Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week Fourteen: Why is evaluation of peacebuilding efforts important? Why is it important to be attentive to the process of evaluation?

             Evaluation is important in peacebuilding because it provides peacebuilders with a way to be attentive and accountable in their work. John Paul Lederach argues that peacebuilders need “practical mechanisms that are both strategic and responsive” (129). Essentially, this is advice to be intentional about planning and implementing evaluation, while also being flexible and ready to adapt to changes and surprises in the peacebuilding process. Just as peacebuilding is not a one-time event, the evaluation of peacebuilding efforts must also be understood as something that happens over time. This aspect of peacebuilding as a process is one of Lederach’s main points; he says that “peacebuilding is about seeking and sustaining processes of change; it is not exclusively, or even primarily, about sustaining outcomes” (135). Because peacebuilding is a process, it is natural that the practice of evaluation would also be a sustained, reflective process. Lederach describes this “responsive evaluation” as “a continuous cycle of action and reflection” (137). By continually reflecting on and evaluating the process as it unfolds, peacebuilders are able to adapt, recreate, and contextualize the process to create fertile soil for the seeds of peace.
            On the whole, Lederach’s emphasis on both peacebuilding and evaluation as a process has been helpful for me in my own understanding of peace. While it is tempting to think about peacebuilding initiatives and their successes (or non-successes) in terms of projects or events (Lederach 130), ultimately every action for peace must take place in a larger framework and vision of conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Further, Lederach’s description of evaluation serves as a powerful reminder that evaluation is meant for the purpose of building up, not tearing down. Being critical of the peacebuilding process and accepting critique is absolutely necessary to strengthen the process and maximize efforts for peace. With strategic and reflective tools for evaluation, peacebuilders can improve their work and promote a sustainable peace for today and tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Week Thirteen: Why is it important to think in the long term when designing peacebuilding initiatives?

            Peacebuilding requires long term planning and commitment because it is often done in response to a conflict with roots spanning decades and generations. Lisa Schirch compares the time frame of pre-violence and post-violence peacebuilding work, pointing out that these time frames must be equal (75). Ultimately, the time and energy put into peacebuilding must match the time and energy that went into the conflict. With this in mind, since most conflicts have taken shape over the long term, peacebuilding initiatives must follow suit. John Paul Lederach emphasizes the importance of building an infrastructure for peacebuilding, pointing out that the structures within a society must be part of peacebuilding just as they likely fueled the conflict (112). He says that “proactive change is possible only if we can sustain efforts to create a vision of a commonly share future and to develop a clear understanding of, and practical responses to, the existing realities and crises” (Lederach 112). The key word here is sustain. Peacebuilding must be a sustainable process, and thinking about sustainability demands that we think in the long term. Each peacebuilding process must be organic, drawing on the resources available in the conflict society; ultimately the peace that is created must be their peace, because in the long term only what is true to that society will survive.
            Lederach details the long-term process of peacebuilding, laying out a time frame of 20 years along with the types of peacebuilding initiatives that should be at the forefront during each stage of the process. In the first 2-6 months, he suggests crisis intervention, followed by preparation and training in the first 1-2 years. 5-10 years down the road, he stresses the importance of the design of social change, followed by a 20+ year “generational vision” of a shared future (Lederach 77). Knowing and believing that peacebuilding requires long term planning and commitment, I have found these charts and time frames to be very helpful. However, at times the prospect of a 20+ year peacebuilding process is intimidating and difficult for me to even imagine! What Lederach and Schirch are saying is that peacebuilding likely will (and should) take longer than I have even been alive! While it is hard for me to wrap my mind around this fact, I still appreciate this realistic introduction to the field; I would much rather be surprised about the realities of peacebuilding now than down the road in the middle of a peace process!