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Cross-cutting themes

A woman working on a farm - Community

Across all our programmes, capacity building, collaboration, participation, advocacy, gender, disability, and the environment are of importance to the people and communities we work with.

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Managing risks

children outside campWe are working with some of the most vulnerable people in society.  We want to give them the opportunities and tools to make positive changes, and positive futures.  Above all, we must make sure we cause no harm.   Every project has its risks and challenges – and we work with all our partners and participants to make sure we know what the particular risks are, wherever we work, and whatever we are doing.  We always think about:


Every single SOS Children team member knows that we put child safety ahead of everything.  Our team members stay with us for years – and many of our senior staff have worked their way up through our organisation.  Field workers describe themselves as passionate about what they do – and old-timers pass our cultural values on to their newer colleagues. 

Such a stable team enables us, year in year out, to strengthen our culture of commitment, teamwork, transparency and accountability.  The sense of passion and pride in what we do is crucially important - because our “workplace” is all over the world, and often in the heart of very vulnerable communities.   We have to be sure that no one - participant or staff, child or adult - is exposed to greater risk of harm because of SOS Children’s involvement.

Our teams meet challenges every day of the week.  We work together, share experiences across the globe, and encourage each other.  Together we reassert our core values, figuring out how to succeed without compromise on the things that matter most.

Politics and economics

SOS Children has many years of experience of working in communities with:

  • Political instability
  • Recent conflict
  • Weak governance
  • Corruption in private and public life
  • High – or even hyper - inflation
  • Currency instability

We make sure our budgeting process allows for the risks we can anticipate.  When the unexpected happens, we work hard to find new resources so we meet all commitments to community participants.  We always, of course, work in partnership with local community leaders and organisations – so we only work where we are welcomed and wanted by those we support.

Our work is designed to be scalable: in new locations we start small and grow our community strengthening work when we have a track record of success.  Our pilot projects become blueprints: in this way, those affected by a project can really get to know us, and the way we work, as we establish our activities on a modest scale.   Scaling up is always in response to direct community requests.  Wherever we can, we build strong links with government: we thereby minimise the risk of  unfair or negative political interference.

Getting it right for the long term: sustainability

When we speak of sustainability we think about personal, community and environmental well-being:

  • Graduating families and groups from our support into a life of self-reliance
  • Ensuring long term continuity in the community for activities we start
  • Contributing to environmental enhancement and well-being

Our track record on all of these is good – but we have to work hard to get even better.

    Graduating families and groups from our support into a life of self-reliance

Most of the families we work with become economically and socially strong enough to graduate from SOS Children programmes within five years.  The new strength and resilience of these families strengthens the whole community.  The children of these families complete their schooling, and begin to break the vicious cycle of poverty, poor nutrition, poor health and poor education.

    Ensuring long term continuity in the community for activities we start

However,  some grandparents and primary school children may need support for many years.  It is crucial that each community gradually assumes responsibility for its own members.  This can be achieved through strengthening of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), and that is why CBOs are always key partners in our programmes.

“The review finds that the programme is ‘rooted’ in the community, particularly with regards to identification and selection of beneficiaries, the community’s involvement in selecting volunteers/CBO members to serve/act as key supporting staff in the family strengthening programme especially in charge of monitoring beneficiaries.” The mid-term external review of NORAD FSPs in Zambia, Uganda and Mozambique.

    Contributing to environmental enhancement and well-being

In a community without water, sanitation or power “the environment” is full of risk and burden.  Families (usually children, elderly and women) must walk miles for water, burn wood in unventilated homes for cooking and face the daily challenge of water-borne diseases such as cholera.  All of our work must be aimed at improving these risks to health and well-being of whole communities.

We also have to think about more complex, longer term issues: climate change and environmental degradation – all are beyond the scope of our community based programmes.  Yet we do not want to make matters worse, and we want to make sure that whatever we can do to improve things, we do it. 

We always consider the source of materials used and distributed in our programmes.  We support local Community Based Organisations whose work enhances environmental conditions.  We add our voice to advocacy initiatives which aim to improve security and resilience for vulnerable communities.