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.

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