Coordinated Responses
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Last edited: February 21, 2019

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There is no consensus on what a coordinated response should look like or how it should be structured. In addition, a number of different terms are used to describe similar approaches, such as: ‘multi-agency’; ‘multi-sectoral’; ‘collaborative’; ‘integrated’; and ‘holistic’.  The term ‘coordinated response’ can refer to both a process – creating or maintaining a collaborative structure to improve the local response – and an outcome – the achievement of a more coordinated response through this collaboration (Worden, 2001).

Partnerships’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘coordination’ are forms of joint working models that are often used interchangeably, although they can be subtly different.  The table below positions these different working models on a continuum of low to high integration.

Source: Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia (2003) Continuum of Collaboration, available in English.

Some coordinated approaches draw on the ecological model, a public health concept, which views violence against women as the outcome of individual, relationship, community and societal factors, with the presumption that coordinated responses require linked and consistent actions at each of these levels (Salazar et al., 2007).  For example, it is not enough to reform laws or the legal process if criminal justice agencies fail to implement these changes, or if communities resist changes to women’s legal rights.  In this view, coordinated responses are seen as most likely to be effective if they operate not just across multiple sectors, but also at multiple levels (Bott et al., 2005).

The diagram below was developed within the health sector to depict the ways in which efforts to address violence against women must operate on all of these different levels simultaneously to produce an integrated response. 

Source: Velzeboer, M., Ellsberg, M., Clavel Arcas, C. and Garcia-Moreno, C. (2003) Violence against Women: The Health Sector Responds, Washington, D.C.: PAHO, available in English, Spanish.

Coordinated responses emerge and evolve at different times, for a variety of reasons and purposes.  They often evolve ‘organically’, depending on the resources available, key actors, existing responses, local needs and national policy contexts.  The particular form they take will vary according to the social, cultural, economic and political conditions in local and national contexts.  It may not be possible to apply a model from one country in exactly the same way in a different country. Even established good practices cannot be transplanted without considering local needs and contexts, including institutional variations, capacities, resources and other factors. National and local responses are also connected to histories of campaigning by women’s organisations. For example, governments are more responsive to violence against women where there is a strong gender or women’s policy division within government institutions and an active women’s movement that tackles gender-based violence as a core part of its agenda and activism (Htun and Weldon, 2012)