Guest blog: Research as an intervention - a case study on violence against children in Peru

Dr Sarah Morton and Tabitha Casey
19 June 2017

Preventing violence against children is becoming more of a focus for policy makers, with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals including targets that aim to eliminate violence everywhere. How governments can achieve this is not so straightforward, however.

In 2014, UNICEF Office of Research- Innocenti and partners launched the Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children in order to help governments understand and address this issue. The Study focused on four countries – Italy, Zimbabwe, Viet Nam and Peru – and partnered with Dr Debi Fry, Moray House School of Education, and Young Lives. Two years later we undertook a joint impact assessment with UNICEF to examine the impact of this research programme in Peru. The result is this new report Changing National Policy on Violence Affecting Children.

Few impact evaluations are carried out in low-and-middle-income countries (LMIC), especially on violence prevention research. Our aim was to assess the outcomes of the Multi-Country Study in Peru and also to test the Research Contribution Framework (RCF) (Morton, 2015), developed to examine how research uptake and use ‘contributes’ to policy and practice change, in a LMIC.

The RCF requires key partners to agree the main mechanisms through which the research might impact on policy or practice, which are then tested, along with key risks and assumptions. We collated all existing evidence (e.g. media, downloads, email testimonial), assessed the gaps in evidence and then took a field trip to Peru to gather more material. In Peru we conducted a range of stakeholder interviews with government, academic and UNICEF partners to assess whether the Study contributed to changes in awareness, knowledge, skills, behaviour, policy and practice among key stakeholders.

The impact assessment found that the multi-partner, relationships-driven approach of the Multi-Country Study helped to maximise impact in Peru. It was also important that the Study was nationally-led: this made sure that the findings were specific to Peru, which was key, considering the country’s geographic diversity and multi-culturalism, and also helped ensure national ownership and data sovereignty.

By using this approach, the Multi-Country Study contributed to a number of policy and programme changes in Peru, including the passage of a law banning corporal punishment in all settings. By focusing on capacity-building and awareness raising activities, the Study also helped to give violence against children a higher political priority, and study partners are committed to keeping it on the political agenda.

Recommendations from the impact assessment include:

  • Plan sufficient timing – as well as flexibility - into the research design in order to build effective, trusting partnerships.
  • Define and support key actors to take knowledge-brokering roles in order to ensure clear communication and engagement among study partners in complex projects.
  • Plan an impact strategy from the start. Strategies should address complexity from the beginning, and also identify key monitoring criteria as well as risks and assumptions.

The RCF used here could be used both as an evaluation method and a planning tool to develop an impact strategy. Through this impact assessment, we found that the framework is adaptable and effective in a LMIC, and could be used to assess research impact in other contexts.

Morton, S and Casey, T 2017 Changing National Policy on Violence affecting Children: An impact assessment of UNICEF and partners’ Multi- Country Study on the Drivers of Violence affecting Children in Peru. University of Edinburgh.

This blog was first published on the website of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh on 15 June 2017.

More on the Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children.

Sarah Morton (2015) Progressing research impact assessment: A ‘contributions’ approach. Res Eval 2015; 24 (4): 405-419. doi: 10.1093/reseval/rvv016