Development that Works
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    This blog highlights effective ideas in the fight against poverty and exclusion, and analyzes the impact of development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
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    Found 19 posts.

    Community Engagement for Citizen Security in Jamaica

    By - 24 de March de 2017, 10:25 am

    By Cristina Mariel Fiat

    A citizen security project in Jamaica shows that community buy-in is vital to the success of such interventions as it helps ensure that services needed are delivered to those who need them most.

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    Chile Builds a New Relationship with its Indigenous People

    By - 31 de March de 2014, 11:01 am

    By Carlos Perafán

    Latin America has a long and contentious history with its indigenous population, which has often been marginalized, underserved, and unrecognized by governments and society for centuries. For the past dozen years, however, Chile took the ambitious step to try to change this historical paradigm by implementing the region’s largest program focused exclusively on supporting indigenous groups.

    The program, known as Orígenes and supported by the IDB, was unprecedented in Chile and the region for its scale and methodology to empower nearly 2,000 indigenous communities to carry out their own development projects. The ultimate goal was to establish a new relationship between the government and indigenous peoples by strengthening their identity and culture and improving living conditions.

    From the start, the implementation of Orígenes was challenging because it involved changing the paternalistic approach traditionally employed by government agencies in working with indigenous communities. Under the program, the communities themselves took the lead role in selecting and executing projects, so government agencies had to sustain an effective dialogue to help those communities prepare coherent and decentralized long-term development plans.

    “The innovative aspect of this project was that while we were provided with the resources, we ourselves had to decide how to use them,” said Zunilda Santos, a member of a community in Belén in northern Chile.

    The project developed an innovative methodology to empower indigenous communities.

    Not surprisingly, such an approach proved much more difficult to execute than anticipated because neither the communities nor the government were prepared to deal with the scale and complexity of the program. On one hand, many indigenous communities had little knowledge about project planning and execution or government processes. On the other, the government had limited understanding of how to work collaboratively with indigenous communities. For example, the government initially organized communities based on their legal status, without considering their ancestral or territorial ties.

    The result was that the project initially put too much emphasis on developing small projects to solve short-term community needs rather than planning such investments to foster the long-term development of indigenous territories. Moreover, the program suffered long delays in approving and delivering resources for community projects because, in part, third-party consultants without ties to the communities failed to incorporate local priorities and get community validation for the projects they submitted on the communities’ behalf. For their part, the communities often struggled to meet deadlines and properly report how they were spending program resources.

    To solve some of these issues, the government provided communities and their leaders training on project planning and management; began working with beneficiary communities according to family relationships and economic, cultural, and historical ties; and set realistic goals and deadlines so both the government and communities could meet their obligations.

    “Fixing the program took a lot of work, and the first step was to regain the trust of indigenous leaders with dialogue and going out to the field,” explained Karina Doña, an Orígenes program coordinator.

    The Takeaway

    Despite its initial difficulties, Orígenes established 874 long-term territorial development plans 2 and carried out more than 3,500 community development projects, ranging from the restoration of churches building community infrastructure to providing financing for nearly 9,000 families to buy productive assets such as cattle and forestry and agricultural equipment. Families that received financing to purchase productive assets in the first phase of the program reported an increase of 11 percent in their real incomes between 2003 and 2011.

    The program has led to increased self-identification of indigenous ethnicity and helped improve recognition among project communities. In 2011, 32 percent adults identified themselves as indigenous compared with 29 percent in 2003. However, some results fell short of expectations. Some of the long-term development plans lacked strategic vision to strengthen the local rural economy and failed to diminish persistent migration of community members to urban centers, the biggest threat to the preservation of indigenous cultures. One reason cited for this problem was that the program did not include traditional indigenous leaders—who are not formally recognized by the political system—in its dialogue with communities. In addition, procedures required from communities to account for project expenditures were quite cumbersome. Despite initial concerns about accounting for all expenses, at the end of the project only approximately 0.5 percent of the proceeds of the IDB loan was unaccounted for, in great part because some communities had lost receipts and delays by other government agencies in providing documentation for the funds spent. “The most important thing is that resources were not lost. We checked and the projects had been implemented,” Doña added.

    Despite its shortcomings, the project empowered indigenous communities and improved relationships with the government. The number of indigenous communities registered with CONADI, the Chilean agency in charge of indigenous affairs, increased 65 percent during the 12 years of the program. Moreover, 67 percent of communities that participated in Orígenes have accessed funds from other government agencies to carry out other development projects.

    Enhanced Conditional Cash Transfers to Boost Health

    By - 30 de March de 2014, 10:51 am

    By Sandro Parodi

    The Dominican Republic Adjusts its Solidaridad  Program to Help the Poor

    Conditional cash transfers programs have proven over the years to be an effective tool to reduce poverty and inequality in the short term. The transfer program in the Dominican Republic introduced in 2005, known as Solidaridad, has had just such positive effects on health, improving the weight and height of children under five years old and helping to reduce teen pregnancies and the probability of young people repeating grades or dropping out of secondary school.

    The IDB has played a key role in supporting the design and implementation of the transfer program as well as other improvements to the Dominican Republic’s social safety net. The country has improved its targeting mechanisms, strengthened the compliance of beneficiaries with their co-responsibilities, enhanced the links between the supply of services and case management, and significantly increased investments to improve the quality of primary health care services.

    To further maximize the impact of Solidaridad, the government, with technical assistance from the IDB, moved in 2012 to consolidate the program with another social program called Progresando, which supports socio-educational interventions. The merger has enabled the conditional cash transfer program to adopt a more systematic approach to improving health education by expanding its geographical reach and boosting the number of case workers working regularly with families through monthly home visits. The ration of households per caseworker has decreased to 50 from 350 before the merge.

    Caseworkers help connect families to a wide range of government social services and also verify whether households are meeting their co-responsibilities, which include sending their children to school and taking them for regular health check-ups.

    The country has also added new features to the program, which is now known as Progresando con Solidaridad. These include helping young people in beneficiary households access job training, and improving the coverage and design of education co-responsibilities in order to encourage teens to stay in school. Monthly stipends have been extended to families in the program with children in school up to 21 years old, and the amount of the stipend is now pegged to grade levels—the more teens advance in secondary school, the greater the stipend their families receive from the program.

    In 2013, the IDB approved another loan to help the Dominican Republic expand the reach of Progresando con Solidaridad, which is now the pillar of the country’s social safety net. The loan will also finance an impact assessment of the revamped conditional cash transfer program to determine whether the recent changes are working. Besides benefiting the Dominican Republic, the findings will provide important lessons for other countries in the region seeking to maximize the development impact of similar programs.

    Findings of Early Childhood Programs in 19 Countries

    By - 29 de March de 2014, 10:38 am

    By Maria Caridad Araujo

    The quality of care and interaction during the first five years of life has a major impact on childhood development and is a critical determinant of a child’s future health, behavior, and intellectual abilities. In Latin America and the Caribbean, access to early childhood programs has increased over the past two decades, particularly for the poor, and preschool services are now available to 69 percent to the population, according to data from the United Nations.

    Despite the increased availability of services, however, no systematic information has been available until recently about these programs. Information is needed not only for policymakers to ensure that the quality of such services is acceptable and regulated, but also for parents themselves to be able to choose the daycare center that is the best fit for their children, close to their home or office, affordable, clean, and well run.

    To better understand the current situation and challenges, the IDB surveyed 42 programs that offer childcare or parenting services in 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The study mostly examined government programs, although it also looked at services run by civil society organizations and private entities, given their reach in certain regions. The resulting report published in 2013, Overview of Early Childhood Development Services, is the first systematic review of such programs in the region. It focuses on understanding program design, components, coverage, costs, and quality. Data was collected through in-depth interviews with the managers of the programs.

    According to the survey, there is a wide range of models currently in place in the region to serve children under age three. In the Andean countries, for example, community-based models have been established where a mother feeds and looks after groups of 8 to 10 children in her own home and is paid by the government (and in some cases by parents). By contrast, in the Southern Cone, services operate largely through formal institutions where children are grouped by age and are cared for by professional educators.

    Early Childcare – The Numbers

    Main Findings

    The study points to the need for early childhood program to increase hiring of qualified professionals and decrease the child–to–adult ratio, a key determinant of quality. In the region, daycare services average six children per caregiver for children under one year of age. That’s double the recommended rate for children in that age group. The region average ratios are also higher than the optimal rates for other age groups.

    More training and better pay is necessary to improve the quality of care. According to the survey, staff are underpaid, and their rudimentary educational credentials and competencies in early childhood development are well below the levels required for such programs. On average, early childhood teachers have completed only 2.6 years of post-secondary education, teaching assistants have barely finished high school, and caregivers have only 10 full years of education, meaning they have not finished high school. To attract qualified professionals, programs should offer competitive salaries and increase training, mentoring, and supervision of staff with low levels of education.

    Increased monitoring of services is needed. Only 44 percent of daycare centers are regularly monitored on matters of safety and hygiene. Since the immune system of young children is still in development, hygiene and security issues pose particular risks for them. The study recommends that countries establish institutional arrangements in which quality standards are defined for the operation of childcare centers. It also recommends that systematic monitoring be put in place for government programs and for private programs.

    Developmental Challenges Faced by Small Children in LAC

    Nutritional services can be channeled through childcare centers. Many countries of the region still face significant challenges in terms of providing adequate nutrition for children up to five years old. Childcare services can do more to ensure that children get the foods and micronutrients they need and have access to growth monitoring, and that families receive nutritional counseling.

    Finally, the findings show that a significant improvement in the quality of childcare services is impossible without a significant budget commitment by the countries to make it happen. There may not be much short-term political gain for authorities to make such a commitment, but the investment is critical to ensure better prospects for children who are the most vulnerable.

    Better Schools and Teaching in Remote Indigenous Areas in Panama

    By - 28 de March de 2014, 10:22 am

    By Ryan Heath Burgess

    In Panama, over a third of indigenous people are illiterate and school retention rates in indigenous areas known as comarcas are half the national average. The Government of Panama, with IDB support, is trying to change that by improving primary and secondary school infrastructure, training teachers, and providing learning materials.

    Even under the best of conditions, accessing many of these schools can be difficult, so it is important to make the environment as appealing as possible in order to maximize learning and retain students. For example, 11-year old Magdiel Santos braves an hour walk through the woods—including crossing a river on a precarious bridge that is nothing more than a tree trunk—in order to reach the Batata school in the hills of Ngäbe Buglé, 300 kilometers northwest of Panama City.

    “I want my children to continue studying to prepare themselves to be adults,” says Magdiel’s mother, Juana Santos, who has nine other children. “I was so happy when I saw the school after the work was done on it.”

    Batata is among 46 primary or secondary schools in the comarcas of Ngäbe-Buglé, Emberá-Wounaan, and Kuna Yala that are being rebuilt or upgraded by the project. At the Batata school, the project put in a floor and replaced a leaky and noisy metal roof with a tiled one. An adobe hut that housed teachers who have to live at the school given its remote location was replaced by a brick-and-mortar house with a bathroom and electricity.

    The project complements another government initiative to keep indigenous students in school by paying families a stipend of up to $200 annually for each student who stays in school until the secondary level.

    Since most of the schools under the project are in remote locations with poor road infrastructure, communities are getting involved in repairs by helping carry construction materials on their backs to the school site.

    “We transported sand and cement for days, and we did this for the future of our children,” said Esmeralda Pérez, the leader of another indigenous community, Llano Bonito, that has benefited from the project.

    The project is also supporting a comprehensive training program in mathematics and Spanish for over 32,000 teachers in collaboration with Panama’s Ministry of Education. Teachers are learning to introduce interactive educational methodologies and adapt didactic content to the socio-linguistic and cultural circumstances of each comarca. Teachers are also trained on formative evaluation techniques to better match learning activities with the real needs of their students.

    The broad reach of activities under the $30 million project is expected to have a comprehensive effect on indigenous retention and literacy rates in Panama. In the isolated comarca of Ngäbe-Buglé alone, the project has built or repaired 17 schools, benefiting nearly 4,000 indigenous children. One of them—Magdiel Santos—might become the first among her nine siblings to complete secondary school.