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Visionary Peacebuilders: How Evidence-Based Monitoring and Evaluation Leads to Social Change
On March 7th, I attended the CPRF Forum on Building the Programs that Build The Peace Conference at the United States Institute of Peace which brought together Adrienne Lemon of Search for Common Ground, Leslie Wingender of Mercy Corps, Isabella Jean of CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, Joe Hewitt of United States Institute of Peace, and Melanie Greenberg of Alliance for Peacebuilding as moderator to discuss “Building the Programs That Can Better Build The Peace.” This discussion centered around learning, challenges, and bright spots in the monitoring and evaluation of peacebuilding practices.
7 March 2017, CPRF Forum at US Institute of Peace
Since the United Nations World Summit recognized peacebuilding in 2005, based on Kofi Annan’s direct work and building blocks, monitoring and evaluation in the peacebuilding field has grown tremendously. As I sat and listened to these wonderfully experienced panelists talk about the challenges and bright spots of their experiences, some key themes emerged including the process of learning from and capturing evidence in the field, in addition to the application of adaptive management when designing and implementing effective projects.
There are a number of takeaways about the upcoming challenges and opportunities for peacebuilding with regards to monitoring and evaluation. I left the CPRF with a number of reflective thoughts, two of the most prominent were:
Cross-programmatic learning is essential in peacebuilding, and often leads to strong innovation from failure and success. Collective Impact, both the model and the real thing allows for strong sense of community within the PEC. We learn and build upon each other’s strengths. This model is transferrable for many peacebuilding processes. The model is a valuable innovation that many non-profit or governmental organization can apply to their work; witnessing the model work in the field is even more encouraging.
Our language around peace and conflict transformation and collective partnerships in the field of DM&E is one step to making social change normative. The evolution of vocabulary and language will always be happening. Let’s stay aware of this process.
In this particular CPRF, challenges in the field were continuously framed in two ways: one on the implementation side of M&E, and one on the program design and accountability side of M&E. Adrienne Lemon touched on the level of transparency of results and understandings of DM&E. As Adrienne said, Search’s Institutional Learning Team (ILT) supports the transparency process internally, as all of Search’s evaluations are made publicly available on the Search for Common Ground Website. Furthermore, Isabella Jean spoke highly of Search and Mercy Corps as bright spots both within the field of M&E and as close partners with CDA Collaborative Learning Projects.
In congruence with the growth of M&E in the peacebuilding field, a wealth of buzzwords and phrases have sprung up in order to better articulate growing M&E research and methodologies. Some of these words one may know intimately, or perhaps have just heard for the first time at the CPRF: “Adaptive Management,” “Outcome Harvesting,” and “Collective Impact.” The word “Collective Impact,” was named the #2 most buzzed about word in philanthropy in 2011, only second to “Evidence-Based.” The commonality of these buzzwords we hear in lectures, on panels, and in the development or peacebuilding world all have one thing in common: they demonstrate a method to create social change within society through the field of M&E. However, these words are not just buzzwords, but instead are actual implementations of how we understand and practice M&E. The challenge here is how can we capture social change in order to learn future application in peacebuilding. As Joe Hewitt of USIP put it, within M&E, we should look for opportunities that “[maximize] the potential that will document our failures.” Practitioners in the peacebuilding community are constantly looking for ways to improve the rigor of testing and retesting results from both project implementation and project design sides.
As Hewitt persisted, our consensus around peacebuilding and what causes armed conflict is often traced back to our social contract within, and between, states and people; therefore, how, as peacebuilders, can we ensure we are helping to build peace and social cohesion in a sustainable, contextualized way? This is one vision moving forward as many, including myself, continue to strive for peace.
The Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum (CPRF) is sponsored by Search for Common Ground. This CPRF was hosted at United States Institute of Peace, entitled “Building the Programs That Can Better Build The Peace”
Leslie Minney is a Search ILT Intern who holds double B.A. degree in International Development and Cultural Anthropology with a focus in Sub-Saharan Africa. Minney is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served as an agribusiness advisor in eastern Cameroon. Currently, she is a Masters Candidate in the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs program with a focus in Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University in Washington, D.C.