In a nutshell

The terms “community-based” and “community-led” are often used interchangeably, but there is in fact a world of difference between these two approaches.

A community-led approach to child protection is driven by the community themselves. Here, it is the community who holds the power and owns the process, not NGOs or outside experts. It is also the community who makes the decisions about which harms to children to address and how to address them.­­

The starting point for this approach is the deep concern that local people have for their children. Any action taken is seen as a means of fulfilling this collective responsibility towards children.

Because the community uses its own resources and motivation to help children, this approach is much less dependent on NGOs or other external actors. As a result, it is more sustainable. The community is changing itself, altering social norms in ways that support the best interests of the child.

By contrast, community-based approaches to child protection are project-oriented and are driven primarily by NGOs or other outside actors. These outsiders identify key child protection issues and then tell the community which interventions are needed.

For example, a “child protection expert” from an NGO might identify “violence against children” as a key issue and then invite the community to help implement an intervention that is in line with relevant international standards.
The work that follows occurs inside the community space, and some community members may even become directly involved—for example, as community mobilizers. But it is the NGO who choses which issue to address and which intervention to use, and it is the NGO who will evaluate the results of the intervention.

In this approach, the community holds little power, takes low levels of ownership for the work, and typically sees the work as “an NGO project.” Since the work is dependent on the NGO, this kind of intervention typically does not last after the external funding ends. This expert-driven approach is also less effective in changing social norms that affect children.

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