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Young Lives Conference 2016

UNICEF Innocenti researchers shared recent evidence on adolescent well-being, the drivers of violence and the role of social protection cash transfers in adolescent transitions in sub-Saharan Africa at a major conference on youth and gender issues in relation to international development policy.

The Adolescence, Youth and Gender: Building Knowledge for Change conference, organised by Young Lives, on September 8-9 at the University of Oxford, brought together up to 150 researchers and academics to promote dialogue and share the latest global evidence on adolescence, youth and gender and the implications for policy and programming.

UNICEF Innocenti social policy specialist Tia Palermo participated in a panel titled Influencing Gender Socialisation in Adolescence and presented insights from a recent impact evaluation of a Tanzanian conditional cash transfer programme in relation to its impact on youth well-being and the transition to adulthood.

According to Palermo, Maxine Molyneaux, a professor at University College London (UCL) and a keynote speaker during the conference, highlighted the issue of research and policy gaps related to adolescents.

“Molyneaux noted that adolescents are only minimally mentioned in the SDGs, and stressed the importance of putting adolescents on the agenda of research and policymaking related to cash transfer programs,” said Palermo.

Molyneaux shared important insights on gender and social protection, including how household-level monetary assessments of poverty are insufficient as women ‘suffer secondary poverty in households.’

“This is true also of children,” observed Palermo. “And that’s why Innocenti developed and conducts multi-dimensional poverty among children, known as MODA (multiple overlapping deprivation analysis). Innocenti researchers are also conducting a large portfolio of research on impacts of cash transfers on adolescent well-being as part of the Transfer Project.”

Another researcher stressed the need for a “unifying framework on adolescence, similar to that which exists for early childhood development,” a development that been successful in filling research gaps and advocating for Early Childhood Development (ECD)  programming. 

Key components for such a framework, and noted gaps in the current research, include 1) how do peer preferences and behaviours enter into adolescents’ decision-making processes? 2) What are the intra-household dynamics related to adolescent decision making, and 3) How is school quality produced?”

Jacob de Hoop, an Innocenti social policy specialist presented on Economic Empowerment and Children’s Activities and said he gained important new insights on research in humanitarian settings. 

“Carrying out research in humanitarian settings is more complex than carrying out research in most other settings. A particular issue is that in other settings we would typically prefer to rely on panel data in which households or individuals are observed over a period of multiple years,” said De Hoop.

Collecting panel data may be challenging in more volatile settings, as sample attrition is likely to be high. As a result of this and other complications, less is known about appropriate policy responses in humanitarian and emergency settings. 

According to De Hoop: “There is a real need for expanding the evidence base and for developing research methods that can be used in humanitarian settings.”

Research and evaluation specialists, Mary Catherine Maternowska and Alina Potts presented on Understanding the Key Drivers of Violence Against Children as part of a panel on children’s experiences of violence and building a framework for violence prevention. 

Potts observed: “As someone who is looking at violence prevention and sees adolescence as a critical time, it was notable that no matter what the purpose, a lot of the work building off of Young Lives’ longitudinal dataset ends up addressing violence—because it is so prevalent in the minds and the lives of the young people they are following.

Plenary speakers Prudence Ngwenya Nonkululeko of the African Union Commission and Maxine Molyneaux of UCL concluded the conference with a number of important observations. 

Ngwenya Nonkululeko highlighted “Agenda 2063,” put together by 54 African heads of state and laying out a 50-year vision for Africa, as a challenge for research designed to inform existing regional priorities. 

Maxine Molyneaux of UCL eloquently summarized another of the conference’s main themes: that “gender and generation must be factored into programme design.” 

Elsewhere, Innocenti consultant Lucia Ferrone presented on The Evolution of Adolescent Outcomes in Multi-dimensional Poverty as part of a panel on the Impacts of Deprivation and Economic Empowerment on the Well-Being of Adolescents and Young People.

Richard de Groot, a consultant with UNICEF Innocenti explored Unconditional Cash Transfers and Schooling Outcomes in Ghana: Heterogeneous Effects for Boys and Girls in Secondary School.

For more information on conference activities and speakers visit here. To find out more about UNICEF Innocenti research on the drivers of violence against children, visit here. For more information on Innocent work around cash transfers (The Transfer Project) visit here. For more information on Innocenti work on Multidimensional Poverty (MODA) visit here.

(15 September 2016)