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Developing coordinated community responses

A coordinated community response involving health, police, judicial and legal services, shelters and protection services, schools and other education institutions, religious or cultural groups, and others is an important strategy to ensure survivors of violence, their children and other dependents receive the comprehensive support they need in a timely and sensitive manner. A coordinated community response is the equivalent of employing a multisectoral approach at the local level.

In many instances, central-level agreements are secured first that can then be transferred to local levels.  The respective governmental and non-governmental organizations are brought together in a ‘team of professionals’ (including health, police, shelters, social and mental health care workers, etc.), to ensure a shared understanding of the anti-violence legal framework and laws in place, the concept and practical application of a community coordinated response, and the respective roles and procedures that should be followed within the multi-sectoral approach.

Coordinated community responses engage key individuals and agencies from different sectors to:

  • help women and girls access protection, legal assistance and meet other basic health and livelihood needs;
  • encourage survivors to report incidents of violence by ensuring a gender-sensitive and appropriate response and increasing trust in the police;
  • promote ‘zero tolerance’ throughout the community;
  • more closely monitor women’s safety and batterer intervention programmes where they exist; and,
  • increase prosecutions and convictions. (Shepard and Pence, 1999; Morrison, et.al., 2007)

Key Elements & Strategies of a Coordinated Community Response:

  • Safety of the survivors/victims as the core and paramount principle of the model, which should be instilled through sensitization, training, protocols, procedures and so forth, among all key stakeholders and service providers (police, social workers, lawyers, judges, etc).

  • Inter-institutional negotiations for cooperation - leading to Memoranda of Understanding, protocols and other agreements. In the process of inter-institutional negotiations, it is important to secure support from major decision-makers (including mayors and/or other high-level local authorities) and work with actors that are trusted by the community.

  • Achieve systematic changes – the purpose of inter-institutional negotiations and interventions under this approach is not only to improve responses for women and girls survivors, but also to achieve lasting changes in the attitudes, norms and practices at the level of the service delivery institutions themselves. The intervention is centered on institutions as a whole, and not just individual representatives, reflecting a systems-based approach. This implies working towards pre-service/institutionalized training; ensuring minimum standards (e.g. for domestic violence or rape-related services); upgrading equipment and infrastructure; continuous quality control mechanisms to monitor the quality of services that women and girl survivors receive; and establishing data collection systems.

  • Multidisciplinary teams that bring together all relevant stakeholders. Exact content (membership) of teams depends on the local context, including any relevant legislation that may guide and establish roles and obligations for particular sectors and professionals.

  • Community mobilization and primary prevention efforts, including through sustained local campaigns engaging the media and diverse organizations and sectors of the population to build zero tolerance and enable an overall supportive environment for women and girls survivors, and for furthering policy and legal reforms and securing resources.

  • Flexibility and adaptation, and ongoing monitoring: The coordinated community response is intended as a dynamic model that can respond and adapt to needs for improvement and changes in context based on continuous, participatory monitoring involving the key stakeholders and information based on women survivors’ experiences. This should include monitoring of perpetrator interventions and efforts to adjust policies and procedures to end impunity.

 

Lessons Learned
  • The Duluth Model (Minnesota, USA) is one of the most evaluated coordinated community response models addressing domestic violence. It has been adapted for numerous contexts, including developing countries and works best in medium to small-scale communities. (PAHO)

  • Maintaining and expanding achievements can be challenging due to high staff turnover and rotation within government.

  • Garnering the participation of key professionals (such as medical doctors) can prove challenging if they do not have a legal mandate with respect to violence against women.

  • Faith-based and other traditional leaders are influential community members who have a role to play in a coordinated community response, but it is important to invest in ensuring that their values and beliefs are aligned with women’s human rights in order to ensure women’s access to justice.

  • In addition to strong communication channels, formal assessments and documentation of findings are critical to maintaining and improving responses, especially in cases where actors change frequently.

 

Resources:

The Duluth Model: Social Change to End Violence against Women (Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs).  Available in English.

A Practical Guide to Evaluating Domestic Violence Coordinating Councils (Allen and Hagen/National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 2003).  Available in English.

Models of Community Coordination in Partner Violence Cases: A Multi-Side Comparative Analysis, Final Report (Worden/National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2001). Available in English.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault CCR Toolkit (The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault and The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2009). Available in English.

Manual Bridging Gaps - from Good Intention to Good Cooperation (Women against Violence Europe, 2006). Available in English.

Coordinated Community Response / Coalition Buildling / Collaboration (National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, United States). Available in English.

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