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The Ladder

A Blog from New America's Asset Building Program

Keeping Youth Financial Services from Becoming Risky Business: Highlights from YouthSave's Risk Monitoring Strategy

Published:  February 11, 2013

Originally posted on youthsave.org.

By: Courtney James, Save the Children

While the YouthSave project strives to enable youth to take charge of their own futures by creating viable savings opportunities, it is also proactively working to mitigate any potential risks that may be associated with providing youth the opportunity and tools to save, by developing risk management strategies to continuously assess, mitigate, and monitor potential risks.

The first step in the development of the project’s risk management strategies was to conduct risk assessments across the four project countries in order to determine the potential risks participants may be exposed to. The most pertinent risks to youth identified across all of the project countries were: potential engagement in risky behaviors for generating income; safety risks associated with holding or carrying cash; potential mistreatment by partner staff, family members or peers; and appropriation and misuse of savings by family members.

In response to these identified potential risks, YouthSave staff developed country-specific risk management strategies by incorporating existing local mechanisms and by developing new mechanisms specifically for the YouthSave project, based on the following standards of Save the Children’s child safeguarding protocol: awareness, prevention, reporting, and responding.

Through its awareness-raising and preventative strategies, YouthSave aims to inform all project stakeholders of the potential risks facing youth and minimize these risks by: empowering youth to develop their own capacities; creating a sense of accountability; and by raising awareness among youth, their families and their communities. YouthSave awareness and prevention tools include sessions on ‘responsible saving’ in financial education sessions, safety tips in account opening materials, and partner staff trainings on working with youth.

The project also works to ensure that youth and their families are aware of the standards of behavior they can expect from our representatives and of how they can raise a concern. Therefore, YouthSave staff have also leveraged or developed reporting channels for youth to report incidents and concerns, and response and support measures that can provide information, support and assistance to children and staff following reported incidents or concerns.

As part of the project’s efforts to continuously monitor for risks to youth involved in the project, the project has developed tools for collecting staff observations and reports, and for soliciting the opinions and experiences of youth participants through focus groups, interviews and interactive games. In Colombia, for example, project staff have created an interactive game, ‘Ahorralandia’, to determine youths’ satisfaction with the YouthSave-sponsored account and financial education workshops, and their potential vulnerabilities and exposure to risks. The game has elicited enthusiastic participation from youth as it is highly interactive and removes the focus from any one individual, helping youth to have fun and to feel comfortable and open to discussion.

As the project moves forward, YouthSave will continue to work with all of its partners to keep youth at the center of the project, by listening to their needs and experiences, and by empowering them to develop their own capacities.

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