The Capacity to Have an Effect: An Efficacy Study of the Caribbean Child Support Initiative
The Caribbean Child Support Initiative (CCSI) is a programme funded by the Bernard Van Leer Foundation (BvLF) that aims to bring a regional approach to its work, and to be more strategic and systemic in its grant making by linking projects to broader early childhood development policy advocacy. Rosalind Eyben and Fiona Wilson were asked to conduct an efficacy study focussing on the CCSI programme concept and perspectives of stakeholders, to identify the dynamics and influences on the CCSI operations and analyse the processes by which CCSI is able to make a difference.
Eyben and Wilson first reviewed the history of CCSI and considered the wider historical context of the organisational challenges and solutions identified when the Foundation moved from funding a disparate set of projects to one over-arching programme. They then examined the conceptual framing of the CCSI as three strands of activities: knowledge building, policy advocacy and grounded practice through the intervention of families and community. Taking this further, the researchers identified three operational modes that are discernible within CCSI. The first is a horizontal co-creating aspect at the centre of which sits the CCSI staff as core team; the second is a hierarchical, line-management mode and the third is a diffuse network. Which one comes to fore depends on what particular aspect of its activities are being scrutinized. In their assessment all three modes (and perhaps other not identified) exist together and collectively influence CCSI's capacity to have an effect. It is the role of leadership, they suggest, that maintains the balance between these three different ways of working.
From discussing what CCSI is, Eyben and Wilson moved on to ask how CCSI thinks and acts. Because of the pre-eminence of the Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP), the researchers chose this element of the programme to exemplify the discourses, issues and challenges in how CCSI understands and explains what it is doing. Here Eyben and Wilson highlighted a special feature of the RCP which has been to leave room for local appropriation in the replication of best practice. This led to a consideration of CCSI processes of conceptualization and adaptation and how these sit within a broader body of development debates about how change happens. They looked particularly at the experience in the first phase of establishing a systematic monitoring and evaluation system and introduced some current perspectives on evaluating results.
Finally, the central question of efficacy -‘the capacity to have an effect'- was taken up for critical scrutiny. When talking to those connected with CCSI, Eyben and Wilson found two characteristic ways of framing and thinking about early childhood development (ECD), the CCSI programme and policies advocated for dealing with ECD in the future. One can be summed up as a paradigm of organic change, the other as a paradigm of institutionalization. In seeking to incorporate both paradigms in its approach to sustainability, CCSI is currently confronting a number of dilemmas. These are becoming increasingly urgent as the end of BvLF funding draws close. In an endnote the researchers concluded that CCSI has great capacity to make a difference and in that respect they identified some issues that BvLF could consider, not only with reference to this particular programme but more broadly as it develops a new strategy for the Foundation.