“Proof of Concept” - Learning from Nine Examples of Peacebuilding Evaluation
A Report on the 2011 Peacebuilding Evaluation Evidence Summit
In a field that specializes in dialogue, consensus building, and finding solutions to complex challenges, surprisingly absent is an open exchange on a fundamental element of peacebuilding: the determination of whether or not an intervention has “worked.” Yet the reality is that the power dynamics inherent in evaluation make a lack of dialogue among funders and implementers understandable. Moreover, ever-increasing pressures to demonstrate effectiveness, consistently constrained budgets, and shifting and occasionally ill-defined standards of what counts as credible evidence are creating significant challenges for even the most sophisticated organizations in regard to monitoring and evaluating their initiatives.
In the midst of these dynamics, peacebuilding organizations are nonetheless identifying creative ways to address evaluation challenges in conflictaffected contexts. To learn from these efforts, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) convened the first Peacebuilding Evaluation: Evidence Summit in December 2011. The idea for the Summit originated from discussions during the first year, 2010 - 2011, of the Peacebuilding Evaluation Project: A Forum for Donors and Implementers (PEP). With the support of USIP, the PEP set out to address some of the challenges organizations face in evaluating their peacebuilding programs and projects in conflict-affected settings. In the first twelve months, PEP enabled honest and transparent conversations about the power dynamics inherent in evaluation; triggered new partnerships; increased consensus on potential solutions to challenges in evaluation and impact assessment particularly in peacebuilding contexts; published a USIP Special Report “Improving Peacebuilding Evaluation” and an AfP Lessons Report “Starting on the Same Page;” and sparked new projects to improve the practice of evaluation, including the Evidence Summit and the Women’s Empowerment Demonstration Project.
The day-long Evidence Summit was held at USIP headquarters in Washington, DC. The premise of the Summit was to build on success. Specifically it sought to showcase credible efforts at evidence gathering and evaluation and to bring together various actors within the peacebuilding community to provide input on how the evidence of impact can be made even stronger.
More than 170 people expressed interest in attending the Summit, which eventually accommodated almost seventy participants. Clearly there is demand for dialogue on evaluations that goes beyond funders’ evaluation guidelines or the submission of a final evaluation report. It is also clear that individual conversations are not happening organically and regularly.