Terms of Reference for research


Models of accountability in consortia


November 2021





Save the Children is committed to being accountable to children and communities, by sharing appropriate and timely information, by supporting them to influence decision-making processes that affect them, by enabling them to provide feedback about our work, and by adapting our approaches based on the findings of those processes. Our approach to being accountable to​ children and communities is closely linked to our mandate as a child rights organisation. In Save the Children, accountability is grounded on the three pillars of information sharing, child participation and feedback and reporting mechanism.

Working in a way that builds trusting and collaborative relationships with children and communities is key to Save the Children’s organisational values, principles and global commitments, including the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) and the Grand Bargain​. As a child-rights organisation, we must uphold and promote the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC); one of the four guiding principles of the UNCRC is the child’s right to participation. ​

Accountability to children and communities is therefore a core component of our interventions. In our work, we often partner with local, national and international organisations to leverage each other’s expertise and gain in terms of efficiency. Partnering and working in consortia brings in also some challenges, one of which relates to using different organisational accountability systems and procedures. In some cases, there is no full alignment on terminology used around accountability, which in turn does not help common understanding and collaboration on accountability when working in partnerships.

From our own practice, we find that working on accountability in consortia poses various issues and is usually not a smooth and straightforward process.

We also find that there are knowledge gaps on the topic. Research could help practice, by investigating, describing and clarifying what models of accountability in consortia exist and what models of accountability in consortia are appropriate, according to partnership models, contexts and circumstances.

Save the Children Netherlands intends to commission research on models of accountability in consortia. The scope of this research is not limited to consortia where Save the Children is a partner.  This document provides Terms of Reference with the background, methodology and timeframe for its implementation.


Scope of Research

The research intends to address knowledge gaps that exist around the implementation of accountability systems and procedures when working in consortia, in both development and humanitarian contexts. The research findings will be helpful to identify and describe existing models and potentially develop new models for accountability in consortia that could be tested by Save the Children. The objective of the research is to help Save the Children and partner organisations in improving how accountability is implemented in consortia, with the ultimate purpose of improving our work for children and communities.

The research report that will be produced should also be aimed to a broader audience and seek publication in a relevant journal and/or sectorial websites.

In consultation with the research team, it could be decided to also investigate how accountability to children and communities works in the cluster system, with a particular focus on the Education cluster, where Save the Children has a mandate as Cluster Co-Lead Agency, along with UNICEF. Clusters are to some extent associable to a partnership model, even without having partnership agreements to formalise it.



RESearch Methodology

The research methodology should be participatory and inclusive, via consultations with relevant stakeholders as children and communities, thematic experts and staff of Save the Children and partner organisations.

A literature review should provide the background to clarify what consultations and studies have been conducted on the issue (if any) and build on those.

Methods for primary data collection may include interviews, focus group discussions and (online) surveys, as it will be proposed by the research team.

A possible methodology to use as part of this research is identifying and analysing case studies from existing consortia that may provide models for accountability to children and communities.

The research will be carried out in a transparent and participatory manner by involving relevant stakeholders, including children and communities. The COVID-19 pandemic is a key consideration at the time of finalizing the methodology, however a mixed-method approach is anticipated including but not limited to the following methods:

  • Desk study and literature review (both Save the Children documentation as well as external resources)
  • Key Informant Interviews with key stakeholders
  • Focus Group discussions with target population


The research should be inclusive taking into account gender, age, disability, and other vulnerability considerations, sensitive of social norms and practices, and be considered of ethical data collection. In addition, the methodology should consider consultations with child and youth beneficiaries and highlight key approaches for undertaking it:

  • Safety and ethics considerations for engaging children in research
  • Data collection methods which are age and gender appropriate

Key Research Questions

Based on the scope and methodology of the research outline above, the key questions to address are:

  • What are existing models for implementing accountability to children and communities in consortia?
  • What are the key characteristics of these models? How do these models work? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • How and to what extent does the context (development vs humanitarian) influence choices and functioning of accountability within consortia?
  • When are the different models identified most appropriate?
    1. How do they relate to different partnership models?
    2. Which models are best or most appropriated to apply in what situations/contexts?
  • Are there new models that are potentially effective for Save the Children and should be tested to assess their effectiveness within Save the Children?
    1. What characteristics do they have?


research Management

The research will be conducted by an external research agency that will be hired through a competitive bidding process. Contact person is Luca Genovese, Senior MEAL manager at Save the Children Netherlands.

Indicative timeline

What Who is responsible Who is involved By when
Publication and distribution of the ToR Luca Genovese 25 November
Selection of research team Luca Genovese Kim Groen, Prashan Thalayasingam 16 December
Documentation review, desk research Research team 20 January
Research protocol and data collection tools Research team (review team)

Luca Genovese, Kim Groen, Prashan Thalayasingam

31 January
Review of research protocol and tools (review team)

Luca Genovese, Kim Groen, Prashan Thalayasingam

15 February
Logistical arrangements Research team Luca Genovese 15 February
Finalisation of research protocol and data collection tools Research team 28 February
Data collection Research team 31 March
Data management and analysis (coding, transcriptions, data cleaning, etc) Research team 15 April
First draft report of research piece Research team 30 April
Review of first draft report Research team (review team)

Luca Genovese, Kim Groen, Prashan Thalayasingam

10 May
Final research report Research team (review team, for final approval)

Luca Genovese, Kim Groen, Prashan Thalayasingam

20 May
Presentation of findings and dissemination of the research report Research team Luca Genovese, Kim Groen, Prashan Thalayasingam 31 May


Expected Outcomes


The assignment will start in January 2022.  A first meeting shall be held before the assignment starts in order to review, confirm or make amendments on tentative work plan and timeline.

A research protocol shall be submitted to Luca Genovese, contact person for the research, detailing the work plan, sampling frame and data collection tools, by 15 February 2022.

Data collection and fieldwork by the research team shall take place in March 2022, keeping the constraints generated by the security situation and the COVID-19 pandemic in mind.

A draft research report will be ready by 30 April 2022.

The final report should be delivered no later than 20 May 2022.


Research protocol: this should highlight: Objectives and key questions, Design and Methodology, Data collection methods, sampling considerations, timeline and logistics, dissemination plan.

Data collection tools: depending on the research design and methodology, these should be used to collect data from various stakeholders

Research Report:

  • Table of Contents
  • List of Acronyms
  • List of Tables
  • Executive Summary
  • Background
  • Methodology
  • Main Findings
  • Conclusions
  • Annexes
    • ToR
    • Research protocol
    • Data collection tools
    • Study schedule
    • List of people involved

Sharing research findings: The research team is expected to facilitate an online presentation for SC staff after the approval of the final research report. As part of the research protocol, a dissemination plan should be presented that indicates how the research team intends to further disseminate the findings of the research.


research team

The research team should have the following skills and expertise:

  • Knowledge and research experience (ideally with publications) on the topic of accountability to communities;
  • Knowledge of relevant frameworks that also include accountability to children and communities, such as the CHS; the Grand Bargain and of the work of sectorial fora and networks, such as IASC and CDAC;
  • Experience in design, planning and implementation of research on INGO related topics;
  • Experience in qualitative data collection and analysis of complex qualitative information, drawing findings from multiple sources and handling potential contradictions between data sets;
  • A broad network, and the ability to work with and learn from a range of actors;
  • Language Proficiency: Proficiency in English and the ability to produce good quality written documents in English is a mandatory requirement of this assignment. Ability to review documentation and conduct interviews in French and/or Spanish would be an advantage.
  • Report writing and presentation skills



Save the Children is inviting both individuals as well as teams of consultants to apply for this assignment. Interested candidates who meet the key qualifications and have relevant experience in designing and delivering similar type of assignments must submit their technical and financial proposals to the following email address: luca.genovese@savethechildren.nl no later than 12 December 2021.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview after which the final application will be selected. Interviews are expected to take place between 14-16 December 2021.

In case of questions about the assignment or the application process please contact: Luca Genovese at luca.genovese@savethechildren.nl

Expression of interest

The Expression of Interest (EoI) should include:

  • A technical proposal that responds to the asks of this ToR. The technical proposal should contain a clear outline of the research methodology, data collection and analysis techniques, elaboration on whether the research team will collect data remotely or via planned visits, a tentative work plan with clearly defined milestones to achieve within the given timeline of the assignment
  • Financial proposal.
  • Consultants’ CV;
  • At least one sample of similar previous work;
  • two references, to be attached as annex to the technical proposal.

Please note that incomplete EoI will not be assessed.

Financial Proposal

The financial bid must be prepared and submitted with clearly defined breakdown of consultants’ daily fee and other associated costs. Please read carefully section Payment Schedule of the ToR while developing and finalizing financial proposal. Interested applicants should consider that approximately €30,000 inclusive of VAT is available to conduct this assignment.

Please be aware that, along with the quality of the technical proposal and of the sample of previous work submitted, the total amount indicated in the financial proposal will be one of the criteria for assessing the EoI received.



Save the Children Netherlands reserves the right to revoke the call or stop the process of hiring services without giving any prior reasons to the applicants. Incomplete application, applications submitted after deadline or application without financial proposal or vice versa will not be considered in the selection process.

Payment Schedule

The consultant will be paid in three instalments with following terms and conditions;

  1. 30% advance payment will be released upon acceptance of research protocol and tools.
  2. 40% payment will be released upon submission of the draft research report
  3. 30% payment will be released upon successful completion of assignment and acceptance of deliverables by assignment contact person.

All costs including potential international travel, life and health insurance, visa and other costs associated for traveling, will be borne by the researcher/research team and should be included in the financial proposal.

Child Safeguarding and PSEA

Safeguarding considerations: the whole research process adheres to best practice for research with children including the implementation of child safeguarding policy and procedures to ensure safety of participants.


Conflict of interest

The incumbent is required to demonstrate the necessary independence and declare any conflict of interest and potential biases, including bias towards any of the stakeholders, target groups, type of approach etc.


code of conduct

Save the Children’s work is based on deeply held values and principles of child safeguarding, and it is essential that our commitment to children’s rights and humanitarian principles is supported and demonstrated by all members of staff and other people working for and with Save the Children. Save the Children’s Code of Conduct sets out the standards which all staff members must adhere to and the consultant is bound to sign and abide to the Save the Children’s Code of Conduct.


mandatory security training

If needed, the researcher/research team shall be expected to go through mandatory on-line security training and submit the certificate of completion to SC before the commencement of the task. Failure to deliver this will lead to an automatic disqualification. SC will advise on the security plan on appointment.


Save the Children

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