At Firelight, we believe that learning should not simply be an evaluation tool but – primarily – it should be an enabling tool. We are committed to adaptive and participatory learning.

We use learning and evidence gathering:

  • To understand the context, be responsive and relevant and meaningfully engage and collaborate with key stakeholders

  • To integrate learning with action so that data can guide improvements in design and implementation

  • To capture data on reach, outcomes and impact, and be transparent and accountable about these

  • To generate knowledge to influence and improve practice around the role of CBOs and communities in development and the effective capacity building of CBOs.

Here we share some of our own evidence – including situational analyses of the environments in which children and youth are growing up in sub-Saharan African communities, as well as assessments of the ways in which community-based organizations can improve these environments and children’s outcomes.

We also share regular learning updates on our blog.

How Firelight makes a difference for community-based organizations and children in sub-Saharan Africa

Impact Report FY18 (2018)

In fiscal year 2018 (July 2017 to June 2018), Firelight’s CBO grantee-partners directly impacted over 130,000 children, youth, parents, caregivers, professionals, and community members. In this report, we share highlights of the impact achieved in fiscal year 2018.

How community-based organizations improve child wellbeing

How Effective Is Help on the Doorstep? A Longitudinal Evaluation of Community-Based Organisation Support (PLoS ONE, 2016)

Authors: Lorraine Sherr , Alexa R. Yakubovich, Sarah Skeen, Lucie D. Cluver, Imca S. Hensels, Ana Macedo, Mark Tomlinson

A recent longitudinal study led by University College London – which included several Firelight grantees - showed that, in Africa, connection to a CBO leads to reduced violence and abuse experiences for children.  Nine- to thirteen-year-old children had lower odds of experiencing weekly domestic conflict, domestic violence, or abuse at follow-up when they had CBO support compared to participants without CBO contact in a study in South Africa of families impacted by HIV.

Why Firelight builds communities of practice in CBO-to-CBO networks

Leveraging Networks of CBOs (2014)

Since networks hold a great potential for CBOs seeking to become less dependent upon institutional funding and more sustainable, Firelight commissioned this study to better understand its grantee-partner networks and what role they may have on organizational sustainability.

How community-based organizations make an impact on early childhood development and education systems

“The Quality of Learning and Care at Community-Based Early Childhood Development Centers in Malawi” (Global Education Review, 2018)

Authors: Sadaf Shallwani, Amina Abubakar, Moses Kachama Nyongesa

Published in the Global Education Review, this exploratory study examined the strengths and weaknesses in the quality of early childhood care and learning at Firelight grantee-partner-supported community-based childcare centers (CBCCs) in Malawi, and aimed to understand underlying challenges and opportunities that may be addressed to improve quality and ultimately children’s outcomes.

Panel: Civil society partnerships to improve quality at community-based early childhood development centers in Malawi (2017)

Presented at the Comparative and International Education Society Conference (Atlanta, Georgia – March 5-9, 2017)

  • Communities supporting young children in Malawi : The community-based child care centre model (presented by Saeed Wame (NACC))

  • The quality of care and learnings at community-based early childhood development centers in Malawi: baseline findings (presented by Amina Abubakar, Sadaf Shallwani, and Moses K Nyongesa)

  • Building community-based organizations’ capacities to improve early childhood development centre quality: experiences, findings, and reflections (presented by Shafique Ssekalala and Musoke Ismael Nooh – Madrasa Early Childhood Program – Uganda)

How participatory learning and action is a critical tool in changing child protection systems

“Community Dialogues as a Strategy for Identifying and Addressing Child Protection Needs in Shinyanga, Tanzania” (Developmental Science and Sustainable Development Goals for Children and Youth, 2018)

Authors: Amina Abubakar, Sadaf Shallwani, Stanley Wechuli Wanjala, Patrick Nzivo Mwangala, and Moses Kachama Nyongesa

In Chapter 10 of Developmental Science and Sustainable Development Goals, Firelight shares lessons learned from our participatory approach – “Community Dialogues” – to addressing child protection needs in Tanzania. Community Dialogues harness the technical expertise of developmental scientists and local expertise of community-based organizations and community members in service of child protection.

How community-based organizations improve child protection systems

Protecting Our Children eBook (2014)

Eight African community organizations joined us in a three-year initiative to improve child protection, which continued into our initiative to find child marriage in Shinyanga, Tanzania. Protecting Our Children is a summary of what we learned in the process. It highlights the central role that community organizations play in activating and strengthening local efforts to protect children from violence.

How funders can support grassroots solutions for girls

Where the Girls Are: Finding, Funding and Fueling Grassroots Girls Solutions (2014)

Authors: Cynthia Steele and Victoria Dunning

From 2006 to 2014, the Grassroots Girls Initiative – launched by the Nike Foundation – was a consortium of six funders, including Firelight, that believe grassroots organizations are uniquely qualified to design and implement effective solutions for the most underserved girls in the communities where they work. This report looks at the high-level achievements made by the six funders in finding, funding, and fueling grassroots girls solutions.

How community-based organizations make an impact on adolescent girls

Khadija: A True Story of Girl Power in Malawi (2015)

This graphic novella was made with Khadija Chikoya at her home in Nkhotakota, Malawi. When Khadija thought her opportunity to complete school had gone, the CBO grantee-partner Nkhotakota AIDS Support Organization (NASO) supported her in returning to school and in achieving her potential.

Grassroots Girls Solutions: Six Grassroots Organizations Transform the Lives of Adolescent Girls (2012)

Editor: Lydia Holden

This report profiles one of Firelight’s grantee-partners – WEM Integrated Health Services – that empowers adolescent girl peer educators in Kenya to respond to the psychosocial needs of girls in their communities.

Reflecting on and evaluating Firelight’s work in early learning

Interim Evaluation Report of the Early Learning Innovation Fund (2015)

Authors: Lisa Slifer-Mbacke, Sue Upton, Julian Glucroft and Jeff Davis

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation commissioned an external team to dive deep and evaluate the Early Learning Innovation Fund, including Firelight’s work through it. This has been an invaluable opportunity to reflect on our progress to date and to look to the future of what we believe will be sustainably stronger community organizations and sustainably better outcomes for children in the communities where we work.

If you would like to learn more about any of these learnings or evidence reports, or about our presentations at international or national conferences, please contact our Learning & Evaluation team at learning@firelightfoundation.org.