• The Open University

Introduction to Safeguarding in the International Aid Sector

Become a safeguarding specialist and learn how to lead, develop, and implement a strong safeguarding policy in your organisation.

2,983 enrolled on this course

Hands forming a circle around a globe.
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Learn about safeguarding policies and procedures in the aid sector

This course will help those working in NGOs and development and humanitarian agencies to better understand the causes of harm, abuse, and exploitation.

You’ll learn what power and responsibility you and others in your organisation have for addressing these issues, and how to help change organisational approaches to safeguarding.

Discover the key principles of safeguarding

A strong safeguarding policy is key for all international aid organisations and their staff working with and for children, young people, and vulnerable adults.

On this course, you’ll learn about the different forms of harm, abuse and exploitation that may be suffered by those coming into contact with your organisation.

You’ll develop your understanding of the associated indicators of these issues, and identify the safeguarding risks for those you work or come into contact with.

Implement an effective safeguarding framework in your organisation

Using evidence-based safeguarding standards, you’ll learn how to put effective systems and structures in place to reduce the safeguarding risks associated with your work.

By designing preventative, reporting and response mechanisms for handling safeguarding issues, you’ll build the skills to develop a culture of accountability in your organisation and in communities, that encourages people to report and respond to safeguarding concerns appropriately.

Access safeguarding training from international development experts at the OU

This course is created by The Open University and led by a world-leading safeguarding trainer who has worked with many of the world’s leading international aid and humanitarian agencies.

The course material was developed with advisors from BOND and the CHS Alliance, as well as with insights from a senior academic specialist in safeguarding.


  • Week 1

    Introduction to Safeguarding

    • Introduction to the course

      The first few steps provide a brief orientation to the content, introduce the types of learning and activities, reflect on what you already know, and on things to consider as you engage with other learners on this course.

    • Keeping safe while learning on this course

      You will learn about the importance of staying safe, how you can help look after your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others on this course and to help each other make the most of this learning experience.

    • What is safeguarding?

      A chance to reflect on your reasons for being on the course, connect with other learners and develop a community of practice. It introduces safeguarding, what it means to you and to the wider international development sector.

    • The first Code of Conduct

      How standards for behaviour have been set by the United Nations way back in 2003 when it developed the first Code of Conduct in preventing and responding to SEA perpetuated by its own staff.

  • Week 2

    Definitions, misuse of power and identifying safeguarding concerns

    • A safeguarding framework

      Safeguarding is an organisational risk and therefore measures are required across all organisational activity where there is direct or indirect contact with people.

    • What is power?

      The misuse of power is central to safeguarding, therefore it is important to understand what power is and how it can be misused.

    • The different forms of harm

      There are various forms of harm that can occur, and there are many indicators of these forms of harm.

    • Feeling safe

      What does it mean for children and vulnerable people to 'feel safe'?

    • Safeguarding scenarios

      A collection of short scenarios to consider in relation to harm.

  • Week 3


    • Safeguarding risks and preventative measures

      It is essential to be able to identify safeguarding risks and understand how to develop a risk assessment to support you in putting in place safeguarding measures to mitigate against those risks.

    • Recruitment and staff selection

      It is very important to consider how staff are recruited and selected in the first place.

    • Codes and standards

      There is an expectation that all staff will adhere to certain standards of behaviour. These standards should be laid down in every organisation’s Code of Conduct.

    • Empowering beneficiaries and service users

      How prevention can be further strengthened through working with your organisation’s beneficiaries, service users and their communities.

  • Week 4


    • The barriers to reporting safeguarding concerns

      What the common barriers to reporting safeguarding concerns are and how to overcome some of them.

    • Reporting frameworks

      How to provide safe and confidential reporting mechanisms.

    • Community-based complaint response mechanism

      How to develop or improve a CRM to receive safeguarding concerns.

  • Week 5


    • Response

      How to respond to safeguarding concerns that are raised or reported.

    • Managing disclosure

      For a child, vulnerable adult or staff member to disclose that they do not feel safe is usually very difficult for them and so it is vital we respond in the right way.

    • What are the laws in managing safeguarding concerns in the location you’re working in?

      It is important to understand the laws of your work location in relation to dealing with sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH) so that you’re better prepared to deal with these.

    • Referral pathways

      How to identify, track, refer and follow up safeguarding concerns after they are disclosed and reported.

    • Are your policies and procedures fit for purpose?

      It’s important that your organisational safeguarding policy and procedures describe what next steps should be taken by organisations.

    • Supporting whistle-blowers

      Some people are hesitant to come forward to report their concerns for various reasons.

    • Next steps

      What are the next steps to be taken by the organisation once a complaint is received?

  • Week 6

    Learning and Implementation

    • Learning and implementation

      How to learn from safeguarding concerns and implement policies and procedures.

    • Building capacity in your organisation

      Why it is so important to build knowledge, awareness and capacity within the organisation with regards to safeguarding?

    • Developing a safeguarding culture

      Organisational culture plays a crucial role in shaping and influencing behaviour in an organisation.

    • Are your policies and procedures fit for purpose?

      How to reflect on your current organisational policies and procedures to ensure they are fit for purpose.

    • Safeguarding is a journey for individuals and organisations

      You have learned some of the basics you need to think about when trying to improve safeguarding within your own organisation or professional practice.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the risks associated with those who work for, or are engaged with, your organisation when they are in contact with others.
  • Summarise and explain the different forms of harm, abuse and exploitation and associated indicators that may be suffered by people with whom your organisation works.
  • Apply a safeguarding framework based on international standards and donor requirements to improve on safeguarding policies, procedures, and practice.
  • Design appropriate preventative, reporting and response mechanisms to handle safeguarding concerns.
  • Develop a safeguarding culture of accountability in your organisation and in communities for safeguarding concerns to be reported and responded to appropriately.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for all staff in development and humanitarian agencies working in global development, most likely in international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

If you work in such an organisation in human resources, protection, compliance, or monitoring and evaluation, this course will support you in taking on the role of Safeguarding Lead or Officer for your organisation.

It is widely acknowledged that there is no certified, advanced level, or comprehensive safeguarding training for Safeguarding Leads, and this course will support the career pathways for aid workers looking at becoming a safeguarding specialist.

This course is intended for 18+ only.

This online course has been funded by UK aid from the UK government; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.

Please note: this course is facilitated by Phillippa Ramsden, Hazel Sloan and Yianny Ioannou from 24 January until 6 March 2022.

Who will you learn with?

An international human rights lawyer and expert in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, gender and sexual violence, and human rights and IHL in the international aid sector.

Jan Webb is the Associate Head of School for Nursing and Health Professions at the Open University. She has extensive experience of teaching and developing safeguarding and child protection courses.

Andy Rixon is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health Wellbeing and Social Care at The Open University, specialising in children, young people, and families. Andy has a background as a social worker

Susan is an Open University tutor and a seasoned development researcher. She works extensively with international development organisations to deliver training and author teaching materials.

Philippa Ramsden is an international development professional. She specialises in safeguarding and organisational effectiveness and has worked globally in education with a focus on inclusion.

Head of Safeguarding and Director of Operations for an International Development Organisation with more than 15 years experience. Specialist in grassroots development, capacity building and mentoring.

Safeguarding Manager at an international development organisation with a focus on education and employment. Passionate about people and in coming together as a sector to achieve the best outcomes.

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Endorsers and supporters

funded by


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