Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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Why do we need a specific guidance on peacebuilding evaluation?

Conversations about evaluating peacebuilding work often start with a list of challenges. Common complaints include: the complexity of working in settings of conflict and fragility, the intangibility of “peace” and other objectives, weak or missing data, rapidly changing contexts, and the difficulties of attributing outcomes to particular activities in a setting with multiple actors and many different driving forces. Donors, implementing agencies and country partners all seem to agree that meeting the pressure to demonstrate impact is particularly hard in this line of work. There is an international consensus that working in countries affected by instability and widespread violent conflict requires tailored approaches.

But these challenges are definitely not unique to settings of conflict and fragility. We hear similar complaints about missing baselines and complexity from colleagues working on trade, gender equality, governance, education and even health. Most people seem to think that their field of work is particularly challenging. When they hear about the peacebuilding evaluation work, some evaluators respond with scepticism, asking, Why not just apply standard evlaluation methods? Do we really need to develop different approaches for every sector?

Despite these criticisms, we feel specific work on evaluating peacebuilding and conflict prevention support is warranted for two reasons. First, many of the shared challenges for evaluation (data, attribution, complexity, non-linearity), while not unique, are particularly severe in these settings. Second, the demand for this work came from within the peacebuilding community itself where it was felt that there was a clear accountability and learning gap. Little evaluation work was being done, and there were numerous gaps in the collective knowledge about what works, what doesn’t and why. For these reasons, we think a specific guidance for development, humanitarian and peacebuilding work in settings of violent conflict and state fragility is necessary and useful. What do you think? And, how will you use it?

Thank you Megan and OECD-DAC for developing this truly valuable resource for anyone interested in more effective approaches to the prevention of violence and building of peace. 

It's quite true that these challenges are not unique to peacebuilding, but the fragile and conflict-affected environments in which we work further compound these issues and do indeed necessitate a specific guidance. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that we are not alone in these struggles! 

The two topics I have been most taken with in this Guidance are conflict sensitivity (see also http://www.conflictsensitivity.org/) and theories of change

Building a durable and lasting peace is an inherently interdisciplinary challenge. It, by necessity, must involve more than just the social. Towards the end of integrating peacebuilding/conflict transformation/conflict prevention perspectives, concerns, tools, and approaches with traditional international assistance activities, conflict sensitivity is critical.

Too often aid unintentionally causes harm, something CDA Inc has well documented. Having participated in one of these exercises as a field researcher, I can tell you first hand that traditional assistance approaches need to be aware of conflict dynamics and how their work is intentionally and unintentionally affecting those dynamics--even if they view themselves as 'neutral' (but, as we've seen in recent years, the existence of neutral humanitarian space is debatable [see, David Rieff's A Bed for the Night]). 

The theories of change work in the Guidance is equally important, though perhaps in a more specific sense. There seem to be competing visions for the utility of theories of change in existing literature. On the one hand, you have Weiss (1995) and more recently CARE, who advocate for the application of TOCs within the theory of implementation (i.e., the theory of change explains how the inputs will, ultimately, lead to the desired results through the results chain; there may be a theory of change for how each level of the design heirarchy will lead to the next level). On the other hand, you have Cheyanne Church and Mark Rogers, who seem to suggest that TOCs relate more to the logic behind choosing one type of intervention over another: i.e., the strategic decision to use a particular approach/theme/tool over another to leverage change. 

Clearly, both of these applications of TOCs are valid - and more than valid, both are highly needed. In a context where the field of peacebuilding is not able, at least to my knowledge, to point to examples of undisputable and durable success--not to mention the seeming lack of progress towards the elusive peace writ large (but perhaps this assumption needs to be checked, peace does seem to be on the rise [see Global Peace Index] and I recall reading something about the world actually becoming less violent, but cannot find the source for this)--checking internal project logic as well as choosing the most strategic intervention choice for the context and conflict dynamics are crucial. 

give the desired results through the chain result can be a theory change as each level of the hierarchy of design will lead to a higher level). 70-461 exam dumps On the other hand, it has Cheyanne Church and Mark Rogers 70-642 ebook  which seem to suggest that the summaries are related more to the logic behind the choice of a type of intervention

Is it possible to create a structure that is applicable to every situation? Each country has its own problems and unique dilemmas. We can broaden the questions so that each scenario can be fit under this umbrella. But wouldn't that defeat the purpose of evaluation? The same way that you can't apply one intervention to multiple nations. You will be missing out on some key details about why that particular state is mired in crisis. If you are trying to be specific, you have to be careful of what you are trying to evaluate. 

Is it possible to create a structure that is applicable to every situation? Each country has its own problems and unique dilemmas. We can broaden the questions so that each scenario can be fit under this umbrella. But wouldn't that defeat the purpose of evaluation? The same way that you can't apply one intervention to multiple nations. You will be missing out on some key details about why that particular state is mired in crisis. If you are trying to be specific, you have to be careful of what you are trying to evaluate.

@rwidney: That's a great point. At the AEA conference, there was definitely a call for those commissioning the evaluation to have targeted evaluation questions in order to enable better quality evaluations. But that would certainly require they think deeply about those lines of inquiry, and also clarify at the outset whether it's a process evaluation or an impact evaluation. We have found that on many occassions, commissioners confuse the two and are then unhappy with the outcome of the evaluation. I would recommend you check out a cross-post by Social Impact Program Manager, Mathias on the subject, The Importance of Asking the Right Questions

 

Theory of Change to Prevent Cultural Violence:

I like this concept very much since I knew; it was an opportunity for learning to be an effective peacebuilder. As I have been involved in peacebuilding for many years, I have experienced some of it, but still do not understand fully the theory of change.  I first started my job with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in 1993 targeting destitute women at the grassroots level to raise their income through income generation projects. But after some time, I found I could not implement my targeted activities because of constant quarrels among the group members as well as with the community.  After my own assessment, I proposed to the program leader to provide counseling to resolve their conflicts prior to the Income Generation Activities (IGA) and it was approved. After that I found it was very helpful for the program and I initiated a peace program in MCC Bangladesh, which is now the integral part of MCC Bangladesh’s program. So, it was just some assumptions I experimented with, and right now in Bangladesh, there are a few more organizations involved with peacebuilding and peacemaking activities. But the context was unknown and make some assumptions for the alternative options to work is difficult.  My understanding is that we really need a lot of information about a new situation, and context analysis is very important for that. We need to understand people’s attitudes, behavioral patterns and their positions and interests; otherwise it will put us into a pitfall.