DAC National CoP Consultations

Summary

Last year, the Covid-19 lockdown greatly impacted vulnerable populations, stranding thousands of migrants far from home, interrupting education for millions of children, and limiting access to non-COVID healthcare including SRHR services for adolescent and young people who faced difficult in accessing menstrual hygiene products or contraceptives. This year, with the second surge and a deadly virus strain, these problems have been aggravated for communities as they grapple with another year of the lockdown. With this realization, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative felt the responsibility to resonate the need for connection, coordination, and camaraderie. Thus, hosting a series of consultations titled ‘Voices from the Ground’ was a first step in this direction — to bring together nonprofit organizations as a community and network, in a virtual space, to share challenges, struggles, and create a space to openly share, listen and learn in an effort to better understand our role in responding to the impact of these times. These conversations have helped unpack the challenges and gaps that organizations are facing amid the second surge of the Covid-19 pandemic in India and address the isolation a lot of organizations are facing in these difficult times by allowing them to come together as a community to lean on and learn from each other. The consultations offer a key opportunity to hear from other organizations to understand the range of approaches that have been followed and share learnigns too. Through this series of conversations, organizations have highlighted education, SRHR, mental health, vaccine hesitancy and livelihood as areas to focus on in the wake of Covid-19. For various organisations, the pandemic has meant reduced funding or repurposing of funding to focus on Covid relief while putting their core programs as usual on hold. On-ground engagement and communication with the communities they serve as been almost completely impacted. As organisations are trying innovate or navigate these issues, they’re also working to make sure they are supporting the physical and mental health of their own employees. Many are worried that these two years of the pandemic will reverse years of human development in India. As organisations make shifts in their medium-to-long-term strategies to address these, they are also actively looking to learn from each other. With this realisations, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative remains committed to creating a collaborative space of knowledge, supporting organisations in amplifying and disseminating learnings, including voices of adolescents and young people and document scalable solutions.

Participants

On June 1 and 3, 2021, Dasra organised voluntary virtual meetings with its National Communities of Communities of Practice. The National CoP Meet was attended by 45 organizations from across the country — across two sessions — with varied focus and demographic interests, who also shared with each other how are they currently responding to the ongoing second surge of the pandemic.

APCO Worldwide

Lok Jagriti Kendra

Badlao Foundation

Lok Swar

BKS

Love Matters India / Development Consortium

Bridgespan

Mahila Mukti Sanstha

Centre for Unfolding Learning Potentials (CULP)

Medha

Centre for Youth and Social Development

Micro Enterprises & Sustainable Project

Child in Need Institute

NEEDS

CHS

Onkar Seva Sansthan

CorStone

Pilchu Sewa Sansthan

Ekjut

Piramal Swasthya

EngenderHealth

Population Foundation of India

Feminist Approach to Technology

Porticus

Foundation for Education and Development

Pratigya

Gram Nehru Yuva Trust

Quest Alliance

Humana People to People India

Rastriya Jharkhand Seva Sanathan

Izad

Rupayani

Jago Foundation

Rural Development Institute, Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust

Jan Lok Kalyan Parishad

Sahyogini

Jharkhand Gramin Vikas Trust

Snehalaya

Jharkhand Mahila Uthan

Swadesh

Jhpiego

The Naz Foundation India Trust

Lend A Hand India

Urja Trust

Vacha Trust (Mumbai)

Key Highlights and Learnings

The two sessions in early June were opportunity for organizations to share their experiences of the ongoing crisis and to share, openly, the various challenges that they and their communities are currently facing.

The session began with initial series of polls with the participants highlighting the stark reality of organizational and financial health in the current scenario. The polls revealed that organizations have put in place mechanisms for flexibility to ensure their employees are being supported, and have been encouraged by funders to do so. They have also had to significantly pivot their ongoing programs and a majority of attendees feel that they will be grappling with the consequences of COVID on their programs for up to 12 months. Details of the poll results can be seen in the Annexure, Questions 1-5.

Voices of Young People and their Needs

The consultation, which also saw participation from 15+ young people, was able to hear from them directly about the key challenges and impact of the pandemic they’re facing.

Education

  • A pause on education due to various reasons, ranging from poor infrastructure and resources for virtual learning to shift in priorities for family decision makers, has impacted learning opportunities for young people. Meanwhile, lack of Internet access or capacity to afford smartphone and data have pushed many students to put a hold on their education.

  • Since the cancellation of Class XII Board exams, students are clueless and unable to apply for jobs and higher education or plan for their future.

  • In families where there is one digital device and more than one child, the son’s online education is prioritised over the girls’. Further, with education put on hold or completely stopped, several young girls have been pushed into early marriages

Livelihood

  • Students fear at the end of the pandemic, many young people would be forced out of educational institutions to fend for their families. Many others have already been forced into picking up odd-jobs.

  • The two years of the pandemic has meant job loss for a lot of families, resulting in financial implications. This has affected families’ ability to feed themselves, leading to hunger and undernourishment.

Health

  • Most health care centres and workers have shifted their focus to tackle Covid-19. This has impacted young people’s access to other health care services.

  • With the markets and schools closed, and household income affected, young girls are unable to access menstrual hygiene products and are being forced to return to cloth pads.

  • Families that have been affected by Covid have struggled to obtain medical supplies or have had to resort to black markets for essential drugs.

  • With the surge in death rate across the country, some families who have lost their loved ones

to the pandemic have had to pay bribes to bury or cremate them.

  • There is vaccine hesitancy among young people due to rumours and fear-mongering of the vaccine leading to new illnesses, disorders or event death. Those that understand the benefits of the vaccine are struggling to convince their parents or grandparents to take the vaccine.

Mental Health

  • The pandemic and its impact on various aspects of life for young people has greatly impacted their morale and mental health. Young people are struggling emotionally, mentally and psychologically, and have access to few outlets or resources to help them in this period.

  • Lack of education and nutritious food, along with the impact on mental health, has pushed a lot of young people in certain geographies into drugs.

  • With restrictions on movement, young people are unable to pursue their passion, hobbies, other vocations or unable to engage with their peers.

  • The lockdowns and Covid precautions have restricted on-ground operations for a lot of NGOs. This has created a void for young people, who relied on them for various basic facilities and support. Further, there is a fear among young people and their families about the possibility of a third-wave.

Voices of the Civil Society & their Challenges

Resonating with these challenges, the participating organisations shared from their own experiences what they’ve been hearing from young people in their respective communities and how they are tackling some of these issues amid the pandemic. Lack of sufficient access to SRHR and education services, anxiousness about the future and increasing rates of child marriages seemed like recurring issues across the geographies during the pandemic, and the organisations acknowledge that these have been exacerbated during the second surge.

The organisations also shared a few organisational challenges and programmatic challenges that they’re facing, which hinder their engagement with young people. Some of them have been articulated below:

  • Limitations of technology: Access to digital infrastructure is a challenge in rural and remote locations, which has affected several services especially education for young people. At the same time, while most of the community engagements have shifted to WhatsApp, it’s hard to have private and confidential conversations over tech platforms with young people, as it’s still a new medium of interaction for many and often requires mediation and frequent troubleshoot.

  • Years of efforts undone: Organisations are devastated about the fact that the pandemic hit undo on years of development efforts in 2020, and has now taken steps further back on behaviour changes that communities and civil society organisations had come to celebrate.

  • Limitations on funding: While most organisations have able to negotiate with their funders who’ve shown agility and flexibility in responding to the pandemic, there are still limited funds to address a crisis this large. This limits the scope of the organisations to engage in Covid relief and response, where certain services are prioritised over others (for example, ration and sanitary napkins are prioritised over contraceptives and iron tablets). On the other hand, for a lot of organisations, most of the funding has been diverted to Covid relief, leaving them with little resources to address other critical issues.

  • Government prioritisation of Covid-19: Given the nature of the pandemic, the local governments have had to prioritise Covid response across its institutions and services. These means that almost all officials are engaged in Covid relief and response with little or no time to address other issues.

Covid Response and Relief

As the civil society has been largely quick to make pivots or plan for pivots, they have also made several intermediate efforts to quickly support their communities with Covid relief or response, especially to respond to the needs of the young people and their families.

While some organisations have set up help desks to facilitate access to health care or distribute ration, others have rolled out awareness drives to promote Covid-safety precautions and bust vaccination myths and hesitancy.

Some of the other efforts have been more focussed on education — ranging from setting up community learning centres and mobile libraries Since gender and mental health have been key priorities for organisations with a youth-focus agenda, several of them are taking various steps to address these — through awareness workshops and training drives on MHM, local pad banks and efforts to make young people feel heard. Some of the organisations have even been able to showcase best practices by working with the government to identify and support vulnerable children and adolescents.

While most of these efforts are short-term to address the ongoing pandemic, the organisations feel there is a greater shift required to enable organisations to pivot for the medium to long term.

Consolidated Efforts

The National Meet was not a lone effort to hear from the civil society but a follow-up to a Jharkhand state-level consultation that Dasra organised on May 21, 2021. At this consultation too, we heard of similar challenges that organisations are facing. At the organisation level, health of staff has been affected in the pandemic, and travel restrictions and Covid precautions have made communication with communities difficult. There have also been funding cuts or repurposing of the funds to respond to the Covid crisis. At the community level Impact, marginalised and vulnerable communities have been pushed into further marginalisation and vulnerability, particularly due to the loss of livelihood, and vaccine hesitancy remains a behavioural issue. You can read more about the Jharkhand CoP meet here. These consultations are part of the larger action plan that DAC has put in place to respond to the situation. However, we hope that these conversations will help DAC build a charter of recommendations for the government as well as for other key stakeholders.

Key Priorities and Next Steps

This National and State-Level CoP Meets were steps towards understanding the many challenges that the sector and our country’s young people are currently facing, in light of the second wave. The conversation highlighted not only several key priority areas, but also the need for a coordinated and shared response from stakeholders across the sector to ensure that we are able to protect and support our communities.

Based on the conversations between organisations and young people, the following have emerged as key priorities for youth-facing organisations (see Annexure, Questions 6):

  • Mental health among young people

  • Education for young people

  • SRHR for adolescent girls

  • Livelihood and well-being

  • How to engage with young people

To hear directly from more young people, Dasra is organising a series of consultations with young people, starting June. One such consultation, with 50 young people in Jharkhand, was hosted earlier this month. In these session, young people shared their experiences and concerns from the pandemic and shared coping mechanisms that have helped them navigate the stressful times- with a focused discussion on mental health, education & livelihood. Dasra has planned for four more of these consultation, with young people across India, over the next few months.

If you would like to nominate young people for any of the upcoming sessions, please reach out to us at

 We also heard from the organisation about their interest in engaging in more such conversations around young people and their communities (see Annexure, Questions 7-8). Thus, as we move forward, here is how Dasra hopes to leverage the power of the community:

  • Invite Collaborations: Invite organizations, networks or initiatives to partner with us to include the civil society for their perspectives and feedback so that any material we create has the input of practitioners serving the most vulnerable.

  • Amplify and Disseminate: Exchange useful efforts with this group of organizations and campaigns, and create a match-making efforts to facilitate an efficient way of mutual sharing that will be valuable to all.

  • Engage Adolescents and Young People: In everything we do, we hope to include and centre the needs, perspectives and inputs from young people themselves. We are in the process of bringing together a set of young people to form our working group to review and steer our efforts. We also hope to continually incorporate the participation of young people from partner NGOs to have their representation. We look forward to having you help us through this process and recommend adolescents and young people to include in this group.

  • Document Systems Change and Scaling Solutions and Failures: Through the above, we hope to also document certain efforts that are working on systems change or best practices and models that could scale. This is a time of innovating and working in an unrelenting environment and we are aware that there will be many challenges and pitfalls. These are equally important to understand, track and share learnings from.

Annexure: Poll Results

Reference Example for easy understanding

Table 1

The policy gap(s) addressed by the program

The exclusion of young people in the decision-making process for policy issues surrounding adolescents

Community need(s) addressed by the program

Greater awareness and understanding of adolescent issues regarding their education, sexual and reproductive health, and early marriage

Opportunity for innovation addressed by the program

The opportunity to bring and work together with critical stakeholders on a single platform

Table 2

Day-to-day program activities

Stakeholder management, vendor management

Periodic program activities

Monitoring, Reporting, Training of Personnel

One-off program activities

Government advocacy, designing campaigns

Tools/frameworks/systems & processes/ways of working from the program

Systems Change Framework

Table 3

Program practices

Is the practice impactful? If yes, list down why?

Is the practice sustainable? If yes, list down why?   

Is the practice scalable? If yes, list down why?  

Is the practice innovative and/or unique? If yes, list down why?  

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers

Yes, as it allows young people to directly engage with decision makers and contribute to the decision-making process

Yes, as it equips young people with leadership skills. It is also cost effective due to the long-term gains it offers upon initial investment

Yes, as such training modules can be replicated across multiple initiatives by other practitioners & organizations. In addition, trained young people can also train other young people

Yes, as it follows an approach which centers its design and delivery around young people, in an end-to-end manner

+

+

+

+

+

Table 4

Promising Practice

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers to: (i) create a platform for youth to exercise their agency (ii) effectively engage decision makers

Source

  • Verbal evidence from community
  • Verbal feedback from on-ground team members
  • Project report & surveys

Details

Community feedback of adolescents feeling confident, understood, and acknowledge

On-ground team feedback on creation of government champions for the project’s objectives

Project report and surveys observe greater youth involvement and efficacy in engaging directly with decision maker

Table 5

RECOMMENDATIONS

Promising Practice

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers to: (i) create a platform for youth to exercise their agency (ii) effectively engage decision makers

The demographic it addresses

Adolescents from the age of 10 to 19 years

The gap/ need/ opportunity it addresses

The exclusion of adolescents and young people in the decision-making process for policy issues regarding adolescents and young people

Govt stakeholders

Holding consultations with critical stakeholders and young people from the inception of a program

Funders

Taking inputs from all stakeholders and young people before initiating a new project to ensure a deeper visibility and understanding of their demographic and its needs

Other Practitioners

Engaging young people in decision-making processes to adopt a more collaborative approach between stakeholders and young people

Community Stakeholders

Undertaking youth-led social audits and engagement with decision makers to engage directly with young people, understand their needs & concerns and influence change at the community level

5

Objective Review

Outcome

Promising Practices and recommendations ratified by at least one member/ partner organization/ community/ MEL partners outside of ‘the team’

5

Objective Review

Objective

To validate the final promising practice and recommendation(s) by at least one person/ partner organization/ community/ MEL partners outside of the team.

4

Document

Outcome

2-3 promising practices documenting:

 

  • What gap/need is addressed
  • How it is addressed and the change that is created
  • The potential for replicating along with recommendations for implementing

4

Document

Objective

To document the promising practices in a detailed manner

3

Develop into a recommendation

Outcome

Well-articulated recommendation(s) addressing:

 

  • Demographic to cater to
  • Gaps/needs/opportunities addressed by the practice
  • The change brought in by implementing such a practice

3

DEVELOP INTO A RECOMMENDATION

Objective

To construct a recommendation in a brief, specific and clear-cut format which would assist other initiatives in implementing the same

2

CALIBRATE & SUBSTANTIATE

Outcome

Obtaining qualitative and/or quantitative data to assess the promise of the shortlisted practices according to the five guiding factors

Arriving at first list of promising practices

2

CALIBRATE & SUBSTANTIATE

Objective

To substantiate the shortlisted practices by collating gathered data in the form of:

 

  • Feedback from the community
  • Verbal accounts of the ground team
  • Documentation reports
  • Other valuable data

1

List & Shortlist

Outcome

Identifying:

  • Policy gaps
  • Community needs
  • Opportunities for innovation and other aspects that the program is addressing.

    Creating a list of program practices that are working on-ground in bridging gaps/needs/opportunities.

1

List & Shortlist

Objective

To identify gaps/needs/opportunities and to shortlist program practices that are impactful, sustainable, scalable, innovative and/or unique.