Protection programming tends to be built on assumptions that certain “protection activities” are relevant to address a standard roster of protection issues. For example, training different stakeholders is typically assumed to result in better protective services or behavior change by responsible actors. While the implementation of the activity is monitored, actual change in the form of reduced risk is not. Project designs are commonly replicated across contexts without adequate investment in analysis or consideration of what actions are necessary to reduce the specific risks different people face in a specific context.
Achieving and demonstrating such impact requires better analysis and synthesis of risk patterns, and better diagnosis of the roles of different actors. With this information, we can better undertake context-specific problem-solving and outcome-oriented program design, including advocacy, facilitating complementarity among actors, and developing measurable indicators. In doing so, a results-based approach to protection builds on an evidence-informed framework which enables a focus on outcomes, rather than simply outputs and activities. In addition, a focus on results encourages, from the start of a response, robust monitoring and evaluation of the impact on people’s lives and, therefore, better fine-tuning of programs and greater overall impact.
Despite extensive literature on results-based approaches, there remains a gap in understanding what elements are required for results-based protection programming, how to use it effectively, and what methods and tools support the process. While there are examples of effective results-based approaches within the humanitarian community, they are scattered across organizations without a coordinated effort to gather good practice and develop relevant guidance to systematize a results-oriented approach to protection.
Practitioners need to grapple with some fundamental questions:
- What do “results” look like for protection?
- What key elements need to be present in a project cycle to ensure protection programming is results-based?
- What methods and tools support a results-based approach?
- How might a results-based approach achieve short, medium, and long-term protection outcomes?
The Results-Based Protection Program is based on a view that it is possible to bring about reduced risk and establish an evidence base to measure these changes and inform relevant strategies. The approach needs to be rigorous enough to diagnose risk patterns, bring about genuine impact and measurably reduce risk.
To do this we need to identify the individual factors that give rise to risk (the combination of threats and the vulnerabilities and capacities vis-à-vis these threats) and use them to develop context-specific pathways and lines of reasoning to reduce risk and measure change. The approach must help us make informed decisions about measures to mitigate threats, reduce vulnerabilities and enhance capacities in a timely manner while making course corrections along the way. Doing so will promote stronger collaboration and complementarity among relevant actors so that together we can contribute to greater and more strategic impact.
To do this effectively, our organizational culture, processes, and resources need to promote and support an environment that is conducive for the practical use of a results-based approach that can bring about protection outcomes when we respond to crises.