Happy New Year!

Dear team, partners, and friends,


Looking back, 2019 was no less challenging than the year before. At the risk of sounding too much like a Gen-X, I come to realize that I might say the same thing every year. I think, in general, we tend to see now as more taxing than before, and consequently, tomorrow will feel more difficult than today. It can be the result of the fact that everything around us is changing, and we grapple with adapting. It can also be that it is we who are changing. Or it can be both.


To me, the challenges of 2019 stemmed from managing disappointments and maintaining our incremental optimism. We’re disappointed by how fragile our democracy is, how gullible we are when entertained with identity politics, how persistent the idea of persecuting those who we outnumber, and, to sum up, how bland the outcome of our election is. But don’t worry, the story of 2019 does not end there. 


Despite a few drawbacks, 2019 is inspiring. 2019 marks PUSKAPA’s 10th anniversary. Look how far we’ve come! PUSKAPA is an idea and ideals realized, and we are growing in size, depth, and, hopefully, contribution. This year, we developed one of our research to seek answers to the pressing questions on how people make decisions when it comes to investing (or not) in children among politicians, bureaucrats, donors, and civil societies. We wanted to understand what their priorities are and how we can navigate around them, so our work becomes more effective. We worked together with the government to analyze child marriage data to get the latest prevalence, to understand the situation, and to strategize on our advocacy so that we continue to offer solutions, not emotional reactions. We also investigated the current state of children in contact with the law, how we implement (or not) the relevant laws, and how we can improve the situation. 


Our work in strengthening the legal identity and CRVS system endured. We took the time to study the changes in our pilot areas, how they are connected to health, education, and social protection, and have our approaches been contributing to such change. We assessed exclusions in the CRVS system because some vulnerable individuals are still left uncounted or being deprived of their identity rights. We also documented our learnings about CRVS in emergencies because we want to advocate for the incorporation of the CRVS component in the national emergency preparedness and response plan. 


We were steady in balancing innovation and the work of preserving. We worked with the government to create a new mechanism to measure whether our citizens enjoy non-discriminatory access to quality public services. We also worked with them to continue the work of SLAK that we started in 2016. Next year, we hope to start collecting real longitudinal data to help us understand what works for children’s wellbeing and resilience.


In total, PUSKAPA managed nine research, published three articles in international journals, one chapter in a book, and half a dozen writings in popular media and local publications, and worked in 20 districts across seven provinces in 2019. We were consistent in ensuring that our research informs our actions in our advocacy. We applied data and analysis in our inputs to RPJMN, RANHAM, and in making RKUHP protect the vulnerable, not criminalize them. The long-awaited national strategy on CRVS was adopted and we are proud to take part in its conceptualization. 


Our work spanned from local to global reach. Locally, we worked in reducing the legal identity gap in provinces where coverage is still low through promoting village-based CRVS and population data systems. We contributed to strengthening the design of an experiment to test what works to help vulnerable children to thrive. On the other end, we provided inputs to the SDG-16 review and in the process enhanced how access to justice, governance, and peace, especially concerning children and vulnerable groups, are being discussed in the policy arena, both at the global and national level. 


Reviewing all those achievements, someone who believes that changes happen in the margin and at a snail pace like me could not ask for a better reason to stay optimistic, even cautiously. I am proud that acknowledging the sources of our frustrations does not turn us into cynics. Rather, it makes us understand and able to assuage the existence of limit -in our capacity and others. 


If I had to sum this year up, 2019 is about understanding the consequences and limitations of our actions. We know that the child wellbeing sector has been thriving in showing the impact of childhood adversities. That kind of evidence has helped the sector get buy-in on the importance of doing something about it. For example, everyone is now convinced that child marriage does more harm than good. The next significant homework is to convince people what to do about it. I think this is one of the biggest takeaways in transitioning into the new year.


Policymaking is a scarcity game. Resources will always be limited. There will always be issues that are more important than the other. Making policy works effectively for the wellbeing of children and the vulnerable requires an understanding of the drivers and underlying problems. And oh, aren’t they so complicated. We need more scientific, social experiments and empirical data, although they too have limitations because most of the time, what works in one context doesn’t work in another. Nevertheless, we have to start somewhere. This is when judgment becomes really important. I believe that one of the best ways to make a sound judgment is to make it in collaboration. That’s why PUSKAPA embraces 2020 with a firm intention to continue our collaborative work with our existing partners and to widen them with the new ones. 


I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in PUSKAPA for your dedication to delivering high-quality work, your trust that children are the right place to start, and never stop aspiring for a fair chance for all children. I also want to thank our first-batch interns from whom we relive our character as an institution (specific stories about this are coming!), our partners, supporters, and funders. You who were with us from the beginning and stick by us until today. You who recently became a member of this “conspiracy of goodness.” Last but not least, those who were with us but have decided to embark on a different venture. Everyone leaves a piece of something and, I hope, takes something with them. 


Approaching 2020, I’d like to reiterate the wish that I made on PUSKAPA’s anniversary last August. I wish us the ability to move at a speed that allows us to think, to understand the problem, and to catch those who are too small, they fall through the cracks. I wish us the capacity to extend our physical, emotional, and intellectual presence in creating and maintaining safe spaces for difficult issues to be resolved: issues of exclusion, harm, invisibility, and injustice. 


Happy new year, everyone!


Santi Kusumaningrum

Director of PUSKAPA