Country Context

In Colombia, there are growing gaps in living standards with an increasing number of children living in poverty or extreme poverty. Research shows that 35 percent of Colombian adolescents in 2011 were deprived in at least 20 percent of the multidimensional poverty variables. Twenty-nine percent of poor adolescents are not attending school and that 50 percent of poor adolescents are lagging in school. Additionally, more than one third of poor adolescents experience violence in their immediate community. A high percentage of the population in urban areas lack access to basic services.  Colombia is believed to have the highest number internally displaced people in the world, a population of which an estimated 75 percent are women and children. Against this challenging backdrop, a coalition of social policy researchers at the Universidad de los Andes coalesced to establish a Program Learning Group by which they would bring their analytical skills to bear to help practitioners and policymakers at the national and municipal levels to improve their service delivery to children and families across the country.

Program Learning Group Description

The Colombia Program Learning Group (PLG) was founded in 2013 at the School of Government at the Universidad de los Andes, where academics whose specialties range from rigorous impact evaluations of conditional cash transfers’ effect on education to deep ethnographic work with girls living and working on the streets of Bogotá. During the PLG’s inception phase, its goals are to establish relevant partnerships with child protection and family practitioners and policymakers, to develop a network of child-focused scholars within the Universidad de los Andes and across other universities, and to further refine the research agenda.

Within the School of Government, associated faculty members established an interdisciplinary research team to develop a Multidimensional Poverty Index for Children and Adolescents in Colombia. This index measures poverty in a holistic fashion, covering nine dimensions including education, nutrition, health, water and sanitation, housing, economic security, safety, access to recreation and information, and provides a nuanced understanding of poverty for practitioners and policymakers as they seek to provide services to children and families.  Colombia PLG faculty affiliates also conducted a mixed-methods study to examine the risk and protective factors of primary school dropout.

Research Priorities

The first project that the Colombia PLG has designed seeks to build municipal-level authorities' ability to generate and to use reliable data about social issues in their areas to improve service delivery for children and families in select municipalities throughout Colombia. Other priority action areas include hosting a global evidence summit on children and urbanization, the development of a longitudinal cohort study to gauge the effectiveness of programs and policies for vulnerable children, and the development of tertiary-level curricula on child protection, development, and well-being.



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