2 | Building partnerships

Key points

  • Children and their communities must be considered partners in the intervention.

  • As co-designed built interventions require different functions, roles and capacities, complementary actors need to form partnerships.

  • The expertise required draws upon very different disciplines that should find a common language.

  • Discussing at length, and clarifying in writing, the objectives, roles and contributions of each actor supports successful delivery.

Co-designed built interventions with children are complex and require carefully crafted partnerships. It is unlikely that a single actor can provide all the roles, functions and skills required for a successful intervention.

Actors take on different functions, roles and capacities depending on the context (see some examples in the table below). Therefore, a context- specific division of roles amongst partners is suggested. For instance, the powers, capacity, resources, political will and relationship with residents of national, municipal and local governments will vary enormously between and within countries.

Partnerships require complementarity. To foster commitment and a sense of ownership, interventions should uphold the objectives of each party. A good partnership is one where all parties can contribute something important to the intervention. The table below presents some examples of actors, what they add to the intervention, and their motivations.





Children and their caregivers

Knowledge of their community, individual and collective needs and visions, different skills, legitimacy, creative energy, desire to participate, motivate other actors

Improving their community, benefiting from the intervention, learning new skills, having fun and positive play experiences, sharing ideas, being heard, engaging with other children or residents who they may not otherwise.

Other local residents

Knowledge of their community, individual and collective needs and visions, skills, resources, their participation (often some groups are prioritised, e.g. women, youths, older persons, persons with disabilities).

Improving their community, benefiting from the intervention, learning new skills, understanding the needs, situations and perspectives of other members of the community.

Community-based organisations (including youth groups, scout groups, etc)

Knowledge of their community, a group of organised people who know each other, representation of collective interests

Improving their community, promoting their objectives

Community leaders

Knowledge of their community, representation of collective interests

Improving their community, recognition of their role

Local schools or children centres

Knowledge of the children, capacity to reach children and their families, expertise in working with children, space for the intervention, resources (human, financial)

Improving the school environment and learning, benefiting the children

Healthcare centres, clinics, dispensaries and hospital doctors and staff

Knowledge of the community, space for the intervention, resources, needs and visions

Improving the community, benefiting the children


Funding, human resources, legitimacy, technical knowledge, documenting the process

Conducting research, delivering impact through research


Funding, expertise, skills, labour

Improving community, personal interests, learning new skills, career development


Local government (municipality or specific departments, officers)

Political will, provide/obtain data on the area, outreach into communities, building/planning permits, technical knowledge, project management, maintenance

Improving the lives of their citizens, visibility, fulfilling their mission, agenda

National government (relevant ministries)

Political will, legitimacy, funding, replicability and scaling- up potential

Building local capacity, innovating, visibility, achieving their objectives

Non-profit organisations

Local NGOs

Knowledge of local context and community, specific skills, human resources

Implementing their programmes, promoting their objectives, benefiting local children and residents

International NGOs

Expertise not available locally, funding, project management, experience from other contexts

Expanding their impact, building local capacity, achieving their mission

Multilateral organisations

Endorsement, funding, legitimacy, expertise

Achieving their mission, building local capacity, visibility

Private Sector

Local contractors

Building expertise, knowledge of local materials and building practices, legitimacy

Livelihood, profit, contributing to community improvement


Goods and services, including building materials, skills

Profit, visibility, Corporate Social Responsibility

Private institutions or companies

Funding, pro-bono services (e.g. engineering), expertise, visibility

Visibility, Corporate Social Responsibility

This handbook often refers to organisations as the main actors in the process. However, initiatives emerge from specific people within organisations and communities who champion ideas and ensure that they are translated into action. Therefore, while the handbook discusses partnerships between organisations, in order to be successful, they require supportive people within each.

While different combinations of the above actors are possible in an intervention, below are the required functions in co-designed built interventions. Some of these roles may be played by the same actor and can vary in different contexts and interventions. An open discussion about the role of each partner, recognising each other’s expertise and gaps, can help allocate resources and time appropriately to support effective collaboration.




Develop the idea

Knowledge of the context, local/national and global framework, creativity

Children, caregivers, residents, built environment professionals, funders, INGOs, government institutions

Form partnerships

Coordination, knowledge of actors and their roles

Funders, INGOs, NGOs, local authorities, built environment professionals, children, caregivers, residents

Draft the objectives of the partnership & roles

Knowledge of regulations, roles and responsibilities, organisational skills

Funders, INGOs, NGOs, local authorities

Research local context, or build information data base

Research and analysis, knowledge of the context

Researchers, children, caregivers, facilitators, residents, key stakeholders

Prepare for participatory activities

Coordination, knowledge of the local community, ethical protocols and child protection policies, participatory tools

Facilitators, children, caregivers, users of the space, educators, field officers, NGOs, municipalities, schools, clubs

Identify and understand local needs

Knowledge of local community, user engagement, understanding of the context, participatory research tools, communication and facilitation

Children, caregivers, users of the space, educators, facilitators, field officers, neighbourhood committees

Conduct participatory design activities

Design thinking, spatial design, participatory design tools, socio-cultural practices, engaging children, communication, facilitation

Children, caregivers, users of the space, facilitators, built environment professionals, NGOs, volunteers

Produce a preliminary design

Analysis of input from participation, design visualisation, communication

Built environment professionals, children, caregivers, users of the space, local government, NGOs

Obtain building permits

Local building regulations, safety measures

Built environment professionals, local government

Develop the final design

Spatial design, child friendly design, characteristics of the intervention site, visualization

Built environment professionals, local government, users of the space

Draft the technical design

Knowledge of local materials and building skills, technical design

Built environment professionals, contractors

Procurement and management

Knowledge of procurement policy, management

Built environment professionals, contractors, residents


Knowledge of building construction, management, coordination, health and safety measures, supervision

Contractors, built environment professionals, builders, labour, caregivers, children (through structured safe activities), volunteers

Activate the intervention

Coordination, communication, knowledge of local community, user engagement

Children, facilitators, volunteers, CBOs, caregivers, users of the space, local government, NGOs

Monitor the use of the intervention

Knowledge of the intervention, user engagement, knowledge of the context

Local government, NGOs, built environment professionals, caregivers, users of the space, children

Perform maintenance

Knowledge of the technical design, building techniques, building materials

Local government, NGOs, contractor, builders, built environment professionals, users of the space

Long-term community management

Knowledge of users and relationships with other institutions, capacity to develop and adapt the space to users’ needs

Community organisations, municipalities

Conduct impact evaluation

Knowledge of evaluation process, of the intervention (process and product), qualitative and quantitative data collection

Children, facilitator, external consultant, users of the space, caregivers, built environment professionals

Built interventions co-designed with children affected by displacement require a wide range of disciplines. It may not always be possible to have them all involved, and the nature of the intervention determines their relative importance. The diagram below shows some of the most important.

Diagram 5


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