Handbook on adolescent development research published

(13 April 2018) Despite huge gains in child well-being during the MDG era, progress for adolescents – children in the second decade of life – is still lagging behind. The recently published Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy, edited by Jennifer E. Lansford and Prerna Banati, aims to fill critical evidence gaps to speed evolution of better policy-making specifically tuned to this dynamic life stage.Of the 1.2 billion adolescents in the world today, 90% live in low- and middle-income countries. Enrollment in secondary schools is still low for adolescents in many parts of the world, with illiteracy rates approaching 30% in the least developed countries. Further, adolescents not in school are more vulnerable to trafficking, recruitment into armed conflict, and child labor. Many adolescent girls marry and begin bearing children at a young age, contributing to the perpetuation of poverty and health problems. A group of youth use a smartphone to take a selfie outside a Community Management Committee meeting in Assamo neighbourhood in Djibouti. Adolescents also represent a resource to be cultivated through education and training, to move them toward economic independence. This can be accomplished through initiatives to improve their reproductive health, and through positive interpersonal relationships to help them avoid risky behaviors and make positive decisions about their futures.“Several years ago, a similar handbook on early childhood development was transformative in our approach to early childhood. By bringing state of the art research to policymakers and practitioners, we hope this volume will go some way to improving the lives of adolescents globally,” said Prerna Banati, lead researcher on adolescent well-being at UNICEF Innocenti.The new handbook will be invaluable for a wide range of stakeholders working with adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. The volume tackles both the challenges and the promise of adolescence by presenting recent research on social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physical development. The volume looks at adolescent development with a distinctive focus on issues that affect adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. It adopts a positive framing, representing young people as opportunities, to accelerate a positive shift in discourses around young people.An Overview: Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and it Impact on Global Policy from UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti According to Laurence Steinberg of Temple University, a leading expert on adolescence, the handbook is “An important and timely resource. It combines up-to-date reviews of research on adolescent development by the world's leading authorities with thoughtful discussions of some of the most pressing concerns that societies face in both developed and developing countries in their efforts to minimize problematic outcomes and maximize positive development during this critical stage of development.”In most contexts, policy and programme responses to adolescents are fragmented and inconsistent. Disconnects between national level policies and local services, as well as lack of continuity with early childhood responses, present a significant challenge to ensuring a coherent approach for this age group. Increasingly, adolescent participation and demands for rights-based approaches are seen, and often unfortunately conflated with violence. This volume adopts the perspective of young people as a valued investment both at individual and societal levels. “An important and timely resource. It combines up-to-date reviews of research on adolescent development by the world's leading authorities with thoughtful discussions of some of the most pressing concerns that societies face in both developed and developing countries..."- Laurence Steinberg, Temple University“The bulk of research comes from high income contexts, so we don’t have a good enough evidence base in the settings where most adolescents are living today,” said Banati. “There has been quite a bit of policy attention paid to older adolescents, younger adolescence seems to slip between the policy cracks. There is also substantial incoherence in policy approaches, as evidenced in the volume.”Over the last thirty-five years, specialized journals addressing adolescent issues have been launched, including the Journal of Adolescence, the Journal of Adolescent Research, and the Journal of Research on Adolescents. Despite a growth in scholarly literature, much is still disproportionately focused on adolescent experience in high income Western contexts, with comparatively few empirical studies of young people growing up in non-Western nations published in English language journals devoted to the field of adolescent development. Much scientific evidence developed in the global North, lacks reflection on the diverse experiences of adolescents around the world, including in harsh situations of war, conflict, chronic stress or malnutrition. And surprisingly few of the major scientific findings on adolescence have been translated into effective policy.Adolescence is often described as the developmental period from the onset of puberty until the transition to adulthood, variously defined by one, some or all of the following: marriage, parenthood, completion of formal education, financial independence from parents (approximately ages 10-20).  According to the handbook: “Arguably a social construction, its initial widespread use conferred gender, race and class connotations and implications: ‘the ‘adolescent boy’ was to be managed and contained, while allowed to be ‘wild;’ the adolescent girl was to be trained and domesticated’ (Morrow, 2015). In modern times, adolescence has largely had a bad reputation. Used interchangeably with ‘teenager,’ Western notions tend to describe a period of ‘storm and stress’ (Hall, 1904), involving hormones, drama, unsafe experimentation, and irresponsibility. However, in many parts of the world, arriving at adolescence marks increasing responsibility – with many hurtling towards adulthood by entering the workforce, marriage or parenthood. Adolescents in one country may be protected from economic or domestic responsibilities, in another, such responsibilities may not only be the norm, but considered beneficial for both the adolescent and the family.” A diverse group of over 50 authors from different countries and disciplinary backgrounds have contributed chapters to this volume. This diversity reflects the complexity of adolescence, while allowing the volume to situate adolescents within broader cultural contexts. This makes the volume more relevant for global policy debates and political decision-making regarding when, why, and how some programs and interventions for adolescents should be tailored to better serve the needs of their intended recipients. The diverse contributions collectively relay a powerful underlying narrative seen across the chapters, which describes adolescents as a positive force, to be valued and understood. In challenging historical interpretations of adolescence, the volume has engaged with contemporary issues explicitly, and sometimes implicitly across the chapters, including the topics of migration and human security, technology and inequality. (The Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy is now available for purchase at Oxford University Press - Academic.)
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