Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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Monitoring as a Practice Point

 

Earlier this week an organizational development specialist of a large organization and I were discussing program monitoring systems, specifically if their office had one in place, how it was designed, and how well it was working.  The conversation brought to light an important concept about intervention monitoring.  In that particular office, there was no official monitoring system in place, rather there was a data recall system coupled with a philosophy of engagement and connection that served as a kind of ongoing adaptation system built into their practice.

Initially I was asking questions regarding a monitoring system in the traditional sense of an explicit system of monitoring and/or evaluation designed to evaluate the effectiveness of services provided by the office, usually with the expressed purpose of developing effective change strategies within the organization.  Through a line of questions I came to find out that that particular office was using a data recall system that looked at where users were originating and how those users were referred to the office so that the office could more effectively locate areas of potential intervention.  That is to say, by knowing who was using the office, and how they came to the office, the OD could effectively navigate their way backward through the organizational structure to be able to locate organizational areas or programs that might benefit from help with change strategies.   

In addition to the data recall, the office personnel seized every opportunity to get out into the organization and the larger professional associations to both learn about and stay abreast of industry trends, and to foster connections and acceptance within and between different areas of their organization and the larger professional world.  By using the data recall system in conjunction with their continuous presence within the organization and the larger professional community, the office placed itself in a unique position to both see the whole organization, and to know where and how to intervene to produce positive changes within the organization. 

In this way the office had both developed and employed a monitoring system as a practice point.  Rather than developing a monitoring system that operated “in conjunction” with their activities, they developed a type of monitoring system that both drove their ongoing decision-making process as to how and when to intervene, as well as effectively monitored and produced efficiency in their work.  This conversation started me thinking about “monitoring” systems as an integral part of, rather than a separate and discrete piece of intervention design.  In this case, the particular system not only drove how the office focused their efforts, but also drove the changes that were made to their own work. 

This is a very interesting post, thank you Devinrau. I wonder if one of the reasons monitoring is not seen as practice is because of its often informal processes? There also seems to be a perceived tension between 'practice' (i.e., implementing interventions) and 'research' which is often seen as academic and removed from action (despite action-research). I've always viewed research as fundamentally linked with 'practice', as good practice requires research. 

Has this organization produced a case study or manual based on their experiences? It sounds very interesting. I'd love to learn more.

Jonathan

This is an interesting topic. While in a class about evaluation I've been thinking a lot of about a method for organizing people and work that I use in my job today. Its known as "Scrum" and is very popular in the IT world, but is also applied in other industries.

One piece of this practice involves a role in each work team who is accountable for monitoring the performance of the team and reporting an impediments to the team's progress out to the other parts of the organization that can do something to resolve the impediment.

What's similiar, I think, between this and your story Devin, is that this function is an integral part of the system. Its not "separate from" as you pointed out. And I too wonder if more can be done in organizations to embed these sort of practices into organizational structures and process in a way that improves the functioning of the organizational overall. This makes me think of what Peter Senge referred to as a "learning organization" I wonder how closely these practice align with that concept. Reminds me that I still nead to read that book...

Evan

 

To Jonathan’s point, I agree that research and practice are intrinsically linked.  Unfortunately it seems that, historically there has been a bit of tension between practitioners and researchers as to the relative importance of each.  Fortunately I have met many people recently who have been speaking explicitly about that very subject.  And related, I have had some interesting conversations as of late with some folks in higher education about the importance of blending academic disciplines.  This is also encouraging as I feel that siloing of disciplines in higher education creates tension among those who should be pooling rather than competing for resources…I digress.

Anyway, my speculations about the above organization stemmed from a conversation that set me thinking about program monitoring a bit differently.  The “monitoring system” as I described above was a design feature of the program which was used to figure out where to look for organizational strength building, it was a part of the practice, as far as I know there has never been any reporting on the practice as a monitoring tool, it is really just their operating system.  Also, from reading Evan’s input, it is becoming more common among other industries to apply this type of systems approach in organizational thinking.  It is encouraging to see that systems thinking is being employed more broadly, and also that there seems to be more interdisciplinary processes being employed.  

As of right now, my thinking about the subject is not adequately developed.  Although there are many aspects of the description that bare a resemblance to Participatory or Developmental evaluation, I thing that in this case there is a slight difference in that there is no explicit system, outside of the data recall, that looks back at what the office is doing, much like the informal processes that you brought up.  Also, their system is intentionally forward looking toward adaptation strategies, this may be a feature of participatory monitoring, I don’t know.  For me it is the kind of thing I can use when thinking about intervention systems design in the future.  I like the idea of designing better, rather than monitoring, organizations.  To a certain extent this involves both inter and intra organizational pooling rather than competing for resources.  

Thanks for the input, let me know if you have other thoughts.  I enjoy the conversation and, as always, seize any opportunity to expand my own thinking.

Devin

Hey Devin,

 

I enjoyed reading your post, and I'm interested in the nature of this organization. I found your response to Jonathan very interesting, particularly the initial discussions centered around the link between research and practice as well as your point concerning the design of better organizations rather than extensively monitoring them. The concept behind designing better organizations is interesting, of course, because it leads to all sorts of questions as to what better means to what kind of people and how you would design better ones and the purpose, etc. I guess my question would be specifically concerning the need for the creation of entirely new organizations as opposed to the redesign of existing organizations. With more effective monitoring, evaluation and proper channels of feedback it would seem to me that changing the "effectiveness" of an organization could change the way they operate on a fundamental level.

Not sure if this is too far-our thinking, or necessarily unrealistic, but I think it's definitely food for thought.

Thanks, AGR

Practice of Peace:

 After reading your topic I reflected back on my own work.My primary experience in the practice of peace was based only on my work experience as I worked many years in the peacebuilding field. I knew peace brings wholeness, harmony, and health to our own lives, but this only happens when chaos, confusion, and conflict are included and transformed. My understanding was the practice of peace is only the goal of spiritual people, who have an inner state of well-being and promote nonviolence, conflict resolution and cooperation. However, I believe that I can also be a peace practitioner by refusing to participate in violence either directly or indirectly with a particular attention to ways in which peacemaking can be cultivated and nurtured. In my everyday reflections I can evaluate and change my embedded actions to improve the effectiveness of peacemaking.  Therefore, reflective practice is to be the everyday practice of a peacebuilder because peacebuilding is enhanced by learning from an individual and groups. I looked back to my own actions and also actions of my community. When people change their course of action they also gather information to implement future changes. Their ongoing reflection also helps them to develop skills and capacities to deal with conflict better. Now I can relate my experience with the discussion of my professor and have a clear understanding why a peacebuilder needs to develop reflective practice and how it enhances peace practice.