How do we know if Peacebuilding really works?

Leeds Met PAGE presents…
What difference does it make? Overcoming challenges in evaluating peacebuilding.
A seminar and discussion led by Dr. Rachel Julian.

April 24th 2pm Leeds Met. Rosebowl Room 515.

The key characteristic of working in peacebuilding and conflict transformation is the constant change which we attempt to record, capture and manage in order to learn to improve, and report about, the positive impact on the lives of people affected by violence and armed conflict.
Despite positive news from anecdotal evidence, case studies and an increase in the number of projects which are enabling people to build their own peace worldwide there is still a general dissatisfaction that we can’t fully demonstrate to all stakeholders the positive change of locally owned conflict transformation that is seen on the ground.

If the conflict transformation and peacebuilding sector is to grow, we need to be able to communicate the benefits and impact we can make. This paper draws on stakeholder analysis and evaluation frameworks, and applies them to the challenge of how satisfactorily useful results can be demonstrated by focusing on two difficulties.

The first difficulty arises because we use primarily logical, linear evaluation methods to understand what is happening in violent or highly tense conflict situations, which are commonly understood as having characteristics of complex adaptive systems. I summarise how this mismatch can be overcome by applying conventional linear and systemic evaluation methods to a nonviolent protection case study.
The second difficulty is that all the stakeholders want to see different results from one another, and without in-depth stakeholder analysis, we can’t know how possible it is to meet these expectations from current evaluation practice, or how much those shared or competing expectations influence what results are produced, and therefore how well those results are accepted and acknowledged as useful and convincing.

The question of how we know that our work in many different projects is contributing to ‘peace’ (CDA 2003) is difficult to answer. We will be looking at the many actors in a conflict, the deeply rooted causes, the loss of trust and confidence, possible absence of the state and a breakdown in relationships and communication which means we must start using evaluation approaches that can chase influence and effect through a complicated pathway of events and connections in order to show that peacebuilding initiatives have a positive contribution to make in vulnerable populations.

All welcome.