Safeguarding Project (Changing the Story)

Safeguarding means protecting vulnerable people from harm, whether malicious or unintended, by believing and responding to concerns through a systematic approach.

In 2019-20, we’re developing a project to generate discussion of the issues around safeguarding, and move towards a mutual assessment of how best to ensure that safeguarding approaches work in context.

What is safeguarding in international development?

An understanding of safeguarding is crucial to interpreting international development objectives such as Sustainable Development Goal 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and in the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is recognised by UNICEF’s Ethical Research Involving Children project in the planning and conduct of research in any geographical, social, cultural or methodological context. We at Changing the Story look to integrate these approaches by building on local knowledge and existing good practice.

Why is safeguarding important at Changing the Story?

Working directly with youth-centred organisations in complex settings, it is vital that we and our partners have a clear understanding of and commitment to international safeguarding standards, and how they can be applied to and shaped by local practices. We must be confident that our work is not putting the children and young people that we work with at further risk At the same time, research staff need to be equipped with the skills and support to remain safe, and be confident that they are contributing to a social good.

Given our commitment to building capacity among researchers and civil society organisations working in post-conflict settings, Changing the Story is keen to support their strengthening of contextualised safeguarding measures with a particular focus on children and young people that create bespoke solutions to specific needs.

Why now?

The UK Department for International Development (DfID) and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) plan enhanced and context-specific standards for UK charities and Non Government Organisations on partners’ policies and processes around safeguarding children and young people from exploitation, abuse and neglect.

The University of Leeds, as a first-tier partner, has responsibility to ensure appropriate safeguarding standards throughout the chain, and is committed to applying best international practice that also appreciates the local knowledge and experience of those working with vulnerable children and young people in local communities.

DfID will apply its enhanced safeguarding standards first to new grants or existing grants which involve new funding. From September 2019, partners with existing agreements who do not meet the new enhanced standards have been required to put in place an improvement plan, or risk suspension of funding. The UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) will produce its set of principles and best practice guidance on safeguarding in the international development research context by February 2020.

What’s the plan?

We aim to simplify these procedures, arrive collaboratively at proportionate solutions contextualised to each Changing the Story project, help build capacity to evaluate these solutions, and share personal and organisational learning that emerges.

Safeguarding often follows the familiar process of firstly raising awareness of the problem. Country data may (or may not) be available, but it is important to acknowledge that child abuse, workplace harassment and ineffective organisational procedures happen in every culture. Informed and frank discussion may be enough to prevent many future incidents. It may promote the adoption of practices that prevent many more. In the event, though, of incidents occurring or concerns being raised, a clear and transparent response should give people confidence that a process is in motion.

How each case is reported to the Board, to staff and, importantly, to the people affected will help us learn about ways to better raise awareness in the future.

Diligence around safeguarding depends on the expertise and experience of those ‘on the ground’ in each region, and each CTS project will bring existing strengths and insights, and will identify its own needs and priorities. To this aim, we are appointing in November 2019 a Regional Safeguarding Lead for each of the four global regions in which Changing the Story operates.

Together with the Safeguarding Project Developer (Tony Cegielka) at the University of Leeds, they will be able to interpret local legislation and partner organisations’ policy on child protection and children’s rights, build relationships within and across projects to develop an understanding of their current needs and opportunities for development, and contribute to the design and delivery of face-to-face workshops to build organisational and research capacity.

We would also be interested to hear from graphic designers who could adapt existing commercial materials on safeguarding to something that resonates in local contexts.

A core resource pack and toolkit from each region will enable cross-national comparisons, and contribute to a knowledge base around young people’s wellbeing, experiences of abuse or neglect, and the risks and opportunities associated with involvement in international development and research programmes. Each project team will be able to adapt and supplement the core to create collective ownership of its own context-specific safeguarding agenda and policy, as well as workshop materials (including child-friendly versions) in a language and using terminology that is familiar to the intended audience. The culture change that this experience promotes may also encourage CYP-inspired participatory arts.

Regional Safeguarding Leads

Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Lead
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Helene Rousseau
South Africa Regional Lead
Astrid Cortés
Latin America Regional Lead
Europe Regional Lead
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Asia Regional Lead
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Read the latest news from this project

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This webinar from 01 July follows up on UKCDR’s publication in April of its Guidance on Safeguarding in International Development...


Susan Kathayat is a master’s student in the Department of Conflict Peace & Development Studies at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal.   Susan participated...


The latest in a series of online sessions forming part of Changing the Story’s Safeguarding project was designed and delivered...


We need you! If you want to express your feelings about safety, who has authority in your life and how...