The Reflecting on Peace Practice Project (RPP) is a peacebuilding-specific evaluative methodology developed by CDA Collaborative Learning Projects Inc. It seeks to answer the question of “how can international agencies involved in peace practice make their work in peacebuilding more effective?” It differs somewhat from traditional evaluation approaches in that it doesn’t seek to assert ‘judgment’ upon a project, and thus its staff; rather, it seeks to assess the effectiveness of a certain approach by examining the project (its design and actual implementation) against a set of criteria which are common amongst projects which have been demonstrated to add up to ‘peace writ large’ and in the process is helping to strengthen key norms in peacebuilding practices.
RPP is a remarkably simple framework to support evaluative thinking, reflection and learning throughout the project lifecycle. It consists of four major tools: conflict analysis, the RPP matrix for program strategy, theory of change, and the criteria of effectiveness. Collectively, the use of these tools will enable a project to make greater linkages with other context and conflict factors to enhance its impact and sustainability.
RPP as a Design Tool: Conflict Analysis
RPP is more than a post-hoc evaluation framework; it also provides critical inputs for the strategic design of peacebuilding projects. It helps us think about:
Central to good practices in peacebuilding design are sound conflict and context analyses. Yes, there is a difference! To quote directly from RPP:
Many people carry out context analysis believing it to be conflict analysis. A context analysis seeks a broad understanding of the entire political, economic and social (historical, environmental, etc.) scene. A conflict analysis is more narrowly focused on specific elements of that broader picture that may cause, trigger or propel conflict. Conflict analysis may include a range of political, economic, social, historical and other factors, but it focuses on the ones that directly influence the shape and dynamics of the conflict.
Interestingly, one of the findings of RPP has been that program strategy is frequently not linked to analysis; no clear link was found between whether and how a program did a conflict analysis and its effectiveness! Imagine that, taking the time and energy to deeply understand and analyze a situation and not utilize that knowledge to make your program more strategic! While such practices may not cause harm, it most certainly is not good peacebuilding practice. We do, after all, have a responsibility to the people we serve to at least try to conduct our most effective peacebuilding—whether we do or not is a learning opportunity, but we must at least try!
Strengthening Critical Norms for Peacebuilding Practice
We all know that peace work is incredibly complex, and determining project effects is quite difficult. The Reflecting on Peace Practice methodology helps make the complexity of peace work easier to manage by providing a simple framework for the design and assessment of effective peacebuilding programs. It also highlights critical areas in our professional practices where our ethics need to be strengthened. This brief essay has focused on practices and norms regarding conflict and context analyses and their incorporation into project strategies, but there are many other norms in our professional practice which need strengthening: transparency, learning, accountability to recipients and donors, and, above all, greater effectiveness in order to achieve greater impacts.
There is a wealth of information and experience available to learn from; we must act on this knowledge.
Learn More About RPP:
Reflecting on Peace Practice Project Documents
The Use of Reflecting on Peace Practice in Peacebuilding Evaluation: Recommendations and Final Report
RPP Evaluations and Experiences:
Programmatic Evaluation of Search for Common Ground Programs in Nepal
Examining RPP As a Tool for Evaluation: The Action Asia Experience
I am curious, how many of you have used RPP tools in your peacebuilding practice? I certainly reference the concepts, particularly the criteria of effectiveness and linkages issue, quite often when I am determining the worth of an evaluation report or methoolodgy for example.