It’s tough to assess what strategies for peacebuilding work best, given the many variables in play. How do you measure armed conflict not breaking out? Or pinpoint why, exactly, peace prevailed?
In fact, though, there have been significant gains in the last few years toward developing evaluation methodologies for peacebuilding, and there's keen interest in furthering such work in order to zero in on best scalable practices.
Which explains why the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) has just received a grant of $750,000 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to fund the Peacebuilding Evaluation Consortium (PEC). Melanie Kawano-Chiu Director, Learning and Evaluation of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, described the work to Inside Philanthropy this way:
We are bringing together the peacebuilding field’s most experienced evaluation experts to advance new methodologies for measuring peace, continue to foster a dynamic community around ‘what works,’ and engage with key donors and policymakers on the unique and systemic challenges of evaluating peacebuilding.
In a world still plagued by war, that sounds like a pretty important endeavor, right? And certainly one on point with Andrew Carnegie's grand hope of a century ago that humans could conquer conflict.
AfP is a global membership consortium of nearly 100 organizations and 1,000 individuals actively working in conflict prevention and resolution in 153 countries. It has been evaluating what peacebuidling efforts work through the PEC for several years now, an effort in partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace. Major collaborators include Mercy Corps, CDA Collaborative Learning, and Search for Common Ground.
Since 2013, the PEC has made progress in creating a cooperative framework that offers better short-term monitoring and long-term evaluation of peace-building impact. One conclusion is that signing a peace agreement, although a welcome step, does not mark the end of a conflict. If the parties involved aren’t ready, peace won’t last. As a result, peacemakers have realized that an agreement should signal the beginning of a longer period of investment. As we reported recently, the GHR Foundation is supporting work by PEC to assess specifically the role that inter-religious engagement can play in peacebuilding.
“If we’re not examining what works and applying what we’re learning, we may never see sustainable and lasting peace,” Kawano-Chiu told Inside Philanthropy.
Stephen Del Rosso, Program Director for International Peace and Security at the Carnegie Corporation, described the challenge at hand this way:
Grantmakers have long wrestled with the challenge of evaluating the impact of the projects they support. This is especially true in the inherently complex and multidimensional peacebuilding field, which often deals, literally, with matters of life and death.
This new grant is Carnegie’s third to the Alliance for Peacebuilding.
Improving evaluation is a big preoccupation of many funders right now. It's interesting to watch an effort to extend such work into a field that would seem to defy tidy assessments, but in which, as Kawano-Chiu and Del Rosso rightly note, the stakes could hardly be higher.
In that sense, the efforts of the PEC look potentially groundbreaking, and you can see why Carnegie is putting some truly big money into this work.
“I predict that we will look back on this work as a watershed moment in unravelling the most difficult questions about ‘what works’ in peacebuilding,” said Alliance for Peacebuilding President & CEO Melanie Greenberg in announcing the grant.