The Community of Practice (CoP) for social system strengthening research project is a multi- and trans-disciplinary collaboration between researchers and practitioners across different sub-fields, including social work, sociology, psychology, education psychology, education, mathematics and language curriculum, mental health, nutrition, primary health care, community nursing, public health and school health care services. In the CoP study, we target children and their caregivers who receive a Child Support Grant (CSG) in the foundation years of schooling, namely, Grade R and Grade 1. Research shows that investing in children’s nutrition and health, improving their emotional and social well-being and schooling outcomes are important social investments in the human resources of a country.

In initiating the CoP we were interested in understanding, firstly, what constituted the most appropriate cross-sectoral interventions to step up child well-being outcomes, and secondly, how these interventions could be delivered across the health, education and social welfare sectors. We were also interested in evaluating the viability of the CoP approach for strengthening social sector systems to improve child well-being in urban communities.

COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE GOALS

  • Establish a CoP to strengthen and promote functional collaboration between the health, welfare and education sectors serving children and families for improved child well-being.
  • Work together to develop and test a digital tool to assess and track child well-being.
  • Based on assessment of the digital too to design, implement and evaluate the appropriate cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary local level solutions to combine ‘cash transfers and care’ services and learning opportunities for children in disadvantaged communities.
  • Produce knowledge about the practice of inter-sectoral collaboration for better outcomes for children.
  • Make recommendations to government and non-governmental partners about the potential of integrated social systems strengthening solutions for better social outcomes for children and families.

   COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE OBJECTIVES

  • Design, test and implement the Child Well-being Tracking Tool (CWTT)
  • Develop generic overarching solutions and action plans to step up child well-being outcomes across the social sectors.
  • Develop, implement and assess the effectiveness of a community-based mathematics and reading development model that includes children and parents.
  • Conduct a baseline assessment study on the mental health of children in their foundation years of schooling and develop assessment guidelines.
  • Determine the factors that contribute to the risk of mental health problems in children and identify factors that contribute to building resilience.
  • Conduct a health and nutrition assessment of the children; devise appropriate primary health care solutions and assess the effectiveness of such solutions.
  • Review, adapt, implement and evaluate a community-based child and family strengthening intervention.
  • Assess the potential of cash transfers and an integrated family intervention on child well-being outcomes.
  • Assess the effectiveness of the CoP approach used in this study to strengthen integrated service provision (cash transfers – that is, social grants; care services, health, nutrition,education, welfare and social work services) for better social outcomes for children.