Unique contributions to knowledge
The learning exchange facility took a methodical approach to tapping into implicit knowledge on child marriage. We called to attention knowledge that is embedded or hidden in the minds and encounters of people that live the experience of child marriage – including girls, communities and the work experience of practitioners.
A multiple knowledge approach is also central. The value and complementarity of knowledge held by community members and practitioners, across four child marriage alliances and from nine countries, in Africa and Asia, were emphasized. Knowledge was not vetted or validated against a dominant knowledge system or reference point. To illustrate, learning exchange topics were known to offer a counter-narrative to that of the dominant and northern description of child marriage and its linkages to adolescent sexuality.
A knowledge generation component is integral to LEF. Participants followed a four-step process. They 1] started with an existing set of information, 2] shared this with one another and then 3] engaged in sense-making – bringing together collective knowledge for the 4] creation of new knowledge – that which did not exist before.
To achieve these objectives and aim, LEF made use of a small grant mechanism, dubbed, the Learning Spark Fund. This grantmaking approach promoted a response to three grant calls (Community Skyrocket, Fireworks and Spark) from eligible organizations interested in competing for funds. The Spark Fund make use of four tools for fostering learning exchanges:
- A participatory grantmaking approach that enables grant application review, scoring and award, to be taken by those closest to the issues – “national experts” and adolescent girls.
- A platform (Slack) that enables online information sharing and networking across geographic and organizational differences, language differences and time zones, supporting those interested in participating in a learning exchange to be informed.
- Technical and methodological back up that enables support in framing learning questions and refining participatory learning exchange techniques
- A reporting template that enables the well-organized capture and synthesis of learning and recommendations for improving practice.
There were three grant windows: Community Skyrocket, Spark and Fireworks.
The first grant window, called ‘Community Skyrocket’ supported bottom-up learning exchanges among development professionals and community members. Rather than assuming that child marriage programmes have a monopoly on knowledge and experience on how change happens, we believe that adolescent girls and other community actors, such as community-based organizations, religious and traditional leaders and families have valuable knowledge about addressing adolescent girl sexuality and dismantling child marriage.
The objective of Community Skyrocket was for practitioners to exchange with communities. They listened to their knowledge, strategy, and experiences and reflected with them on what this can mean for improving the design, implementation, and advocacy of development interventions. In other words, the Community Skyrocket grants offered organizations and communities the chance to come together around these issues and questions that excite them in exploring the links between adolescent sexuality and child marriage.