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Pathways to Stronger Futures in Haiti: How Can Economic Strengthening Through Comprehensive Social Protection Improve Early Childhood Development?

Principal Investigator: Dr Keetie Roelen, Institute of Development Studies

It is widely understood that poverty undermines early childhood development (ECD). In turn, poor ECD reinforces intergenerational transmission of poverty. Economic strengthening through comprehensive social protection may offer a ‘double boon’: it can improve ECD in the short-term and reduce poverty in the long-run. This study proposes mixed-methods research that will investigate how economic strengthening through comprehensive social protection can affect ECD, particularly seeking insights into pathways, dynamics and contextual factors that underpin positive or negative linkages. It does so in a context of widespread poverty, poor outcomes for young children and limited availability of services in rural Haiti. It represents a timely contribution to the evidence, which is currently biased towards studying cash transfers and using quantitative methods. It will fill knowledge gaps on the roles of social protection and economic strengthening in improving ECD and reducing intergenerational poverty in Haiti and across the Global South, thereby directly addressing SDGs 1 and 4.


Update Tuesday 3rd July 2018

In February 2018, the IDS research team travelled to Haiti to train local fieldworkers and staff members of Fonkoze in qualitative research. This included 'common' qualitative research methods such as interviews and focus groups, as well as participatory methods such as community mapping, seasonal calendars, activity clock, body maps, family mapping and participant observation. The training also covered useful topics for fieldworkers, from how to introduce themselves and the research to participants to solving common fieldwork issues, such as how to handle disagreements during a group discussion. Fieldworkers developed skills such as note-taking, transcription of fieldwork notes and identifying their positionality while undertaking fieldwork. The period of training also allowed for piloting of research tools, ensuring that perspectives of fieldworkers and research participants regarding the tools were incorporated.

Qualitative data was collected from late February to April in three different sites in the Central Plateau of Haiti. Fieldwork focused on case studies of CLM beneficiaries and their spouses or other significant caregivers of children, aiming to obtain fine-grained and detailed information about the interaction between economic strengthening, care and child wellbeing. Case studies are complemented by group activities with community members and other CLM beneficiaries, interviews with Fonkoze staff and participant observations. Translators are currently in the process of translating all transcripts.


Update Wednesday 14th February 2018 

Workshop: “Pathways to Stronger Futures: economic strengthening and childhood development” 

17 January 2018 

Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK

This workshop was organised as part of a new research project seeking to understand linkages between economic strengthening through comprehensive social protection and childhood development in Haiti. The research is funded by the British Academy through the Global Challenges Research fund and the Department for International Development (DFID) as part of the Early Childhood Development Programme.

The aim of the workshop was three-fold: to (i) discuss the state of play with respect to evidence of economic empowerment, livelihoods and comprehensive social protection programming – including graduation programming – and its impact on childhood development, (ii) present upcoming mixed-methods research on economic empowerment and childhood development in Haiti, and (iii) discuss knowledge gaps within the existing evidence and how they might be filled with upcoming research in Haiti. Workshop participants included a small group of researchers and practitioners working across areas of graduation programming, economic empowerment and childhood development. This includes colleagues from Fonkoze in Haiti, the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia, Save the Children, the University of Antwerp, Itad, Social Performance Solutions, and fellows from the Institute of Development Studies.

The day was divided into three main sessions: (i) presentation on the evidence that exists today on economic empowerment and childhood development, by Keetie Roelen, followed by a general discussion; (ii) presentation and discussion about the main components of the Chemen Lavi Miyó (CLM) Fonkoze’s graduation programme and its potential impact on women and children, led by Fonkoze’s communications and learning officer Steven Werlin,; and (iii) sharing and discussing ideas regarding main knowledge gaps and questions to consider in relation to the Haiti case study.

 1.      Main lessons from the overview of evidence on economic strengthening and childhood development

  • Early Childhood Development (ECD) can be defined as a development process: ‘a gradual unfolding of cognitive-language, social emotional and sensory–motor capacities’ (WHO 2013, 4). Accordingly, child development can be impacted by risks such as poverty, socio-cultural factors, psychosocial factors, and biological factors (Walker et al. 2007; 2011 - Lancet).
  • There is wide consensus that the most cost-effective period to invest is in ECD. However, there is little to no information about how economic strengthening impacts child development outcomes.
  • From the existing evidence, there is strong information about the potential of economic strengthening to reduce main risk factor of ECD, poverty. But it is necessary to expand information about how economic strengthening may impact biological and psychosocial risk factors through reducing poverty.



  • In reviewing the relationship between economic strengthening and ECD, a range of factors mediate the potential impact such as the delivery of cash / assets (size of transfers, type of assets, regular and consistent payments, duration of payments, gender of cash recipient), caregiver and child characteristics (education level, gender of child).
  • Cash transfers by themselves have limits; they reduce poverty and have wider impacts but are limited in addressing the full extent of multidimensional issues; for this reason, ‘cash plus’ interventions have potential for greater impact, particularly in affecting biological and psychosocial risk factors directly.
  • There is a need for greater recognition of the potential tension between paid work and care. For example, the fact that women’s time is being constrained by taking multiple jobs. While this tension is widely discussed in relation to women’s economic empowerment programmes, it has received little debate in graduation programming.


2. Key points from overview with CLM programme in Haiti

The CLM programme is a replication and adaptation from the BRAC graduation program and is run by Fonkoze foundation in Haiti. The main components of the programme are:

  • Economic and social development, consisting of a fixed stipend for the 24 weeks of the programme, productive assets and trainings on enterprise development.
  • Village savings and loan associations, which have become an increasingly important part of the program.
  • Village Assistance Committees, run by local volunteers that support the members to facilitate communication and resolve conflicts.
  • Health interventionsU, managed through two lessons every week from a rotating list of twelve messages, support with latrine construction and a water filter; malnutrition screenings and facilitated access to free healthcare.
  • Emergency subsidies, funds available to support members when they are facing an emergency.
  • Graduation ceremony, an event organized at the end of the program where members that graduate can invite important people from the community.

Other central elements of the program are:

  • The selection process is very long and detailed; it takes up to 3 months to complete. Two categories of families are eligible: families that have a working woman who has dependents, and individuals with impairments.
  • One of the most important characteristics of the program is the 18 months of accompaniment that the beneficiaries receive from a case manager once a week for the first 12 months, and once every two weeks in the following 6 months.
  • In terms of programme monitoring, data is collected for all beneficiaries at the start of the programme, and 3 more surveys are applied after six, twelve, and seventeen months.

Preliminary analysis of baseline evaluation data revealed relevant information about women and children that are part of the CLM programme. The majority of beneficiaries are women aged 18 to 39, with an average of three children per household and at least one child aged under 5. Most women live with a partner or spouse, mostly in traditional or informal arrangements. With an average of five household members, the dependency ratio is 1:5. Beneficiaries have generally low levels of education with the majority of women never having attended school and being illiterate.

Beneficiaries prove to be among the poorest households in Haiti; the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) score indicates that CLM members are very likely to be categorised as poor using either national or international poverty lines. Most children are reported to go to school, but school absenteeism is substantial. Lack of money presents a main constraint for beneficiaries seeking healthcare for themselves or their children.

Findings with respect to biological and psychosocial risk factors for ECD suggest that children of CLM beneficiaries are at risk of low child development. For example, CLM members and their children suffer from limited meals and poor dietary diversity. The number of stimulating activities (such as singing songs or telling stories) undertaken with children – either by the CLM member or any other adult in the household – is limited. Many CLM members also report high levels of mental stress, as based on the K6 scale and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. At the same time few women indicated a lack of time to undertake all paid and unpaid work tasks; lack of money was considered the biggest impediment to providing care for children.

 3. Main knowledge gaps or research questions in relation to Haiti case study to feed into the overall evidence base on economic strengthening and child development.

Knowledge gaps in terms of the general existing evidence on economic strengthening and child development, particularly in relation to Haiti, were identified through small group discussions and focusing on the Haiti case study. Knowledge gaps and research questions centred around six main themes:

  1. Intra- and inter-household dynamics and social capital, including interactions between members of the household, extended family, and the community.
  2. Primary caregiver, understanding her/his time use, mental situation, and overall well-being.
  3. Norms and aspirations around childhood, focusing on understanding how ‘good childhood’ is understood and how this links to parenting and caring practices. 
  4. Practices, notably those of child stimulation, nutrition, and hygiene.
  5. Structural context, focusing on interaction with services, access to public markets, and safety and security within the community.
  6. CLM programme impact, zooming in on how its components affect the household and its children in different ways, with a special focus on the role of the case managers.


Update Thursday 12th October 2017

Andrena and little Flancia in Lascohabas


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