Reflections from a project with the Child’s I Foundation and Hope and Homes for Children, Uganda

In July, my colleague Njeri Kagucia and I travelled to Uganda to better understand the motivations, challenges and experiences of child protection volunteers working for the Child’s I Foundation. The Child’s I Foundation is a charity fighting for children to grow up in safe and loving homes and for the abolishment of orphanages across Uganda.

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Child’s I Foundation is a partner organisation to Hope and Homes for Children – a UK based charity working in internationally with a similar mission. Hope and Homes for Children contracted ConnectGo to develop and pilot mobile technology that may enhance the effectiveness of community-based child protection mechanisms. They are particularly concerned to identify opportunities to incentivise the volunteers who work with Childs I to continue their engagement and become more effective.

What are Volunteers Motivated by?

To enable us to effectively design and deliver surveys via the ConnectGo tech, it was important we understood the current motivations of those engaged with Child’s I Foundation. Overwhelmingly, we found volunteers are motivated by a desire to build a fairer society where everyone belongs.

“I’ve always been doing this as a volunteer, so I am someone who can change the community.”

“I’m a teacher who wants to change the world.”

“I want everyone to know the rights of children and other people.”

“I want to share my experience with other people in the world.”

They are motivated by a moral drive to help. They often experience this as pain at others’ suffering and a fear for our future, if children are not supported and subsequently derail as adults. This is founded in empathy for others that stems from their own childhood where they either:

“knew what it is to lack” or experienced “care as a young person by someone who was not my real mother.” 

“If I was not helped, I would not be doing what I’m doing.”

Volunteers have a strong sense of agency as protectors of children. They want to be the voice of children, and to see:

“children smile and be happy” and possess a “passion and desire to make a difference in their lives.”

They are nourished by their relationships with children, and love seeing the positive impact of a child living in a healthy and supportive family.

What Would Sustain or Enhance Volunteer Motivation?

Volunteers’ motivation is intrinsic. Their behaviour arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying. However, volunteers are working on the frontline of human trauma and there is no guarantee that their motivation will sustain unaided.

Volunteers explain that their passion could be enhanced and sustained by:

  • Acknowledgement & appreciation: a simple “thank you” or “May God bless you”
  • Affirmation – by local leaders, recognition and assistance by the police
  • Cross cultural celebration and relationships with other volunteers from East Africa where they learn from each other
  • Logistical facilitation – support with transport and smartphones to improve communication and efficiency
  • Opportunities for self and professional development – specifically more knowledge about child protection
  • Evidence of impact – success stories of their effect in changing lives and families thriving

How the ConnectGo Tech will Help

The ConnectGo technology will help scale the charity’s social impact by using mobile messaging to map, track, communicate with and mobilise communities. It supports agencies like Child’s I Foundation to:

  • Understand their context, by identifying citizens who are agents for change and understanding their belief systems, relationships and behaviours
  • Listen to citizens’ views and take them through an educational journey
  • Visualise the impact being achieved by bringing to life people’s stories of change

In Makindye and Tororo, Uganda we will be piloting the ConnectGo tech with community volunteers. Each month 40 volunteers will receive surveys that:

  • Ask them to tell us how they have reached and protected children and shares their stories of success with their peers, reminding them how appreciated they are.
  • Further explores what volunteers do know and how they learnt that; and in doing so to inform a series of educational messages on child protection.

ConnectGo’s mobile technology should support volunteers to better monitor their work and to build their knowledge. It should enable Childs I to better understand the motivations, actions and impacts being achieved by volunteers; and it should provide data analytics that enables Childs I to rigorously test their assumption that the volunteer model can deliver high quality social work and results for children.

The ConnectGo technology will be valuable in demonstrating that there is a groundswell of Ugandans who are striving to do the right thing by children, families and communities. In doing so it will reveal community strengths and counter the deficit-based narrative that so often characterises conversations about child protection in East Africa.

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