Teamup – supporting refugee & migrant children through play

Today, over half of those on the run from war torn countries and persecution are children. The psychological and emotional stresses that such experiences bring can have a significant effect on the development of a child. How can we support these children with a scalable and relatively easy solution? The collaborative efforts between War Child, Save the Children and UNICEF Netherlands led to the development of TeamUp, a movement based intervention to support the social and emotional needs of refugee children in the Netherlands, and around the world.

In 2015 War Child Holland, Save the Children, and UNICEF Netherlands joined forces in the Netherlands to ensure attention and support was provided to the social and emotional needs of refugee children living in reception centres in the Netherlands. As a result, TeamUp was developed – a psychosocial support intervention of structured movement-based activities consisting of games based on play, movement and body awareness for all children aged between six and 18.

TeamUp is unique for its global applicability; because it’s an intervention consisting of non-verbal movement based-facilitation, it allows children from different cultural backgrounds, who speak different languages to play and move together. Moreover, it can be adapted to be implemented in any country simply through making minimal adjustments to the content.

Within this project, collaboration is a core aspect through quite literally ‘teaming up’ from the early stages of its design and implementation. What makes TeamUp stand out is the fact that the collaborative partners had an aligned vision and motivation from the outset: the drive to make a positive change in the lives of refugee and migrant children. According to the project leads “this mutual drive has continued to play a crucial role in the collaborative design, methodology development, implementation, international roll out of the TeamUp intervention and linking up with external partners. The TeamUp drive and efforts rippled through the entire organizations establishing joint efforts in communications, advocacy and fundraising”. Having an aligned vision and motivation is crucial therefore, and has contributed to the success of this partnership.

The success of these collaborative efforts are not confined to the Head offices in the Netherlands. In rolling out this intervention in other countries such as Uganda, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Occupied Palestine Territories, the same motivating message for collaboration among the colleagues involved in TeamUp in the country offices is being promoted. TeamUp already has a large potential to scale up, with project leads stating that “The extensive network of the 3 organizations also facilitates the roll out of TeamUp with multiple external partners. Eventually the TeamUp coalition may also expand beyond the 3 original partners”.

Photo Credits: David Jurado in Tadó, Columbia

When asked about what the 3 organizations have learnt from their partnership experience, a key message was that differences in organizational culture, processes and systems can be overcome if the team has the same motivation and drive to achieve the mutual goal.. Moreover, TeamUp is a great example of a project that has used all 3 of the organizations’ different strengths to the full advantage of the project aims: “War Child as a smaller organization can act quickly and serve as an entry point for implementation in a country. Save the Children has a large geographical reach in over 120 countries and good positioning in global technical networks. The same applies to UNICEF being present in over 190 countries whilst having the possibility to accelerate linkages with local and national structures such as ministries as well as global partners like WHO”. UNICEF also provided valuable knowledge and networks concerning asylum seeking children and their reception in the Netherlands. Working together and cohesively throughout has therefore been critical to bridge their differences and bring new energy and inspiration to the collaboration.

“The sum of the whole is bigger than the sum of each part. Working in partnership leads to new perspectives, knowledge and innovative solutions”

When asked about their advice for any future collaborative projects, the TeamUp coalition came up with the following top tips on collaborating:

  • Collaboration should start from the beginning when designing a project.
  • It is important to keep all staff engaged: this can be done by organizing opportunities, events (formal and informal) to get to know each other, stay in touch, learn and take care of each other.
  • Engage those who are not part of the initiative, but in your organization, keep them informed of the project’s progress.
  • In a sector which is increasingly becoming bureaucratic, a good relationship and trust helps to move forward quickly.
  • Willing to be flexible, pragmatic and to think outside the box
  • Don’t try to solve everything straight away, but learn and adapt along the way.

DCHI supported TeamUp with their scaling strategy. Contact our Innovation Manager Sandra Jaipal for more information.

Coaltion spotlights

To continue inspiring our readers, we will increasingly be sharing our coalitions stories about projects that serve as excellent examples of humanitarian innovation in action. In particular, we will be spotlighting projects that have collaborated with different partners to fulfill their desired impact. If you want a project to be spotlighted within the coalition, get in touch!

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