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Family Education for Stronger Communities

NRC employs an innovative family-centered approach, creating education opportunities for vulnerable Afghan women, men, girls & boys in Iran.

Photo of Norwegian Refugee Council - Iran
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What problem does your innovation solve?

There are multiple impediments accessing education by Afghan children in Iran. Vulnerable families frequently resort to negative coping mechanisms, including reducing food intake (80%), child labor (75%) and child marriage (57%). A recent Decree by the Supreme Leader (attachment), allows all Afghan children to register in school regardless of their legal status. NRC would like to build on this momentum through a family-centered approach creating a protective environment conducive to learning.

Explain your innovation.

The idea is to place the family unit at the center of the intervention and provide mutually reinforcing learning opportunities for children and parents alike. Children will benefit from literacy/numeracy classes (Accelerated Education Programs AEP) and life skills while parents can attend positive parenting and literacy classes. The approach will allow a higher degree of engagement with the school environment through the activation of Parent Teacher Associations. Afghan community workers will be trained in order to cascade those skills further into their communities. NRC has piloted this family centered approach in a previous UNHCR supported project. Several excellent working relationships with education partners such as the Literacy Movement Organisation (LMO), Directorate of Education (DoE) and State Welfare Organization (SWO) have developed. The project worked with 360 families and was successful in increasing vulnerable children’s access to education. It also enhanced the protective environment for the families both inside and outside the school and the home. Testimonials from members of the community demonstrate how people’s lives have improved. For the parents, passing the LMO literacy test was a major achievement. Fathers have expressed a strong desire for their children to obtain the same fundamental educational skills. Parents realized that they are enablers of a positive learning environment for children. Children can register in formal schools upon AEP completion.

Who benefits?

Depending on funding, this approach will benefit up to 500 Afghan families in at least 10 Afghan communities. Vulnerable Afghan families with undocumented members will be prioritized. Traditionally, in some societies, females were prevented from participating in education by male members of the family. By targeting the whole family, including fathers and sons, the innovation leads to positive changes in attitudes and behaviors towards girls' education and increase their access to education. Afghan focal points in each community will receive Training of Trainers to provide further literacy and life skills classes to their communities. A large number of trusted women will be included in the ToT to ensure sustainability for females. Synergies will be created with other NRC units, such as legal counselling, for this idea to maximize its impact. Legal counseling will ensure that undocumented children in school access 'blue cards' which protect all family members from deportation.

How is your innovation unique?

The idea is unique as it has a holistic approach towards the family members, which will in turn affect the community as a whole. It also brings civil society members, governmental organizations (LMO, SWO), Afghan communities (elders, community workers), and members of the Parent Teacher Associations together around an innovative community-led idea. Many organizations target a specific group or vulnerability such as working children or female-headed households. Our idea is different as it targets various stakeholders in order to build an enabling protective environment for women, men, girls and boys to access education. The added-value of NRC is its synergies with other core competencies. It has a dedicated unit that provides legal counseling to the population, so this integrated approach will support access to documentation to protect families from deportation. We also have a Monitoring and Evaluation team that will help collect feedback/data throughout the duration of the project.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Iranian authorities have recently allowed NRC to directly engage with Afghan community workers. Will NRC trained community workers be able to identify the most vulnerable families in hard-to-reach areas? Will the timing of implementation be convenient to the seasonal working patterns of vulnerable Afghan families? Will partners agree to change the timing of the courses to suit parents working schedules? Besides lack of documentation, access to education is also challenging due to financial barriers. Would an additional cash based modality or livelihood component strengthen the outcomes of the project? If so, how can this component be articulated with the project outcomes?

Tell us more about you.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is an independent humanitarian organization helping people forced to flee. NRC works to protect the rights of displaced and vulnerable people during crisis. Since 2012, NRC programmes in Iran have helped Afghan refugees coping with the struggles of living in long-term protracted displacement through Education, Livelihoods, Protection and Legal Assistance. NRC Iran was supported by the Direct Aid Program (DAP) of the Embassy of Australia in 2016 and 2017.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

During the past three decades, Iran has been hosting one of the largest and most protracted refugee populations in the world. Today, an estimated 3.6 million Afghans and over 28 000 Iraqi refugees reside in Iran. With minimal international support, a significant proportion of Afghans in Iran, particularly those who are not registered as refugees remain acutely vulnerable. Afghans also face substantial challenges regarding their legal status: 35% hold no civil documentation or expired documents.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

The idea will be implemented in the Islamic Republic of Iran, first in the provinces of Kerman, Qom and Tehran. These three provinces host 408 000 registered refugees (i.e. 42% of the total registered Afghan refugees population) and the largest number of undocumented Afghan families. NRC has established positive working relationships with education stakeholders and authorities in these provinces, who support the idea and will facilitate access. Additional areas may be considered.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

Since 2012, NRC Iran developed multiple partnerships in Iran. Currently, NRC has active MoUs with Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA), UNHCR as well as local organizations such as the Literacy Movement Organisation (LMO), the State Welfare Organisation (SWO), the Technical and Vocational Training organisation (TVTO) allowing NRC Iran to implement various certified activities and trainings. NRC also works with Afghan leaders and community workers in all areas of intervention.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Education is part of NRC core competency and part of the organization programme policy. All NRC education programmes adhere to the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) Minimum Standards for Education. In Iran specifically, NRC Iran has developed an Education strategy and is co-chair of the Education working group with UNHCR. Two 'Education in Emergencies' grants are being currently implemented in 3 provinces targeting a total of 15 000 Afghan children.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

The NRC is registered in Norway. We've operated in Iran since 2012 in partnership with the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA).


- NRC Education webpage: - NRC Iran webpage: - NRC Perspectives:

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

1- Details of the Decree, the procedure for formal school registration upon completion of AEP, as well as how to refer undocumented cases to NRC's legal team will be included in all trainings to disseminate information to Iranian teachers and Afghan trainers. 2- A larger number of women will be included in the TOT as suggested by the community to ensure sustainable girls' access to services. 3- A stronger emphasis on the life skills component will be done particularly for girls classes.

Who will implement this Idea?

NRC will work mainly with 2 partners: LMO for the literacy/numeracy classes and SWO for the life skills & positive parenting trainings. This idea will be implemented by 20 Afghan focal points, 6 education and 3 legal NRC Iranian colleagues and supported by 3 specialists or managers. Teams are already hired and trained. They are located in Kerman and Tehran and are covering all areas of intervention in Central and Southern Iran. The team working on making this Idea a reality will be dedicated part-time to it as they are also implementing complementary programming, fostering potential synergies.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

The biggest challenge faced by Afghan families are the lack of sustainable learning opportunities linked to livelihoods. The discrimination from the Iranian host community lead to high rate of drop-out, particularly for girls. Another challenge is the financial situation as livelihood opportunities are scarce. Families also find it hard to obtain and maintain legal status in Iran. Systems-level challenge: With minimal international support to Iran, there are no or very few durable solutions available for Afghans with no possibility of return to Afghanistan. There are limited resettlement quota and no legal framework or sustainable livelihoods opportunities. Yet, for over 35 years, the Government of Iran has hosted one of the largest and most protracted refugee populations in the world.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

NRC’s projects in Iran are at present financed by ECHO, the Norwegian MFA, DEVCO (AUP), German Federal Foreign Office and the Australian Government through its Direct Assistance Programme (DAP). NRC’s funding strategy aims at increasing the donor base in line with programmatic goals and absorption capacity. Besides, NRC is developing a corporate funding strategy to ensure more predictable and flexible funding. NRC aims at securing 2 new funding sources this year. NRC is a signatory of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

By 2021, NRC Iran aims to provide 10 000 Afghan families (50 000 children) affected by displacement with access to inclusive learning opportunities and protective environments. How does NRC create synergies with other programs to 1) reduce the physical (lack of spaces), financial (lack of livelihoods opportunities) and social barriers (discrimination by Iranian host community) barriers to Education. 2) support the enforcement of the Decree and information dissemination to Afghan communities

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

A M&E matrix is developed for every NRC project, regular Project Review Meetings allow close follow up of the indicators. The proposed indicators are as follows: Outputs: # of learners completing the AEP # of teachers trained Outcomes: % of completing learners who pass formal school system assessment at grade 3 level % of completing learners who enroll in formal school system within 6 months of completing the AE program % of parents who can correctly replicate skills covered in training

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Semester 1: Idea will be further explained to communities. MoUs will be updated, amended or signed with partners. Official opening meeting will take place in areas of interventions with all stakeholders to review work plan, targets, indicators and feedback mechanisms. Semesters 2 to 5: Implementation & monitoring throughout school years, measuring enrollment and retention of Afghan children. Training of Afghan trainers. Semester 6: Hand-over to communities: refresher trainings, lessons learnt

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Above $1,000,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • Between 20-50 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Between 6 months and 1 year

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Communications / Marketing / Graphic Design
  • Other


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dave Hughes

Hi, this is a great idea! My name is David Hughes and I am the Project Director for the Bendigo Inventor Awards.

Now in our 7th year, the Bendigo Inventor awards have as our focus inventions that address needs in the Emergency Services and Disaster Management space, and we offer a AUD$10,000 prize for the winning entry. The Bendigo Inventor Awards has also created an environment for inventors to obtain support for their ideas by bringing together a coalition of partners with the knowledge, skills and networks to accelerate the progression of ideas from concept through to commercialisation. Major Program Partners include Engineers Australia who are providing technical feedback, KPMG who are offering advice on commercial viability and the path to commercialisation and Red Cross, who are providing their perspective on the relevance of many inventions to disaster relief efforts. Our judging panel also contains representatives from Emergency Management Victoria, who are able to provide similar feedback on the applicability of inventions to the emergency services.

I believe your idea would be a fantastic entry into the awards. Applying is easy and can be done through our website Simply select the category that your invention applies to – ‘Concept’ or ‘Product and Prototype’, and answer some questions about your invention. All judges are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so your idea is protected. Entries close 5pm Friday 29th September 2017 AEST.

I very much look forward to seeing your invention go on to great success, and hope we are able to assist you in enabling that to happen. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch on the phone number above, or via my email at

David Hughes
Project Director
Bendigo Inventor Awards

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