Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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Reflective Peacebuilding: A Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Toolkit

Author, Copyright Holder: 
John Paul Lederach, Reina Neufeldt and Hal Culbertson

For seasoned practitioners, project implementation is an intense round of daily tasks and logistical matters required to complete activities on time.  Life may seem full of details and deadlines, with precious little opportunity to reflect, much less develop theory. 

Remystifying practice does not mean seeing daily activities and details as unimportant, but rather sharpening capacities that are too often left unattended.  Peacebuilding work and practice pose an interesting puzzle to be approached with curiosity. Peacebuilding, in its essence, is an extraordinary opportunity, the challenge of being engaged in nurturing complex and positive social change.  There is so much to be learned, and sustaining continuous learning requires peacebuilders to remain curious about how it “all really works.”  For the curious, practice is a mystery, not just a job or an endless succession of details.

How to sharpen this sense of mystery and curiosity?  A few suggestions:

  • Keep asking why — Ask  why not only about the nature of the project, but about  how particular activities are related to project outcomes.  How and why are they connected?
  • When you ask why,  listen for “because” — When people, especially local partners, explain why they think something works the way it does they often start their explanation with some form of “because.” Listen carefully for this explanation.  Dig deeper.  Go beyond the initial “because” to  find the reasons and unspoken ideas behind the rationale.  This often leads to uncovering unspoken assumptions and implicit theories of change.
  • Learn from failure — When things do not go the way you hoped they would,  fi nd an opportunity to stop, think, and refl ect at a deeper level.  The great gift of failure is that it so often promotes learning, while the tragedy of success is that it is easy to assume things happened exactly as expected and neglect the opportunity to learn.  Take advantage of failure to frame it as learning, not disaster.
  • Watch carefully for the unexpected — Little things along the way that almost go unnoticed and unexpected changes often provide insight into the complexity of the change process.  Become attentive to these moments.
  • Discuss your projects with different people— Too often peacebuilders talk only with like-minded people.  The more diverse the range of people you talk to about your ideas and projects, the more likely you are to encounter other perspectives and other ways of explaining change processes, in turn greatly increasing your curiosity about how things really are working.