by Bond, Forus UK member.

The Bond Safeguarding for Development Conference, which took place on 2 December 2019 in London, was an opportunity for Bond members and other stakeholders to come together to proactively review how far the sector has come towards better safeguarding practice and reflect on remaining challenges.

Forus members and other national sector platforms also joined the conference and participated in a session specifically for platforms, discussing the role of sector platforms in safeguarding. The aim of the breakout session was:
          - To provide a space for sector platforms working on or interested in supporting their members with better safeguarding practice;
          - To discuss challenges and lessons learnt from safeguarding work with members.
          - To strengthen collaboration between sector platforms working on safeguarding.

This is a summary of the sector platform breakout session in the form of a best-practice bullet-point one pager.

        1. Areas of work with members

The session provided examples of how sector platforms currently work with their members to improve safeguarding practice of members on the ground. These included: 
  • Carrying out surveys to understand member needs around safeguarding: this could be around specific areas of safeguarding where more support is needed (for example, whistleblowing or survivor-centred approaches) or what role the platform should play. 
  • Awareness raising with member organisations. 
  • Developing or revising codes of conduct for members of national sector platforms. Several platforms have worked with members to create or revise existing codes of conduct and require members to comply with or adhere to agreed ways of working.
  • Developing safeguarding policies to be adopted by members. 
  • Capacity development: sharing guidance, tools, resources and other key information with members on websites or in resource libraries; providing training; and running events, conferences, seminars or workshops, for members to come together to share learning and expertise. 
  • Running peer support groups and facilitating project groups to work on specific areas of safeguarding and develop new guidance where there are gaps. 
  • Bringing together members and creating a shared understanding of safeguarding, with agreed definitions and language.  
  • Carrying out advocacy to go beyond policies and look at wider issues of culture, inequality, power imbalances, to address underlying issues that can lead to safeguarding incidents. 
  • Carrying out advocacy on donor requirements and harmonisation of standards, to reduce administrative or bureaucratic burden for sector platforms’ members. 
  • Speaking on behalf of the sector to donors and media: being the voice of the sector. 

        2. Challenges

Participants shared some challenges they have encountered in their work with members:
  • Speaking to a diverse range of members and being relevant to different members with varying expectations and support needs, and who might be at different stages of their safeguarding journeys.  
  • Developing common standards that are aspirational but do not exclude certain members, and that incorporate diverse views: i.e., finding agreement within a diverse membership without reducing work to the lowest common denominator. 
  • How to make codes of conduct work? For example, demonstrating and assessing compliance without overburdening smaller members or those with fewer resources.
  • Meeting member needs on safeguarding where platforms are small or with fewer resources. 
  • Relying on voluntary time and expertise within members. 
  • How to go beyond compliance to culture and organisational change?  E.g. How to reach a shared recognition of abuse across cultural contexts and how to ensure members see safeguarding as a long-term process that is not about compliance alone. 
  • Other stakeholders – how could we harmonise reporting/ change mindsets and adapt language for different stakeholders.

        3. Success factors

Participants reflected on success factors that positively contributed to their work on safeguarding with members:
  • Providing a space for peer learning, running communities of practice, and ensuring any work is carried out in a participatory way and through interaction has helped sector platforms ensure there is ownership of the safeguarding work from within the membership. 
  • Making use of existing resources and knowledge within the sector platform membership: sharing what guidance, tools and resources already exist or are being used within member organisations (including sharing internal templates, mappings or process documents, where possible) can support members in developing good practice, even where subject matter expertise on safeguarding does not exist within a platform or where a platform has limited resource. Understanding members and their expertise and making relevant connections between members can further support this, and also contribute to strengthening the network of the sector platform.
  • Linking into the wider development and humanitarian sector, including signposting to resources or examples of good practice that already exist, for example, minimum operating standards from the UN. 
  • Developing templates that member organisations can tailor to their needs can help platforms address diverse needs of their members. 
  • Understanding the need for safeguarding to be contextual, rather than being prescriptive, while maintaining minimum agreeable standards, and encouraging NGOs to use local expertise within the countries they work (including ensuring resources do not only sit at platform level). NGOs linking into national conversations and sharing knowledge of support services in the country, which could be facilitated through collaboration at the platform level.