How We Work

Tearfund Ireland’s understanding of developmental change is rooted in its theory of poverty

Theory of Poverty

Poverty is multifaceted, including economic, social and political dimensions. From the perspective of poor and vulnerable people, these are underpinned by harmful relationships at various levels often related to the misuse of power.

Unhealthy relationships exist between poor people and other people and institutions (contributing to unhealthy hierarchies including oppression and exploitation, as well as a lack of safety nets or provision of [basic] services); there are also imbalances within poor communities (leading to dependency mind-sets and lack of dignity), between poor people and the environment (resulting in the misuse of natural resources and climate change), and in people’s worldview (which culturally sanction the unhealthy hierarchies and a lack of democratic processes or good governance). Therefore Tearfund Ireland’s theory of change revolves around improving relationships, primarily starting from the bottom up at the beneficiary level, but also working at the systemic and political level.

Working in partnerships, Tearfund Ireland’s projects and programmes emphasise ‘pro-poor people-centred development’, including capacity building, development of networks and groups, the use of locally available assets, and volunteers. Tearfund Ireland pursues transformational development and assumes that human beings are created in the image of God and have capacities and assets that can be mobilised at an individual and community level, as well as access to natural resources. It is appreciative and more about opportunities than boundaries. Therefore Tearfund Ireland takes a holistic view and facilitates with open-ended approaches that release local capacity. Tearfund Ireland is not only interested in the depth, scale and replicability of change, but also whether it is cost-effective and good value for money

Methodology & Approach to eradicating poverty and injustice

Principles of Engagement

  • To enable the participation, engagement and inclusion of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in their communities
  • To address the underlying causes of vulnerability and strengthen existing capacities and invest in preventative solutions
  • To address issues of stigmatisation and marginalisation among the local church and among the wider community leading to mind-set and behaviour change
  • To facilitate meeting the needs of the vulnerable and most marginalised especially through mobilising local resources
  • Building social capital to develop community networks towards help for self-help and to provide care and support for the vulnerable and most marginalised
  • To strengthen capacity and share learning with local churches and partners. To network local churches and partners with the wider development community and ensure harmonisation within development frameworks.

Specific Principles

These principles will be integrated into all projects as much as possible, though acknowledging that it may not always be feasible in humanitarian responses.

Building Capacity: Tearfund Ireland builds people’s capacity towards help for self-help.

Community Development and social capital: Tearfund Ireland seeks to build social capital, by means of networks and groups that support each other and where the sum is bigger than the parts. These groups can be both homogenous and heterogeneous groups.

Asset-Based: The belief that everyone is created in the image of God, Tearfund Ireland will not only look at needs, but the assets within people and communities, on capacities and capabilities. The process involves the participation of those affected by poverty in the poverty alleviation process.

Church and Community Mobilisation: Working through the church and facilitate it to look beyond its boundaries. Envision churches not to be insular, but engage with the community around them around felt needs. This process makes the church a relevant actor within the civil society.

Tearfund Ireland’s specialist focus is about partnering with churches and mobilising its leaders and members to become engaged with the wider community towards best practice and participatory poverty alleviation; alternative care of institutionalised orphans and vulnerable/marginalised children, vulnerable women and transformative self-help approaches, for example, the Umoja and Self Help Groups create social capital and build on the assets of the most vulnerable. Tearfund Ireland will expand in these technical areas and developmental approaches as areas of added value. The areas of alternative care and working through churches are especially considered organisational niches. Tearfund Ireland will share learning between countries in these and other areas, with a view to replication and scaling up.

Tearfund Ireland will continue to respond to humanitarian emergencies in partnership with other international organisations. Notwithstanding its relationship with Tearfund in the UK, Tearfund Ireland will deepen its relationships with likeminded international organisations through the Integral Alliance and EU-Cord network. Emphasis will be placed on developing relationships with developmental partners and those operating in so called fragile states. Tearfund Ireland’s portfolio of projects will have a greater emphasis on least developed countries, fragile states and humanitarian responses. Forgotten emergencies will be incorporated within this. Tearfund Ireland’s humanitarian responses will have a developmental focus linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD), which often means building the capacity of the local church at the same time.

Tearfund Ireland Geographical Context and Country Strategy

Tearfund Ireland will focus on no more than ten least developed countries and fragile states in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.

Emphasis will be placed on opportunities for more breadth and depth, scale, country experience and technical expertise. In particular a focus will be on countries whose governments limit social, political, religious or economic freedom and support the development, where possible, of a strong civil society.

Tearfund Ireland will increase its support in contexts where it can add value and work with partners. In the past Tearfund Ireland has been known by and large for working in least developed countries and middle-income countries, while also responding to humanitarian emergencies such as natural disasters and more recently conflicts that are deemed Level 3 by the UN. Less emphasis has been placed on forgotten crises or humanitarian situations that are not well profiled in the media. The context portfolio will be restructured, first of all by phasing out middle-income countries, primarily as internal resources can be mobilised in countries like India. Secondly, in light of the focus on the most marginalised and growing its organisational expertise and capacity, greater focus will be made on contexts where Tearfund Ireland can work in partnership and, increasingly, in direct partnerships with local partners.

This leads to the following portfolio of contexts:

a. Least Developed Countries

Tearfund Ireland will engage in sustainable developmental activities in support of the most vulnerable, as well as advocacy in these countries.

b. Fragile States

The border between fragile states, forgotten emergencies and protracted crisis and slow-onset emergencies is somewhat fluid. The term ‘fragile states’ is meant as a summary term that connotes a context where the state is not very strong, which means civil society actors, including churches, have a very important role to play. Including fragile states specifically allows Tearfund Ireland to work as a lead partner, which is often not possible in humanitarian responses, but facilitates its working to its greatest strength, through development approaches. At the same time, the conflicts in fragile states are complex and protracted. These chronic situations hardly make it into the news and tend to become forgotten emergencies. These are situations where the need is greatest, even though the news does not report about it. Therefore, with Tearfund Ireland’s particular way of working in partnership through churches and with its focus on the most marginalised, it will give higher priority to these contexts and increasingly develop direct links with locally based organisations.

c. Humanitarian Emergencies

Tearfund Ireland will continue to respond to humanitarian emergencies caused by natural disasters and political instability, or conflict. Due to the nature of the response required, Tearfund Ireland will partner with other international agencies to respond; this specifically includes Integral Alliance members, 20 unless the humanitarian emergency happens in an area where Tearfund Ireland already has a partnership and is experienced in delivering humanitarian responses.

Tearfund Ireland considers the development of strategic relations with partners of sufficient capacity and expertise who share similar beliefs and values, and to a lesser extent historical links. In particular a focus will be on countries whose governments limit social, political, religious or economic freedom and support the development, where possible, of a strong civil society. The geographic focus will be on sub-Saharan Africa, particularly eastern and southern Africa, as well as South-East Asia.

Focus Groups

Tearfund Ireland will prioritise and direct its resources to the most marginalised and vulnerable. In particular: children at risk/orphans, vulnerable women and people who are affected by forgotten crises and humanitarian emergencies.

Family First Alternative Care

There is a significant body of global research, conducted over 60 years, that demonstrates the negative impacts of residential care. Children in residential care are at greater risk of severe neglect, physical and sexual abuse. These impacts can include cognitive brain damage, clinical personality disorders and growth and speech delays. A further significant impact of placement in residential care is an impaired ability to re-enter society later in life. Children in residential care centres live outside of the society. They are unaware of societal norms and traditions. Most lack the basic skills to survive such as how to cook or to shop at a market. Since they meet very few adults, they also lack knowledge about how to communicate with people outside their age cohorts. They fear the outside world and the future. Orphanage tourism – the practice by which foreign tourists and volunteers visit an orphanage or volunteer temporarily – has erupted in Cambodia. In its most innocent form, orphanage tourism can be detrimental to child development. Caregiver (eg. volunteer) turnover and large child-to-caregiver ratios can cause frequent disruptions in attachments (Dozier and Brick 2007). These disruptions are extremely disturbing to children and are associated with long-term distress (McDonald 1996). Children in orphanage care are particularly vulnerable to developing disorganised attachments when forming and breaking bonds with successive volunteers (Richter and Norman 2007). In short, when institutionalised children leave the residential centres, they have a large number of developmental, emotional, psychological and spiritual challenges to overcome in order to be safe and accepted in their own society. Despite the education received, they are at great risk of becoming homeless, facing exploitative work conditions and distress, among other things, when leaving the institution (Iofa 2011). Tearfund Ireland will develop its niche area of expertise in Family First Alternative Care interventions over the life of this strategic plan. It will do this by developing two to three projects initially in the next three years and building on these projects by year five. Alongside this Tearfund Ireland will also continue to support humanitarian projects that target unaccompanied minors and orphans in humanitarian responses for example child friendly spaces and reunification programmes.

Children at risk (Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances)

1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. In 2011, 165 million children under the age 5 were stunted (reduced rate of growth and development) due to chronic malnutrition. It is estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. While progress has been made, children remain the most vulnerable group in society and as such Tearfund Ireland has made working with children at risk a priority. This includes children at risk of poverty, disaster, disease, conflict, trafficking and other forms of abuse. Children at risk include orphans/ vulnerable children, unaccompanied minors, working children, street children, children trafficked or at risk of and those living in especially fragile situations.

Vulnerable Women

Women continue to be one of the most vulnerable groups in society and bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty. Imbalance of power is a cultural norm and leads to oppression and marginalisation of women both inside the family structure and in society in general. Women make up half of the world’s population and yet represent 70% of the world’s poor. Many of the world’s poorest people are women who must, as the primary family caretakers and producers of food, shoulder the burden of tilling land, grinding grain, carrying water and cooking. When women have equal access to education, and go on to participate fully in business and economic decision-making, they are a key driving force against poverty. Women with equal rights are better educated, healthier, and have greater access to land, jobs and financial resources. Their increased earning power in turn raises household incomes. By enhancing women’s control over decision-making in the household, gender equality also translates into better prospects and greater well-being of children, reducing poverty of future generations.

Tearfund Ireland works holistically; it engages family, community and churches in the process of poverty alleviation. Tearfund Ireland operates an inclusive approach to its work, and while putting primary emphasis on high risk children and vulnerable women, it seeks to work with and engage men also. Gender is a cross cutting issue and as such is integrated across all programme areas. In placing priority on the most marginalised and vulnerable people with a particular emphasis on children, Tearfund Ireland will develop its specific technical niche area of Alternative Care- Family First approach.

Children at risk/Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Children and young people who have previously been institutionalised, and their families, need practical, emotional and spiritual long term support to ensure that their reintegration back home is safe and successful.

In placing priority on the most marginalised and vulnerable people with a particular emphasis on children, Tearfund Ireland will develop its specific technical niche area of the Family First Alternative Care approach.

Innovative intervention

Tearfund Ireland will concentrate on areas of competency based on technical expertise, geographic experience and development approach experiences that fit with its Theory of Change, such as Umoja, Self Help Group approaches etc.

Tearfund Ireland will seek to innovate as a core principle of its work building on such successful innovations such as the MiHope Data technology and Mother Buddies approach, used in its work in Malawi 2011-2014. Tearfund Ireland will explore opportunities to collaborate and partner with other agencies and service providers that may provide synergies in innovation that can support achieving core goals of its programmes. A strong emphasis is being placed on research as it relates to impact, demonstrating results and opportunity for learning, replication and scaling up. Tearfund Ireland will seek to partner with its peers, academic institutions and other stakeholders, availing of complementary experience, expertise for greater impact and synergies.

1. Piloting education in fragile state contexts (and indirectly in least developed countries)

‘Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rests the cornerstone of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.’ Kofi Annan

Tearfund Ireland will pilot education in cooperation with churches in one country as a model of best practice that can be replicated. The quote by Kofi Annan indicates education is among the keys to development. Tearfund Ireland does not intend to get involved at school level in a way that would resemble service delivery. Therefore it will focus on teacher training and other capacity building measures that support the educational system and access to education.

2. Livelihoods

Livelihoods have a wider impact on the whole family including education and health. Tearfund Ireland will strengthen the area of livelihoods and its work in enabling families to generate their own income. This will be realised through Self Help Groups and other Saving Groups that enable micro-enterprise development. Tearfund Ireland will seek to explore the formation of cooperatives, when applicable.

3. Cross-cutting issues (sectors)/lenses

Tearfund Ireland will include the following aspects in all its projects, when applicable as cross-cutting issues: Nutrition and food security sensitive – overcoming hunger; 21 Gender, using a holistic approach that also involves men; Environment/climate sensitive and conflict sensitivity.

4. Research and Results focus and experimentation/piloting

A core focus of its work will be to invest in research that informs its development approach and ongoing effectiveness in results, outcomes and impact. With an emphasis on learning and best practice, Tearfund Ireland will invest in systems that support quantitative and qualitative data collection, collation and analysis, independent research and evaluation that support a deeper reflection of its development practice. Tearfund Ireland will seek to share this research with the sector as part of learning and dissemination.

5. Strengthening and building meaningful enabling partnerships

Tearfund Ireland is strongly committed to strengthen and build more meaningful partnerships with its partners in the global South. The intention is to challenge itself as an organisation to bring greater depth into relationships and partnerships where there is mutual benefits and impact in the long term. Tearfund Ireland will primarily seek to develop accountability systems and practices that are mutually beneficial and transparent, develop the capacity of partners in the management and coordination of projects through peer to peer learning and shared learning across organisations, local consortia to manage larger projects/funding, establish coherent and robust partnership policy and practices as well as learning and development.

It is Tearfund Ireland’s intention to explore how to build collaborations and alliances with NGOs with similar values and goals, academic institutions and other agencies with complementary roles and mission. Complementary alliances and collaborations will be explored both in the field and in Ireland, as it may be deemed fit with achieving our mission and goals.

6. Respond effectively to Humanitarian Crises and to protracted crises in fragile states

Tearfund Ireland will continue to respond to humanitarian emergencies caused by natural disasters and political instability, or conflict.

Tearfund Ireland is recognised and respected as a lead Christian response to emergencies in Ireland. In humanitarian crises, especially those in fragile states, the most vulnerable and marginalised people are at higher risk and are hardest hit. Tearfund Ireland will seek to respond to humanitarian crises and those in especially difficult circumstances in a measured way following agreed criteria and considerations so as not to deflect from ongoing development work.