With the following key recommendations, we would argue that there is a real opportunity for philanthropy to help effectively address violence against children:
Philanthropy should take risks, whereas governments and the private sector are often risk averse because they have to please their electorate and keep their shareholders happy.
Take financial risk. Some innovative ideas taken forward may inevitably fail. As we know little about what works to prevent violence, it is crucial that innovative ideas to address the problem are tested to see if they reach their intended results and can be implemented at scale, such as adapting a “disease control model” for interrupting violence or income generating parenting interventions to reduce child maltreatment. In addition, by supporting innovative financing mechanisms such as Social/Development Impact Bonds, the philanthropy sector could bring new capital to support violence prevention efforts, focusing on tangible results (rather than new activities) with potential for cost-savings for government agencies.
Take political risks. By advocating for unpopular issues and daring to raise the profile of frequently overlooked sectors of the population and their concerns, philanthropic organizations can aid in depoliticizing scientific findings and bring together unexpected partners from different fields to champion a cause.
Violence against children is such a sensitive and tabooed topic that politicians may be hesitant to talk about it publically and take a leading role. Furthermore, donor-funded agencies are often unable, or unwilling, to seize on such issues like changing social norms, which might be crucial for the purpose of reducing violence against children. Social determinants of violence against children such as alcohol, substance abuse and poverty are structural drivers requiring structural solutions. Hence philanthropy should provide support to initiatives that focus on these structural drivers for violence against children.
Mitigate risk. By providing a broad range of support to implementing organizations beyond financial capital (such as strategic and financial planning; development of results-based programming; documenting best practices; strengthening communications and advocacy; and fundraising for additional financial support), foundations can increase the social impact and effectiveness of the violence prevention sector.
Firstly, prior to designating funding in support of violence prevention measures, due diligence needs to be practiced to assess organizational capacity in order to avoid mismatches or sub-optimal dispersal of the limited funding available to violence prevention to activities. Secondly, in the case of programs proven to be effective, capacity building is needed in order to enable scaling up of activities to achieve impact and move towards integrating violence against children into existing health and social systems.
Philanthropy should leverage its versatile capital: it is usually not restricted in the type of capital it provides - grants, loans or make equity or debt investments or even a combination of any of these. Philanthropy seeks to bridge the gap between social impact and the efficiency of private sector approaches. It is still a small select group of funders that chooses to invest in violence prevention. Currently available funds barely suffice to test innovative approaches to tackle the problem. In order to scale up effective programs, additional funders need to be convinced of the urgency of the cause to further build momentum, with an ultimate goal to hand over some of the philanthropic efforts to multilaterals and later governments.
However, there are also other types of capital beyond financial capital that philanthropy can bring to the table:
Philanthropic organizations usually have patient capital with long-term investment horizons, and the ultimate goal of maximizing social returns rather than short-term electoral cycles or financial gains.
Philanthropic organizations have “connected” capital: it can usually be further amplified as it is often supported by prominent individuals with strong networks of personal and professional connections, and may provide access to corridors of power in ways that may not be as accessible to other donors and researchers.
Stronger efforts are needed to enable access to new innovative partnerships and foster connections among experts working in a range of more specialized fields, each of which is contributing in some manner to the prevention of violence against children (e.g. violence against women, early childhood development). Philanthropy has access to these different segments of experts and has a distinct opportunity to bringing them together. Furthermore, philanthropy must be used to enhance individual efforts by bringing together the disparate and uncoordinated activities of different organizations, academics, multi-lateral agencies, governments, and global NGOs. For example, a global meeting on “How to reduce violence by 50% over the next 30 years” in September 2014, led by the University of Cambridge, convened key global experts to develop evidence-based strategies to reach significant reductions of exposure to violence on a population level globally, which will feed into the World Health Assembly Resolution A67/R15 (strengthening the role of the health system in addressing violence) and the post-2015 sustainable development goals.
Philanthropy can accelerate the provision of emergency capital: providing immediate assistance in the face of emergencies and natural disasters. For such events, national governments and the UN often struggle with extensive bureaucratic hurdles and delays in providing aid and support in a timely manner. In some cases, philanthropic organizations have more flexibility to move quickly and effectively in providing support.
We believe that philanthropy — with its appetite for risk and flexible capital — has a great opportunity to make significant headway towards breaking the intergenerational cycle of violence and reducing violence against children over the next couple of decades.