On May 2017, the SDG Philanthropy Platform launched the “SDG Innovation Challenge” to source innovations to contribute to the well-being of children in the country with grant awards of up to US$40,000 for organizations to implement initiatives. During this competitive process, three organizations-The Young Women’s Christian Association, The Council of Churches and The Norwegian Church Aid- emerged as finalists.
We recently talked to Adrian Mendoza, Global Mission Fellow at The Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), a faith based organization that seeks to promote cooperation and fellowship between Christian churches and organizations in Zambia in an effort to support social and physical well-being of Zambians.
SDGPP: What is your initiative about?
AM: Thanks to the SDG Philanthropy Platform’s Innovation Challenge Grant, we will establish Church and Community Welfare Hubs which is an innovation to find solutions capable of real-time service tracking and response (availability, access, quality, delivery) for child services (health, education, and social protection) at the community level in Zambia.
SDGPP: Welfare Hubs?
AM: The welfare hubs are aimed to provide basic services focusing on simplified and decentralized birth registration assistance, monitoring utilization of education and nutrition services for children, fostering family bondage and child rights, and enhancing linkages to social welfare service providers and government ministries to children and youths at community level.
Zambia’s home delivery rate is at 53% (according to UNICEF) and the assumption is that processes like Birth Registration is not automatically done by parents (or not done at all – currently at 10%) hence, the hubs can assist in initiating this process (assisting in documentation of requirements) and submit them to the City Registration Office for the actual registration.
CCZ on the Ground: What, When & Where
CCZ has been building the capacity of grassroots leaders through workshops and facilitation of our local church council and community committees.
Communities from seven districts in Northwestern, Southern and Copperbelt provinces showed resilience in responding to negative impacts of mining and displacement as well as developed confidence to engage with stakeholders in claiming their rights. In the Zambezi area, the communities have been equipped with knowledge and skills of conservation farming and environmental friendly practices of cooking.
Alternative livelihood and skills training, and programs for people living with HIV and child-headed households are being implemented and Eastern and Western Provinces. WASH projects have brought a number of pit latrines and boreholes to many communities which really changed the lives of the communities, especially women and children who are mostly doing the work of fetching water from far and unsafe sources.
SDGPP: Why is this an exciting opportunity for your organization?
AM: The SDG PP is a great platform to showcase the work that we do and expand our reach in terms of networking with other like-minded civil society and faith-based organizations as well as philanthropists in and out of Zambia. Being part of this platform will allow us to learn from different context and approach of interventions done on the same challenges that the people of Zambia are facing at the same time, sharing lessons learned from our work.
SDGPP: How does your work align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
AM: Though most of the SDG’s are interrelated to each other and have their own complexities, the five primary services that the welfare hubs are offering are much aligned in achieving SDG 3 on Good Health and Wellbeing and SDG 4 on Quality Education.
SDGPP: How is your initiative ‘innovative’?
AM: While the welfare hubs are not able to provide full technical and specialized services, it is bringing basic parts of the services closer to its community beneficiaries for easier access and guided utilization. It will also create stronger linkages between the beneficiaries and the main agencies, structures and service providers hence, creating a stronger impact. The initiative invests in the credibility of the church to the community as an advocate of peace, justice and development making them very influential to introduce behavioral change and acceptance of new initiatives. The welfare hubs will act like an ignition engine that prompts the community to start utilizing services available to them and claiming rights and protection of the vulnerable, especially the children.
SDGPP: What is your strategy to scale your impact?
AM: Baseline and end-line surveys are part of the work plan in order to measure the impact of this innovation both to its direct and indirect beneficiaries. The surveys will determine how child services response and utilization has changed on the course of project implementation and how the welfare hubs affected the awareness and behavior of the community on the aspect of child welfare. Further, records or registers of the beneficiaries served by welfare hubs will be created and stored electronically for easier data analysis and studies. Both the surveys and the data recorded would be key to identify future innovations and to lobby more support for intervention.
SDGPP: What is the most valuable lesson learned that you’d like to share for other organizations to learn from?
Aside from the intervention itself, localization and contextualization of the project is the key for making sustainable impact of any project on the issues of the community. It is important for organizations to note that challenges will always be different and solutions proven to be effective in other areas may not work in new environment, hence, the need to consult and always include the community members in the decision making is critical. There is a need to move from donor-implementer-recipient mindset to a more collaborative approach where communities will be co-owners and implementers of the work and not just a recipient watching how things happen. There is a need to see beyond the scope and funds of the project and ensure that grassroots leaders are empowered with skills and connections to continue the development even after the project ends.
Author Merybell Reynoso is Communications Consultant at the SDG Philanthropy Platform.