Next steps for Childonomics

This week the project team went back to Malta to discuss how to take Childonomics, the project that measures the long-term value of investing in children, forward.

Childonomics combines economic discipline with children’s rights.  By developing a tool to measure the long-term social and economic value of investing in children, Eurochild wanted to prove that realisation of children’s rights has a strong economic rationale as well as being a human rights obligation.

With support from Oxford Policy Management, we developed a methodology that uses ‘cost-consequence analysis’ to assess how different inputs – policies, services, and investments – produce better outcomes for children, families, communities and society as a whole. The model was piloted in Romania and Malta. Earlier this year we published the full reports and a summary of key findings which we presented in June at a joint meeting with Bertelsmann Stiftung.

This week the project team went back to Malta to discuss how to take Childonomics forward.  Francesca Stuer – who is associate member of Eurochild and senior associate with Maestral International – presented a peer review she and other Maestral colleagues conducted on the methodology and outputs, stimulating discussions on the strengths, weaknesses and future potential of Childonomics.  Aġenzija Appoġġ - the National Agency for children, families and the community – hosted meetings with colleagues from their services and with NGO partners, giving feedback on the added-value and the risks of applying the tool to different child and family services.  

Following two days of intense discussions, it was agreed to develop three main applications of Childonomics.

  • Childonomics as a philosophy

The greatest strength of the Childonomics approach is that it takes a system-wide perspective.  We want to breakdown traditional policy silos of health, education and social welfare, and focus instead on the outcomes we are trying to achieve for children, families, the community and society as a whole.  It aims to show that investment in high quality, universal and free public services, accessible to all children and families, is the first and most important way governments can help families provide a nurturing environment for children, and ensure children get the necessary and timely professional support to learn and grow to their full potential.

Getting these services right should create less demand for more targeted and specialised services – services which are both much more costly per child, and largely set up to address problems that could and should have been avoided with the right kind of intervention earlier on.  The Childonomics conceptual framework aims to show the interlinkages between the different types of services – universal, targeted and specialised.  It argues that universal services such as primary health care, home visits, school and early childhood services, must be inclusive, accessible and empowering.  Ultimately it is about ensuring the right children get the right kind of support at the right time.

  • Childonomics as a tool to compare and contrast policies and services

Childonomics chose ‘cost consequence analysis’ as the preferred economic model. It is a applied through a logical five-step methodology, the first step being to carefully define the scope of the enquiry : what services and policies are being compared? what is the time horizon for considering the costs and impacts? This was the key lesson learnt from the pilot in Malta.  

The methodology will be most useful if it is applied to help answer a specific question about how different services and policies are helping to achieve agreed specific outcomes.  The end result of applying the methodology is not a single metric that is normally associated with a cost-benefit or social return on investment approach, rather it presents inputs and outcomes side-by-side in a disaggregated way.  The final stage of the methodology is to construct the narrative, which, whilst taking account of the quantitative analysis of costs and inputs, is built on a wider assessment of strength of evidence, stakeholder consultations and interpretation.

  • Childonomics as a tool for capacity building and research

Childonomics can also be used by academics and NGOs who want to develop their research skills and to better understand how different services interact and what outcomes they deliver for children, families, the community and society.  It can also highlight where there are key data gaps and lack of evidence which can guide future research and evaluations exercises.  A key lesson from Childonomics is that reforms of policy and public services must be evidence-informed rather than being ideologically driven. The Childonomics approach helps to make explicit the underlying values which drive public policy. It aims to offer an open enquiry to gather evidence on what works in order to achieve certain agreed outcomes.

Members who are interested either to contribute to further development of Childonomics or to apply the Childonomics methodology in their national contexts, please contact jana.hainsworth(at)eurochild(dot)org