Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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A systemic approach to peacebuilding evaluation: is it possible in our lifetimes?

I just read The Non Linearity of Peace Processes. Those of us who work in peacebuilding know the limitations of the logframe and other similar logic models. Input: output: outcome doesn't cut it with conflict. But how can we ever replace them with more creative and complexity-acknowledging systems when big donors are stuck on the logframe?

Your comments, suggestions, reflections, and experiences from (grantors and grantees alike) would be greatly appreciated!

I wonder how accurate we are in our assumption (I include myself in this, note "we") that donors are wedded to the log frame. While I think this is true to an extent--the log frame is a reflection of Western worldviews and logical thought processes--I question the extent to which they are wedded to the model.

Andrew Blum from USIP is currently doing some really fascinating research on proposals to USIP, comparing the intervention approach between NGOs not embedded in the local conflict, and those which are. His exploratory research has thus far found that NGOs embedded in zones of conflict will more frequently address their interventions to conflict/context dynamics, while those not embedded focus their interventions on capacity gaps in actors.

To bring this back to the logframe discussion, the approach from non-embedded NGOs strikes me as a reflection of Western thought processes: Western civilization worldviews emphasize individual objects within one's view (if shown an oceanside scene, for example, a Westerner will often identify it as a painting of a specific activity, sailing, people relaxing, etc.) whereas Oriental worldviews emphasize the context or dynamics (instead of sailing or relaxing, they will see the ocean scene).1 Andy has not yet expanded his research to examine other factors, such as the success of the proposal (was it funded?) or the intervention (results?), but I for one definitely look forward to hearing what his research further turns up.

  • 1. Richard E. Nisbett, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerns Think Differently... and Why (New York: First Free Press, 2003).

I just thought of inserting two lines into this proffesional discussion - just as a new commer...

After trying to evealuate some of the peacebuilidng projects....I decided that I am trying to work on the "Theory of change" model for designing...not all the donors like this...but I've got a piloting opportunity with a Peacebuilding/development project

I dont know whether its called the mode, approach or something else... but I am going to try this...In the mean time, just as Jonathan said, I am really interested to know more about the intervention approach and the reserch Andrew is onto...

Two months from now...I will have to do an evaluation of a 15 year development project/programme which had lots of Peacebuilding interventions..... :-)

 

Körppen and Roper’s compilation on the application of Systems Theory in peacebuilding is a thought-provoking one, as is Eric Wolstenholme’s System Inquiry. Both books lead one to think about how complex systems are assessed and interventions are measured.  There is an ever-growing movement in our field to incorporate diverse and multi-level data resources into a particular evaluation.

During recent meetings of the Peacebuilding Evaluation Project (PEP), a partnership of the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Alliance for Peacebuilding to foster field-wide dialogue on evaluation challenges, this issue of set frameworks, or even data collection, from donors came up several times. The PEP participants that represented donors expressed the need for some level of standardization that would allow them to assess the cumulative impact of their grantees’ diverse programs. As Jonathan mentioned, we heard during PEP that donors were not necessarily wedded to a single log frame model, but rather had their own internal requirements to show impact to their constituencies – whether they were Boards of Directors or members of Congress.

While, as Jessica points out, those pre-determined frameworks can make it difficult to address the complexity of projects in conflict settings, PEP participants that represented peacebuilding implementer organizations shared how they developed mechanisms that addressed their donor’s requirements for accountability and provided for additional learning. This was at times as simple as adding new data points to existing monitoring and evaluation tools.

It seems that while we may not see the end of the log-frame in the very near future, as a field we are currently becoming more open to examining, understanding and learning from the complexity around us.

 

I really appreciate your thoughts here and very valid concerns about how log frames can be best used in complex situations.  I think there are two distinct groups of thinking that are emerging(and have been for awhile) in peacebuilding.  In one arena of thought, change is quite linear and log frames are a helpful tool in being able to assess and forecast that change.  In the other arena of thought, change is a complex concept and with its constant changing we need tools that allow for its transformative and dynamic nature.  I think that is why we are seeing more and more foundations or funding bodies asking for organizations to be explicit about their theory of change.  Theories of change are explicit explanations about why and how a set of activities will bring about a particular change that the designers are intending.  While it sounds simple to say, to create a theory of change is a substantial undertaking and requires a significant commitment to the process.  JP Lederach, Reina Neufeldt and Hal Culbertson offer a helpful process to develop a theory of change in their online resource Reflective Peacebuilding which can be accessed here. Creating theories of change is definitely an iterative process and one that acknowledges and responds to the complexities of the kind of broad systemic issues that peacebuilding is trying to affect. I’d be interested to hear peoples thoughts, or experiences with using theories of change as a systemic approach as per Jessicas question.

I also would encourage people to check out Donella Meadows book Thinking in Systems as a wonderful resource to be introduced into the world of tools such as systems mapping, causal flow and stock and flow diagrams.  For a more directed book that looks at systems thinking from a peacebuilding lens, Robert Ricigliano’s book Making Peace Last is a wonderful resource to check out.